Best place to hide out and get tanked
The Zig Zag Caf頨1501 Western, 625-1146) is the spot to slink into after (or during) work to ease your occupational and/or existential pain with a few strong and perfectly mixed cocktails. The Zig Zag is tucked in the zig of the Pike Place Hillclimb, right by El Puerco Lloron (another place you should know about if you don't already), and thus suffers no irritating car traffic noise. It's intimate and dim, with the bar glowing ever so invitingly and dapper, sweet bartenders at your service (other restaurant people hang out here, so you know they make good drinks). The windows have velvet curtains that can be pulled in the event of the reinstatement of Prohibition, the menu includes good tapas to soak up the martinis, and a lovely little outdoor seating area steps-side can make a sunny happy hour (with drink specials from 5 to 7) pretty damn happy.
Best theater bar
The wise audience member knows that alcohol makes good theater better and bad theater bearable. While Washington's arcane liquor laws mean that it's not always possible to get a real drink at all venues and some spaces are limited to wine and beer, all of the major theaters (with the reasonable exception of the Seattle Children's Theater) sport some kind of bar. Of the Equity mainstages, Intiman wins hands down, with courteous (and generous!) bar staff and lots of padded couches on both the balcony and lower stories. Other larger theaters have hopelessly crowded bars (the Paramount and Rep) or, even worse, feature scattered little "drink kiosks," like ACT and the 5th Avenue. But it's to small scrappy Theater Schmeater (1500 Summit, 324-5801) that the prize must go. Although the theater's location, in a converted parking garage, does lack atmosphere, and the bar staff are occasionally a bit haphazard, the Capitol Hill fringe theater wins hands-down for its playful decor along with two bar specialties unavailable at any other theater bar (or perhaps any other bar in the Western hemisphere): frozen Snicker bars and the infamous "Zone Cocktail," a delicious, glowing blue drink named after the Schmee's popular late-night series "Twilight Zone Live on Stage." Two or three of these, and you may indeed feel like Rod Serling is narrating your life circumstances.
Best Chinese restaurant lounge
Behold the wonder of the Mandarin Room (Moon Temple Restaurant, 2108 N 45th, 633-4280). Shoddily stapled corkboard passes for wall treatments, seriously ambiguous deities reduced to papier m⣨頲enderings adorn the yellow-lit walls, a hipster is passed out in the corner. The jukebox offers familiar hits from the '80s—Journey, Cheap Trick, Foreigner, and some Asia if you're lucky. The drinks come stiff and strong; the OJ in the screwdrivers is so minimal that the drink is nearly colorless. At the corner table a pair of transvestites, glorious and in their element, chain-smoke Capris. The lights from passing cars cast shadows across the crowd's bloodshot eyes. The calendar is open, mysteriously, to May, and Ms. May is sporting a horrible green and pink bikini. The bleached blonde cocktail waitress and the Chinese bartender argue over the only piece of literature in the vicinity: a Little Nickel paper. The Bukowski barfly in all of us lives more vibrantly than our inner child and begs more insistently to be let out. And, of course, brought here.
Best cheap beer under heat lamps
The Capitol Hill equivalent of Old Faithful, Linda's Tavern (707 E Pine, 325-1220) can't be beat when the weather turns sour. Thanks to an awning and a coupla well-placed heat lamps, you and yours can enjoy a jovial pitcher no matter how nasty it is outside. If you're not of a microbrew persuasion, Rainier flows from the tap, and there's a full bar if you fancy the hard stuff. Linda's jukebox plays a solid selection, and a DJ may show up and spin anything from punk to classic rock to nouveau chic. Weekends tend to draw a more rowdy collegiate crowd, but school nights limit the clientele to a motley mix of mods, rockers, and mockers of varying degrees. You can be a nerd here and be proud. You're not alone. And the happy-hour pitcher prices can't be beat.
Best rendezvous tavern
The Roanoke Inn on Mercer Island (1825 72nd SE, 232-0800) has it all: historic digs nestled into a quiet suburban enclave that give it that hideaway feel; a cozy barroom filled with beer memorabilia and locals who defy the Mercedes Island stereotype; tables on the covered porch or outside for sunny days, a fireplace inside for chilly ones. Oh yes, and great comfort food, from burgers and pizza to nacho platters and house dinner specials every weeknight. But the great thing about this place is that it's just a short hop on I-90 from either direction, an easy rendezvous point for lunch, dinner, or brews with your pals from the other side of the lake.
