Going out to dinner is great, but going out to dinner is also a commitment. And sometimes you’re just not ready for commitment. For instance, on a first date, or when you’ve been guilted into meeting your mom’s friend’s nephew for an informational interview about “getting into tech.” In situations like these, you need a place that’s perfect for drinks and a light bite - so if things go well, there’s food to sustain you, but if they get awkward, you don’t need to wait two hours for the check. Here are the best spots in Seattle for drinks and snacks.
We’re not saying that this guide is a competition, but if we had to crown a drinks-and-a-light-bite winner, it would be this spot. The small plates and cocktails here are excellent, and in general, Frank’s feels like it could easily become “your place.” Some tables have their own personal sofas instead of chairs, making them perfect for dates that involve sharing chips with feta dip, lobster rolls, and wedge salads. If you’re really starving, go for the fried chicken.
This Sri Lankan and Indian small plates spot has something for everyone, from the refreshing bhel puri (salad with puffed rice and yogurt) to the panko-breaded mutton roll with creamy tomato sambol for dipping. If you’re not really hungry at all, you could even order some crunchy papadum (a paper-thin, crunchy flatbread) to graze on. The cocktails are also excellent, whether you go for a coconut-infused bourbon drink or a rum-based one with passionfruit and roasted banana.
The drinks-and-a-light-bite situation at Gold Bar is very strong. This little bar has delicious Latin American snacks - like chips and avocado mash with cotija cheese and fried chicken bites aptly named “gold nugs.” These nugs are so good, we’d condone you grabbing the entire board they’re served on, and eating it all in a dark closet alone. The cocktails are excellent, too, but we are really here for the margaritas and any of the rotating alcoholic slushies.
Both the lively interior and the outdoor patio of Tamari Bar are nice spaces for hanging out, eating Japanese small plates, and drinking cocktails like the signature lemon sour topped with lemon ice. Food-wise, we like the torched sushi, spicy noodles, and poutine with nori and parmesan. If you’d prefer something interactive, you can also cook your own meat on an extremely hot rock.
Tapas Lab is a Spanish-Asian wine bar where graduated cylinders double as beer glasses - and are luckily as far as they go with the “lab” theme. You pay at the counter here, so grab a glass of cava and/or some delicious snacks (like chorizo-stuffed meatballs and bulgogi pinchos), and let friends come and go as the evening progresses.
Hannyatou is a tiny sake bar in Fremont where you can learn about rice wine from a giant binder. The best part about this place, though, is the menu of bar snacks that has stuff like little egg salad sandwiches topped with roe, braised mushrooms with chickpeas, and onigiri rice balls topped with salmon and a jalapeño-cheddar-bagel miso sauce. If you’re tired of just doing beer and wings, change things up here.
New Luck Toy is on this list for three reasons. First, the cocktails here (frozen, on-tap, or otherwise) are great. Second, you can order tasty Chinese dishes like shrimp and pork dumplings, spare ribs, and a version of General Tso’s chicken to remember. Third, you can play skee-ball or sing karaoke.
Of course you’re going to be tempted to get oysters at an oyster bar, but the burger at Bar Melusine delivers in a way that fresh shellfish can’t compete with. It has perfectly-seared beef, caramelized onion, and aioli on a squishy seeded bun. It’s small enough to be categorized in the “snack” category, so that it goes nicely with some fries and one of their cocktails. Going for a glass of wine and a crab cake is also a very good option.
This Pioneer Square bar was once a bank (it still has the original vault door and everything). It feels like a grown-up place to meet someone for a drink, maybe because of the visible reminders that money is a thing you need to worry about. Get some cocktails and share the Ploughman’s Lunch plate, a.k.a. meat and cheese and assorted other snacks on a board. Other menu highlights include the baguette with beer butter, roasted potatoes with potato salad aioli, and (if things are going well and you feel like staying for dinner) the Sloppy Joe.
When you want to consume champagne, cheese, meat, and bread like you’re on vacation in Paris, Le Caviste is the place to go. It’s a small, sleek spot with wine crates everywhere, a chalkboard menu written entirely in French, and charcuterie planks sure to impress your drinking companion(s).
Another classy spot for an aperitif and some snacks - this time, of the Italian variety. You’re here for spicy roasted hazelnuts, charcuterie, bruschetta, meatballs with garlic bread, or one of the rotating pasta dishes (the portions are pretty small, so they still feel light). Bonus: during Happy Hour, martinis and Campari spritzes are $6 each.
A nice place to hang out with some cocktails before you go home and trade your work clothes for sweatpants. Plates here range from Korean fried chicken bites to spicy cauliflower and cheesy Dungeness crab dip with flatbread, and there are so many options that you can mix and match different snacks every time you visit.
