Dante's Turns 40, But the UW Students Are Still Barely 21

Dante Masks.jpg
Dante's brings out the devil in UW students
The Place: Dante's, 5300 Roosevelt Way NE, 525-1300, U DISTRICT

The Hours: Monday - Friday, 3 to 7 p.m.

The Deal: $1 off draft beers and well drinks, and $3-4 appetizers. The real deals, though, are the nightly specials. That means $3 wells from 9 p.m. to close on Mondays and Wednesday (karaoke nights), and $4 pitchers of High Life from 8 p.m. to last call on Tuesday and Thursdays. The ultra-cheap beer corresponds with beer pong competitions at the bar, which has been the watering hole of choice for UW students seeking to get thoroughly shitfaced for 40 years now.

The Digs: Dante's celebrates its 40th anniversary this Saturday, and it's hard to imagine that the place has changed much over the past four decades. Ted Bundy famously frequented the place in the '70s, and his first victim was spotted there on the night she disappeared. (Rather than downplay the serial killer connection, Dante's keeps the news clippings framed on the wall.) It's still dimly lit and vaguely creepy, and there's still wood-paneling and red velvet booths in the downstairs "dungeon" area.

Games are the main attraction (aside from booze), and the entertainment options include several pool tables, air hockey, pinball, darts and more. All in all, it's sort of like Chuck E. Cheese with bargain-priced beer and a slightly seedy vibe.

There's also a dance floor, a somewhat secluded upstairs area, a fireplace, and a whole bunch of demonic-looking masks that are intended as a tribute to the bar's namesake, the poet Dante Alighieri, author of Inferno and the Divine Comedy. The comedy here is that the bar is full of undergrads busy getting hammered rather than reading 14th century Italian literature.

The Verdict: In his book Seattle's Best Dive Bars, UW alum and Seattle Weekly editor Mike Seely recalls that Dante's was often the finish line on 21-runs because "the bartenders wouldn't cut the primary celebrant off -- even after she hurled. Someone would just clean up the puke, the celebrant would 'rally,' and things would carry on as though the vomit were a mere speed bump on the road to debauched adulthood."

The bottom line is that Dante's has always filled a valuable niche: if the fresh-faced students weren't allowed to get belligerent here, they might otherwise end up invading your favorite neighborhood bar.

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