Belltown has a lot going for it. It’s extremely close to downtown, but manages to be way more fun - in part because there are so many great bars to choose from. That’s where we come in. Whether you want to lounge somewhere swanky with excellent cocktails, spend a date night doing wine and appetizers, or just find the fourth coordinate on your pub crawl, we have a Belltown drinking establishment for you. Unless you want a reptile-friendly place where you can hang out with your new boa constrictor over a mojito. You’re out of luck on that one.
A nautical-themed beer bar you’re going to want to spend some time in. There are a lot of fantastic, unusual things on tap here, and there’s excellent food as well (like seafood rolls on homemade pretzel buns, and radishes with parmesan custard). The menu helpfully plots all the draft beers on a coordinate plane indicating how approachable, traditional, modern, and esoteric they are. This is the only kind of math we ever want to do at a bar.
Navy Strength is No Anchor’s sister tiki bar. It looks like a beach hut that got an HGTV makeover, and it works just as well for a date as it does for group drinks. The drink menu has the swagger of a screenplay (here’s the description for the Zombie Pyre cocktail: “Nightfall. The tropics. English and Spanish rums engage in fisticuffs. Port & Amaro look on. A brooding, aromatic bastard of a drink”), and there are tons of options - from fruity banana kiwi sours to Planter’s Punch to large-format stuff for sharing and a drink so loaded with rum that there’s a limit of two per person.
If you read Pride and Prejudice, you’ll understand the name of this bar. If not, you should really at least watch the miniseries sometime. Mr. Darcy’s is a dark little cocktail spot with books, an antique piano, and a variety of seating situations that make it pretty versatile for going out. And the drinks are incredible, whether you go for something like an Old Fashioned infused with smoke to the “Love” cocktail with passionfruit, gin, sour cherry, tea, lemon, and whipped aquafaba (basically vegan egg white foam made from chickpea water) on top. This place is just really great.
Picture a mural of a skeletal sand woman embracing a man with three arms and a vulture head among some cacti, all in a space flooded with hazy pink light. Yes, this sounds a little bit like watching Thelma & Louise with a very high fever, but it’s actually the situation at a desert-themed bar called Neon Boots. This place has quality cocktails, our favorite of which is a margarita with black pepper simple syrup and orange blossom water. Plus, they have a full menu of toasted sandwiches and appetizers like meatballs and caesar salad-stuffed bread. Definitely get this place into your rotation if it isn’t already.
You’ve probably had some beer from Cloudburst at a local restaurant, but their warehouse-style tasting room is pretty cool, too. With the exception of decorative flowers on the tables and red/turquoise racing stripes on the wall, Cloudburst looks like your friend’s garage brewing operation - only with much better beer. We like any of their IPAs, and the Market Fresh saison with passionfruit and hibiscus is great, too.
When the inside (and to be honest, also the outside) of a bar looks like it’s one ringmaster short of a circus, you know it’s going to be a good time. Shorty’s is one of the most iconic bars in the city, and it’s where to go if you’re a wizard with two ball flippers and immune to excessive neon lights. They serve strong whiskey sours and Chicago-style hot dogs to keep you going as you explore the rows on rows of vintage and modern pinball machines.
Skee-ball, stiff well drinks, and round booths make for an ideal Friday night. The Rabbit Hole is pretty much perfect for everyone - unless you don’t like paintings of humans with rabbit heads, or you’re really bad at skee-ball and it’s kind of a sore subject for you. Even then, maybe give it another shot, because this place is really fun.
Use Wakefield as your utility spot when you’re not sure what kind of night you want to have. It could work for a weeknight date with some snacks, or a big Saturday catch-up session with friends and a couple bottles of wine. We’d even do a solo drink here while sitting at the attractive brick-lined bar.
Black Bottle is an ideal place for birthday drinks, particularly if presenting yourself like a grown adult and being in a lively, attractive space containing ferns are things you care about. Cocktails range from guava palomas to a great Old Fashioned, and if there’s anything left in the shaker after the bartender pours your drink, it’ll hit the table like the extra milkshake you get at a diner. Share some small plates like spicy fried cauliflower, Dungeness crab dip, and bulgogi lettuce wraps, too.
While Cursed Oak isn’t the most exciting bar on this list, it deserves to be here for its double-patty Belltown Burger alone (this burger happens to go really well with an Old Fashioned, FYI). If that’s not fancy enough for you, there’s another burger with fontina and a demi glace aioli. The sheer number of liquor bottles behind the bar is impressive, too.
Pennyroyal is a hotel bar we really like. It’s a little small, but if you can grab a purple velvet booth or a spot at the counter, it’s worth it for the highly complicated (but delicious) cocktails and the bar snacks from Shaker + Spear. It even feels a little regal, probably because of the very formal paintings of Bill Gates, Kelsey Grammar, and other celebrities in the Palladian hotel lobby.
Don’t be fooled by the group text you got that said “let’s meet at some random bar” without any context clues. Your friend might have failed to capitalize the name, but this is a real place. One with delicious cocktails, food ranging from crab nachos to garlic pull-apart bread with burrata (yes, you want that), and a setting perfect for groups. For some random bar, that’s pretty good.
From January to November, Rob Roy is a pretty standard classy cocktail bar. In December, however, it turns into a Christmas explosion, with decorations everywhere and a daily holiday drink special (e.g. a pumpkin mule or hot toddy). Come for the drinks and festivities, but go somewhere else for food: they exclusively serve Eat Local meals, which are basically organic/locally-made frozen Lean Cuisines.
The New York-style, greasy-in-a-good-way slices at Belltown Pizza go extremely well with your last beer or hard cider of the night. The chill atmosphere also works for when things are winding down - and when midnight rolls around, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you’ll be able to snag a booth. Do that.
Another good spot for pizza is Rocco’s. It’s a cocktail bar that also happens to serve a wide variety of New York-style pies, from classic pepperoni to “banh mi” (with pulled pork, sriracha, and hoisin sauce, among other things). It’s hard getting into this place on a weekend, and the slice quality can be inconsistent, but it’s still a good place to know about if you want some food to accompany your drinking. Dip your pizza in the homemade ranch.