If you thought your only options in Pike Place market were chowder and samples of dried chocolate pasta, we have good news for you: this underground Korean gastropub exists. The way to do this place is to order a bunch of sliders (order both the bulgogi and spicy pork), drink a lychee-lime rickey or two, and just be thankful you made it out of Pike Place alive.
Last time you had a girls’ night, you went somewhere with drinks but no food, and spent the whole night distractedly thinking about pizza. This time, suggest Single Shot. The big marble bar is beautiful, and not only is there food - but the food is really good. Get some margherita flatbreads or a few of the seasonally rotating small plates, like salads and roasted vegetables, and everyone will be happy.
Dead Line is a great choice if you want something that feels low-key but still looks impressive. It’s a dark spot with a very tall bar, big booths, and pretty chandeliers. The Latin snacks on the menu here are great, from fried halibut tacos to street corn with an herby aioli, and we highly advise bringing someone with you, cutting their excellent burger in half, and calling it a light bite.
Yes, this is a hotel bar, but we promise, it’s actually good. It feels kind of like a mix between a speakeasy and a castle, with its low light, velvet booths, and excessively regal portraits of people like Bill Gates and Kelsey Grammer in the lobby. It’s a good spot to bring a date for some blackberry-cinnamon gin cocktails, along with parmesan truffle fries, sage sausage scotch olives, and spicy chips with a yogurt dip.
Tapas bars, like Itto’s, were created for this exact purpose. Their Moroccan small plates range from mini berbere lamb burgers to small skillets of seafood paella, and the Happy Hour specials make it one of our favorite spots for a great post-work snack. Plus, they have plenty of gluten-free options like squid steaks and potato cakes with harissa aioli.
A lot of the places on this list specialize in cocktails, but at No Anchor, it’s more about the beer. There’s a large, rotating selection of things you won’t find at a typical pub, like a smoked saison or a sour, barrel-aged fruit beer. Pair them with excellent small plates like Old Bay fried chickpeas, raw radishes with an addicting parmesan custard dip, and seafood rolls on homemade pretzel buns.
Part bar and part wine store, Upper Bar Ferdinand is one of Seattle’s more versatile drinking spots. Since it’s within Chophouse Row, the location is convenient but still somewhat removed from the Pike/Pine crowds, and it’s not too hard to get a table for two or a spot at the bar. Order anything and everything, from little salads to homemade cured meats and wood-fired pizzas. Pair it all with some excellent wine, of course.
Chances are, you’ve stumbled inside Barnacle, The Walrus And The Carpenter’s sister bar, to pass the time while waiting for a table next door. But we endorse treating this as a destination in itself, especially if you like drinks made with amaro, cured jamon shaved right in front of you, or both.
A drinks-and-light-bite session at Bottlehouse feels like a visit with a friend, mainly because this place is in a residential-looking house. But it differs from (most) real houses in that there’s a cheesemonger to select food pairings for you as you swirl your wine glass pretending to know about terroir. There’s a great patio, too, so keep this in mind for summer meetups.
Foreign National has a great lineup of tropical cocktails, but it’s about more than just the drinks here: the Asian fusion bar food is worth a trip. Bring a friend or date who won’t mind feeling like they’re in an alternate dimension/secret agent parody movie (the dramatic interior has touches like a disco ball and a distinct lack of windows). It can get cramped in here at peak times, but a couple of sparkling hibiscus/rooibos vodka Expat punches and cheeseburger bao with special sauce will help you get over that.
For smaller snacks like nuts, cheese, and jamon iberico, go to JarrBar. While it’s really close to Pike Place, it never gets crowded and works well if you’re looking for a quieter place. Enjoy the excellent daiquiris and the salmon rillettes by yourself - there’s basically no chance someone who just bought a Space Needle tee shirt will be here.
If you’re looking for a pub to snack at, this is it. There’s a good wine selection and some solid cocktails, and you can now make reservations. Expect a lively atmosphere perfect for impressing out-of-towners or just catching up with that random friend you haven’t seen in months over some foie gras-topped fries, bone marrow toast, and/or a great warm pretzel with homemade cheese whiz.
At Esters, they’ve mastered the art of the Italian snack perfectly. This wine bar has reasonably-priced small plates like ricotta toasts, arancini, braised beef cheek poutine, and the best thing here: fried duck confit “fingers” with spicy yuzu honey. Plus, their $10 bolognese and carbonara with housemade pasta could count as a light bite if you share. You just probably won’t want to.
Thanks to the addition of frozen watermelon, The Belmont has some very good frosé during the warmer months. What you do with that information is up to you. What we would do is come with our friends, hang out on the sectional sofa, maybe play a board game, order some cured meats, cheeses, and a baguette, and plan our eventual drinks-and-light-bite-fueled world domination. But that’s just us.