In order to help you figure out which new restaurants are worth going to, we created The Hit List, our guide to recently-opened spots that are actually worth your time and money. We actually get off our asses and scope these places out - just because a place is new, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily good.
And now, we’re doing the same for bars. From hidden speakeasies to bars with really good alcoholic slushies, check out the Bar Hit List below.
If you tell someone you’re going to The Mountaineering Club without any context, they’ll think you have a mysterious outdoorsy side, and might ask you to borrow a camping stove in the near future. Joke’s on them, you’re really just into drinking good cocktails. The Mountaineering Club is a rooftop bar on top of the Graduate Hotel in the University District. The space is designed as if Smokey The Bear himself picked up a West Elm catalogue and opened a bar that happens to have very good views of the eastside of the city. The camping theme extends into the drinks - our favorites are the Banana Pancakes and the Orange Snack. If you must eat here, get the bacon sandwich and skip the $18 hot dog. Believe it or not, there’s a way better $18 hot dog in this town, and it happens to be in this guide, too.
The last time you ate mac and cheese while drinking something warm from a rooster mug, you were staying home from school in 3rd grade (and by that, we mean you faked a fever to watch The Price Is Right). Now you can do those things in public at Bad Bishop, a cocktail bar on the border of Pioneer Square and Downtown. This place has Victorian wallpaper, a rickety old piano, and board games, which collectively should occupy you and your date’s time for at least one hot toddy. Take advantage of the quiet atmosphere to debate whether Plinko or Punch A Bunch is better - which should last about 15 seconds because the answer is Plinko.
Judging from the taps behind the bar, it’s clear that Footprint used to be a growler store. Now, these taps are all full of wine, and it’s the perfect lowkey weeknight place to hang out if you’re genuinely interested in viticulture (we’re not just saying that because they have a trivia game about grapes). Needless to say, this is not the place to tell the bartender that you usually drink Franzia blush and are wondering if the pink wine from Provence is similar.
Deep Dive is probably the closest you’ll ever come to getting on a submarine with a dress code. It’s not actually a submarine, but it is a luxurious maritime-themed speakeasy in the Amazon Spheres. Waits are long to get in, but it’s worth it to eat an $18 caviar-topped hotdog and drink perfect cocktails in a highly-produced space that feels like an underwater grotto from The Little Mermaid. Hopefully you get to use your corporate card here (and if you do, get a second hot dog).
One-on-one scenarios require a specific kind of bar. Whether it’s a romantic date night with several glasses of wine or awkward cocktails with your digital nomad cousin who’s in town to “reconnect” (crash on your couch for a week), Dandylion is the bar you need. There’s just something comforting about sitting with another person at a bar that looks like a hunk of tree. A lot of bars in Seattle feel like small-town spots, but being surrounded by other people’s conversations in a nice space makes you feel like you’re truly in a big city. The tapas menu is hit or miss, but you can’t go wrong with the charcuterie or lemon ice cream with olive oil and salt.
You might think you’re in the wrong place when you enter Dynasty Room. The front room is entirely empty, (aside from a cardboard wolf and a busted-up display case) and the sign of the restaurant that was there before it is still up. Maybe you’ll even see a tumbleweed blow by. But once you round the corner, you’ll be hit by a sound wave of happy people drinking cocktails and eating spicy popcorn chicken. If you just had an awesome dinner with friends in the International District and don’t feel like going home to water your fern, extend the good time by having a few rounds here.
If you want to trick someone into thinking that you’re cooler than you are, take them to Dottie’s Double Wide. Behind a janky trailer door in White Center, this place is like a weird ’70s mod trailer park garage sale with twinkly string lights and portraits of naked women. Between the De La Soul vinyls and the horchata white Russians, we could spend hours blending into the crowd here, which is always fun but not too rowdy. Plus, the snacks are like what would happen if a combination KFC/Taco Bell were run by Culinary Institute grads who smoke a ton of weed. Get the fried chicken tacos and a basket of curly fries.
