2301 Eastlake Ave. E., EASTLAKE 206-329-3277
noon-2 a.m. daily
MANY A SLEEK wine bar may come and go, but the Zoo Tavern is forever. Or, at least, a mighty long time—the cavernous, comfortably broken-in space has been right where it's at since 1974, and aside from the scattered handbills advertising current shows and events around town, there's not a whole lot inside that screams 2002.
It sure ain't the prices: Cans and bottles of Bud, Miller, Weinhardt, Moosehead, and Pabst Blue Ribbon are $2.25; a pitcher of Fat Tire or Widmer Hefeweizen is $9.50. Wine is distinguished not by vintage year but by size: small ($2.50) or large ($3.75). No hard liquor means no hot meals, either; nuts, pretzels, and chips are the only salty sponge for a topped-out-on-PBR belly. If said belly still feels bad after a round of cashews and Fritos, though, there's always Tums and Alka-Seltzer on call (just ask at the bar).
Not that you'll necessarily spend much time at the bar. Lovely as the animal-print bar stools are, any true Zoo fan knows where all the laundry quarters really end up—on the three pool tables, two dart boards (one electronic), three kinds of pinball, and the long, dusty shuffleboard runway that cover its worn wood floors. There's even a mammoth old-fashioned billiards table for the more sophisticated bar-sport palate, set under the watchful eye of both Humphrey Bogart and a gigantic peachy-red rubber dragon.
The Zoo is neither a meat market nor a see-and-be-seen destination bar, which doesn't mean that you'll always end up going home alone, just that you don't necessarily have to shave your legs for it. People come here to relax and unwind in blessedly low-key privacy, not to sip on $4.50 microbrews or $9 basil-infused martinis while sucking in their gut for critical opposite-sex inspection. Casually scruffy twentysomethings rub up against good old-fashioned gray-beard bikers, and faded logo T-shirts are the unofficial in-house uniform. There might be sexier bars, and there are most definitely swankier ones, but—to bastardize the Beatles—true happiness is a warm dart (or pool cue, or shuffleboard disc, or joystick), and the Zoo Tavern knows it.
CANTERBURY ALE & EATS
Ye olde Capitol Hill hipsters and low-key 15th Avenue neighborhooders alike crowd into this dark, Bavarian-style lodge, whether they're hankering for a delectably messy hamburger, a stiff drink, or a few rounds of 50-cent pool. Even though it looks like a medieval chalet—complete with two crackling fireplaces through the colder months—the Canterbury still provides all the mod cons: electronic-score shuffleboard, J䧥rmeister served at zero degrees, and cheap nachos on demand. The tiled, spacious poolroom turns from cozy to airy in the summer, but there's still plenty of reason to hole up in the darker corners with the Trivia Whiz machine or a hot date (sometimes, sadly, they're the same thing). Even on a weeknight, there's stiff competition for the corner shuffleboard table; once you get started, it's hard to give it up till you've perfected your offensive slide. 534 15th Ave. E., 206-322-3130. 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Mon.-Fri.; 10 a.m.- 2 a.m. Sat.-Sun. CAPITOL HILL
SEA WOLF SALOON
Back when Chop Suey was the Breakroom, and beer and not liquor was all you could get, sneaking around the corner to the Sea Wolf between band sets for a stiff shot was as common as crossing the street for a slice of Piecora's pizza. Now, the spirits flow freely at the new, improved Chop Suey, and the bands are back in force, but sometimes it's still nice to return to the old ways—especially since "improvements" included the removal of the Breakroom's much-loved air hockey and pool tables. All that and more (two dart boards, endless electronic variations on solitaire and poker) remain at the Wolf, and the drinks are just as ass-smacking as ever. The Sea Wolf is primarily gay-oriented, but patrons won't give you the stink eye unless you give it to them first, and the bartenders are as sweet as pie. Plus, fewer ladies means no long lines for the girls' room. 1413 14th Ave., 206-323-2158. 11 a.m.-2 a.m. daily. CAPITOL HILL
SHORTY'S CONEY ISLAND
Sometimes you want herb-encrusted salmon, a nice chianti, and maybe a funky little jazz quartet. But other times (a.k.a., the other six days a week) you just want a big old kosher dog, a Heineken, and some Dokken on the speakers while you kick your date's ass at Donkey Kong. Shorty's really can't help you with the first thing, but it was born to help you with the second. Belly up to the formica countertop and ask for a keilbasa, Italian hot link, or even meat-free "phony Coney," then ask for your change in quarters and hit the full wall of vintage video games—from Centipede to Ms. PAC-MAN—plus a bounty of vintage pinball (based on the movies and TV shows of your halcyon youth). Killer nitrates, liver- destroying booze, and carpal tunnel-inducing joysticks: It doesn't get much sweeter than this. 2222 Second Ave., 206-441-5449. 2 p.m.-2 a.m. Mon.-Fri.; 3 p.m.-2 a.m. Sat.-Sun. BELLTOWN