The Best Late Night Haunts For Seattle’s Sleepless
Seattle is the birthplace of grunge. And while the city may not be as gritty and blue-collar as it was in the late ’80s – when Sub Pop Records gave us the raucous guitar sounds of bands such as Nirvana, Soundgarden and Mudhoney – that alt attitude still exists. You just have to work a little harder to find it. Now, in addition to its iconic music venues, Seattle after dark has a constellation of places to include on your pilgrimage, from dive bars to distilleries. Here’s our guide to some of the best bars in Seattle.
The ghosts of Seattle’s past still haunt Linda’s Tavern, where the late Kurt Cobain was last seen alive. This was the spot for Seattle’s grunge luminaries as well as out-of-town bands who would drink and smoke and curse and play their favourite songs from the Sub Pop-stacked Jukebox. The bar is named after Colorado native Linda Derschang, who moved to Seattle in 1987 and opened the bar along with Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman (founders of the Sub Pop record label).
Today, the clientele ranges from old fogeys in cowboy-cut jeans to grunge geeks and the beardy brigade who know that Linda’s is still the place to go for that spill-over from the after-party. Two decades on, it’s also open for brunch. The Derschang Group also has the Oddfellows Café + Bar, Little Oddfellows, Tallulah’s, Rob Roy, Smith, and King’s Hardware.
Sun Liquor Lounge
If you love cocktails, you’ll enjoy easing into the evening at Sun Liquor Lounge, a Capitol Hill haunt so committed to the quality of its drinks when it opened its doors in 2006 that it decided to create its own line of spirits and bitters, too. Now, a decade on, the dimly lit bar does exactly that: distilling its own range of gin, vodka and rum, squeezing juice to order and making cocktails using seasonal fruit and spirits.
Belly up to the bar and ask for a French Canadian Girl (featuring Laphroaig 10-year Scotch, Cognac, Dolin Sweet & Dry Vermouth and house orange bitters).
Redhook Brewlab is one of the Emerald City’s real gems. Founded by Gordon Bowker and Paul Shipman, Redhook started out in an old transmission shop in the Ballard neighbourhood in 1981 before cranking things up a few gears and moving into the Pike Motorworks warehouse.
Seattle’s Original Craft Brewery has a rotating line-up of small-batch beers, including several that celebrate ingredients exclusively sourced from the State of Washington. The first release of the Washington Native series features hops from Roy Farms in Moxee, and malts from Skagit Valley Malting in Burlington. This new brewery and pub is where locals congregate to drink fragrant I.P.As and big-flavoured beer overlooking the steel tanks their bevvies were brewed in. Do order the burrata and beets alongside your glass of Oaticus Finch.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Sleepless in Seattle. And if a bar like Hotel Theodore’s Rider existed back when the rom-com producers were scouting for locations, we reckon Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan’s characters may well have met here. Rider is more glam than grunge with patrons favouring floral silk dresses and suits over plaid shirts and thrift-store chic.
The fact that Rider has an upscale hotel attached to it means you can order a Turn Out the Lights – a herbal concoction of rye, dry London gin, Cocchi Americano, Cointreau, lemon juice, and black tea with a sprig of mint garnished with gold sugar – before breakfast in bed.
While Seattle’s dive bars of old might be somewhat of an endangered species, Shorty’s still has a bit of that down-home dinge. A wild blend of alchemy and anarchy prevails at the pinball bar, known for its whisky sours and hot dogs, such as the spicy cheese, which is served slathered in cream cheese, grilled onions, sauerkraut, jalapenos and mustard.
The bar, which has a slightly bonkers neon-lit Coney-island theme going on, is a top spot for people-watching, making it easy to lose all track of time. Get your opposable digits ready for the monthly Sunday Pinball Tourney at this bastion of Belltown.
Canon is a favourite haunt for messy-haired folk with a thirst for whiskey, which makes up about two-thirds of its 4000-bottle collection. Join some of Seattle’s hippest barflies at the bar, which won World’s Best Spirits Selection in 2017, to geek out on bartender and co-owner Jamie Boudreau’s collection of pre-prohibition-era and rare whiskeys.
The shoebox-sized cocktail den has just 32 seats, which makes it easier to get a good gawp at the country’s largest spirit collection. Although there are plenty of affordable drams on offer, a nip of the Westover Maryland rye from the 1880s will set you back a whopping AUD$1594.
Seattle bars are not all dens of iniquity. The Nest is perched atop the 12th floor of the new Thompson Hotel and it pulses with a well-heeled crowd of local workers and business travellers who are here to schmooze.
Even on a wild and woolly evening, the rooftop bar, lounge and terrace is warm and cosy, with fire-lit corners and lush greenery adding to the atmosphere. The Nest serves a selection of snacks prepared by chef Derek Simcik from the hotel’s restaurant Scout. Order a bespoke poke and drink in the views of the Olympic Mountain Range and Elliott Bay while nursing a craft cocktails bobbing with house-made blobs of ice.
In a 1992 edition of Rolling Stone writer Michael Azzerad described Sub Pop bands as “all hair, sweat and guitars”. The magazine also named The Crocodile one of the Best Clubs in America, as it positively heaves with hard-core music fans who appreciate said trifecta of hair, sweat and guitars.
If only the storied walls of this Belltown institution could talk. In addition to hosting grunge gods Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Mudhoney back in the early ’90s, artists such as the Beastie Boys and Ben Harper have also performed at the iconic venue. The Crocodile also includes the Back Bar, which spins old vinyl and hosts intimate (read: sweaty) shows and serves pizza and cold drinks. Join the one-part pierced, two-part tattooed crowds for Tuesday’s karaoke night, which includes obligatory angst anthems from back in the day.
Carla Grossetti was a guest of Visit Seattle.
Published 10 April, 2018