Best place to smoke
Warning: The Surgeon General has determined that cigarette smoking does some bad shit. So, does that stop you? Nah. Teeth so yellow you could light your way through a cave? Jones so bad you'd set your house on fire for a contact high? Haven't yet summoned up the John McCain-like fortitude needed to enter the demonic AM-only RV reserved for patch-wearers, gum-chewers, homicidal cold-turkey-goers, and "nonsmoking" cig-cadgers? For those of you who are hopped up on nicotine, there's a special place that's all-smoking, all the time: Welcome to the Comet Tavern (922 E Pike, 323-9853), the puffer's paradise. Sure, there are other places to smoke, if by "smoking" you mean being herded out into the middle of the desert with the other undesirables and left without water. But the Comet is doughboys getting care packages of Lucky Strikes from their mothers. It's the smooth draw of a Gauloises after bouillabaisse, Beaujolais, and cr譥 brl饠in a Parisian caf鮠It's Dean Martin, a martini, and a Vantage at the Sands. It's the last refuge of the Totally Addicted.
Best bar-cum-gift shop
This place is a mixed bag, and everything in the bag is utterly beautiful. From bar to gift shop to art gallery, the entire place reeks of aesthetic refinement. The gift shop is chock full of to-die-for non-necessities and objets d'art that are crafted by local and international artists. But Bitters Co. (513 N 36th, 632-0886) is also a furniture store and wine bar. Everything about the place is understated and minimalist. Founded by two sisters, Amy and Katie Carson, the place is at once homey and exotic, relaxed and touched with a perfectionist's zeal (or maybe two perfectionists, in this case). One of the Carson sisters, Amy, has started up a design studio in Spokane, which supplies some of the furniture and household goods that are for sale in the shop. The place is airy and peaceful, a cool refuge from the heat and mayhem of the Fremont Flea Market. The bar is tiny, but light food and good wine and beer are plentiful. A nightly lineup of entertainment, featuring jazz combos, soloists, and various 'n' sundry performers brings a crowd in for a nightcap.
Whenever Fatty needs to escape the pomp and sizzle of Capitol Hill, he rolls down the ditches and flops headlong into Von's Grand City Caf頦 Martini-Manhattan Memorial (619 Pine, 621-8667). Fatty saddles up to the bar and barks, "Spin wheel for Fatty! Spin now for Fatty!" The wheel nearly tears from the wall as intoxicating possibilities arm wrestle with chance. "I wish my name was Chance," thinks Fatty. The room grows silent. The wheel, in slow motion, taunts him, as all eyes are fixed, mouths poised, throats ready to swallow. She comes to rest on "Tankards $5.75." Fatty chirps like a monkey. A flood of 34-ounce memories crowds his brain. Fatty does his patented "hambone shuffle"—much to the crowd's delight. "One tankard for each of my hands, and chickens for all my fingers," sings Fatty to the bargoers. God bless you, Fatty. And god bless these tankards. Forever and ever. Amen.
Hola. El Gallito (1700 20th, 329-8088) isn't much to look at, inside or out, but hot damn, if you don't have a good time here you're a grumpy stumpy. Time it just right and you'll have mariachis massaging your ears while you eat your weight in salsa. But we're here for more insidious reasons: Let your inner alcoholic bathe in the glory of pint-sized margaritas. Go ahead, feed your enchilada. Take a vacation from your stupid, ugly life and spend an evening getting nuttered with your mates. The place is pretty petite, they take group reservations, and we had ourselves what the kids would call "a blast."
Best happy hour for loners
At Johnny's Grill and Ale House (725 Pike, 447-0507), they have $1 pints of Budweiser. Yes, you heard me right, $1 pints of Budweiser. But there are two catches: 1) You have to hang out in the Convention Center, and 2) You have to sit near the other people who hang out at the Convention Center. So if you can frighten the type of twerp who wears a plastic nametag to dinner from attempting to talk to you (or at least tell him/her enough lies to entertain yourself when they try to be friendly), you may survive without getting horribly, incurably, excruciatingly bored. Bring a book. Bring a Game Boy. Bring a spare bladder. Bring spare change. It may not be the coolest bar in town, but in what other Seattle saloon can you imbibe a lethal amount of alcohol for $10?
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