Before Stampede Cocktail Club came to be, the space was a nautical-themed bar, and before that, it was a Thai restaurant with tasty satay. And of the three, we feel most at home at Stampede, drinking fresh blueberry mules and reading the hilarious drink menu as if it were the Sunday paper. The whole space is in a little converted two-room house where one area looks like the set of The Great Gatsby and the other is covered in floral wallpaper with a taxidermy T-Rex head.
We like to imagine that when Black Cat came to be, someone took a squeaky-clean space, declared, “I’m gonna make this a real dive,” threw in some black paint and a Big Buck Hunter machine, and then hoped for crowds of people wearing flannels and jeans that look like they were chewed up by dogs. The result is a cool spot where you could bring your entire group of friends to sit in a big booth and drink mint julep slushies. And despite the fact that it’s smack in the middle of the insanity that is Belltown’s bar scene, it’s never too crowded here. So, you’ll be able to hear what everyone is saying, and you hopefully won’t touch any wads of used gum under the table. Be advised that the drinks here are strong, as in, mistakenly-leave-your-laptop-bag and-credit-card-behind strong.
Going beer-tasting in Ballard is all fun and games until you get sick of drinking the same ones over and over again, spinning in a vortex of Reubens, Stoup, Peddler, and Populuxe. (Or, until somebody falls off the Cycle Saloon.) Trailbend Taproom is a welcome change of pace because it’s still in the Ballard brewery district, but has beer available from everywhere from Bellingham to Belgium. We’ll admit that vulture-stalking for a large picnic table here gets frustrating, especially since this is the U.S. capital of passive-aggressive attitudes. But once you’re in, it’s a fun place to drink interesting things like blueberry ale, aperol cocktails, and spiked coldbrew. We don’t recommend coming to Trailbend starving, but if you do, the pizzas are good enough - especially the margherita.
Unless you’re lost or going to Gold Bar, it’s unlikely that you’d end up on this stretch of 9th Ave. Gold Bar is a chill cocktail spot with some sofas, a golden disco ball, and that’s pretty much it, so don’t bring anyone here to impress on looks alone. But we wouldn’t really mind hanging out here blindfolded, because the Latin snacks and cocktails (from the house margarita to the daily slushie) are that good. Cross your fingers for watermelon frose, and then uncross them to eat some pork mojo tacos and “gold nugs,” AKA popcorn chicken.
The world needs more bars like Beer Star. OK, the world needs more beer in general, but you get the idea. Beer Star is a glorious place in White Center that has lots of niche beers inside of a big fridge that you can pick out yourself, plus over three dozen varieties on tap imported from all over the place. While it’s always exploding with the ambient noise of delighted people gulping down fermented wheat, it’s never too difficult to claim a big table for your afternoon drinking HQ. You can bring outside food, but there’s also a little mini-market of cheese, charcuterie, crackers, nuts, and jams that will pair perfectly with that triple-hopped hibiscus lemon zest gose you’ve been hunting for forever.
If you live up north, it’s worth coming to South Park just for this wine bar. Left Bank is pretty similar to your friends’ not-completely-renovated basement, where records play nonstop and you eat whatever is within hand’s reach. But instead of drinking random beers are in the back of the fridge, you’ll have some really rare wine. The bartender is down-to-earth, just like your friend, but also doesn’t mind having a long conversation about grapes while you eat takeout and sip your glass of Slovenian white. And if you truly want to feel like you’re in that friend’s basement, they sell a rotating “cheap beer” for three bucks, too.
When Clever Bottle closed forever, we were bummed, because it was a truly great neighborhood bar. And with that sort of saltiness comes the expectation that its successor would be good, or else. Mr. Darcy’s is more than good. It’s terrific, with eight r’s. It’s a nice and quiet place to escape most other humans in Belltown. We’ve even witnessed someone outside turn to their date and say, “Oh yeah, this place looks nice and quiet,” before heading in. The space is filled with books, an antique piano, and a variety of seating situations that make it pretty versatile for going out with parents, a date, or even your boss. The drinks are incredible, particularly the “Love” cocktail with passionfruit, gin, sour cherry, tea, lemon, and whipped aquafaba (basically vegan egg white foam made from chickpea water) on top.