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The bar where you grab a pint on lazy Sunday afternoons? Not a lounge. The cocktail temple where bartenders make their own tinctures and squeeze fresh fruit juice? Probably not a lounge either.
A lounge is a dimly-lit drinking establishment where the only cocktails worth ordering were invented decades ago, and where no matter what your age, you're probably not the oldest person in the room. A jazz pianist and good food are bonuses.
Here, our contributors' picks for Seattle's greatest lounges, as compiled by Erin Thompson. As always, the lounges are listed in no particular order, save for the winner, which you'll find in the pole position.
10. The Hideout
Perhaps Seattle's most appropriately named bar, The Hideout, situated next to a Thai restaurant on sleepy Pill Hill, is easy to miss. But inside the unmarked doors, chandeliers sparkle, and the jukebox is free. Absinthe isn't on the menu, but The Hideout's speakeasy vibe will plunge you down the rabbit hole nonetheless. Heavy drapery obscures the windows, and paintings by notable local artists are arranged salon-style on the dark red walls. And while you don't need knowledge of the art world to enjoy the ambiance, it helps when selecting specials like the "Warhol" (a cosmopolitan and a Polaroid of yourself) and the "Hemingway" (a shot of Hornitos and a bottle of Mexican beer).
9. Four Seas Restaurant
You walk into and through the Four Seas, a bright and boring I.D. restaurant, to get to the dark-as-a-hole-in-the-ground, garishly lit back bar, the Dynasty Room. Even when the place is almost empty, it carries a certain dingy charm, all crappy 1950s furniture and even a Naugahyde bumper on the bar top (handy on Friday nights). Your choices are very twenty years ago. Keep it simple and make yours a highball. Embrace the sour mix. This is the perfect tableau for escaping holiday family drama or hiring a hitman. You wouldn't think of the Dynasty Room as a great place to take a date, but it sure will separate the frogs from the princes, and the women from the princesses.
8. 611 Supreme
With its bright red brick walls and velvet couches, 611 Supreme is one of the cozier, classier places to have a cocktail on the Pike/Pine corridor. Its two-room setup delivers French cuisine at its most accessible, while still offering a posh sanctuary from screaming children and cheap drunks. The bar menu is short on beer (a couple from Maritime), but it does offer exotic liquors like cachaca (Brazilian fermented sugarcane) and pisco (Spanish distilled grapes). Whiskey is king here, and a lot of people seem to dig both the bar at night and the dinner menu, which includes roasted pork and hanger steak.
Columbia City's darling commercial strip often seems to have the lock on every neighborhood-related category: Tourists from other sections of town are apt to wish their home 'hood had a Columbia City Bakery or a La Medusa or a Lottie's Lounge, a cozy bar located in a century-old drink destination. The former Columbia Hotel was remade as a coffee shop, bar and restaurant in 1998. Loyal partisans say it's a place to which you can return many, many times.
6. Oliver's Lounge
Located in the historic Mayflower Park Hotel, Oliver's--open since 1976--exudes old school class. The bartenders here know their stuff so well that they won't bat an eye if a businessman comes in for a discreet cocktail before noon. The menu focuses on martinis and a couple absinthe-infused cocktails. Patrons who want something to nibble on while imbibing should drop in during the weekday happy hour (4:30-6 p.m.) for a smorgasbord of free (!) breads, crackers, cheeses, and fruit.
The Chelan Café is a full-service entertainment mecca, a hangdog's salt-rimmed dream. Its layout includes a connected bar, the Ebb Tide Room, which is open for every hour of the day when it's permissible to serve liquor (put another way, it's only closed 28 hours per week). While the Ebb Tide serves the same chow as the two rooms that occupy the restaurant area, it is as a bar should be: dark and utilitarian, with vinyl booths and red-tinted lights. But don't expect it to be quaint: Before noon on a recent Saturday, the lounge was packed with folks who were well-enough acquainted with one another to wander from table to table and chat, mixed drinks in hand.
The Golden City Lounge, a dismal dive attached to a Chinese restaurant in Ballard, is affectionately referred to by locals as The Golden Shitty. Completely separate from the eatery next door, the bar has no windows, just the glow from a few dim lamps and a TV that's always tuned to sports. The haunt of the last blue-collar workers left in Ballard--fishermen, roughnecks, and stevedores--and a colorful assortment of degenerates, miscreants, and hipsters, Golden is the kind of place where you order a shot and a beer, put Hank on the jukebox, and slowly drink your misery into oblivion.
3. Mr. D's Greek Restaurant & Bar
Part Greek diner, part lounge lizard terrarium, Mr. D's looks like it was ripped out of the pages of some '70s interiors handbook--linoleum, paneled walls and chintzy lights are just a few relics of that era you'll find here. The restaurant closes at 3 p.m., but the lounge stays open until 10 p.m. (give or take an hour depending on the crowd), and you can eat off the full menu (salads and burgers which Mr. D. himself might prepare for you). The restaurant is popular for lunch with the SoDo work crowd, and the dimly-lit, cozy lounge draws a mixed patronage--businessmen off work, downtown shoppers, errand-runners in transit, and the blatantly curious.
This Italian eatery, originally founded in 1953, has a rich history in organized crime and cocktail culture. Greg Lundgren of The Hideout restored the late beloved establishment in spring of 2010, promising to restore it to its old-school cool state. That he has. Customers will feel like they're on an episode of The Sopranos. Food includes classics like cannelloni, lasagna, and spaghetti with meatballs, plus pricier dishes like filet mignon and rack of lamb. And in the back room, which features a full bar, there's live entertainment via a grand piano, lounge singers, and literally, all that jazz.
If one were to guess which of the bars in Lower Queen Anne belonged to former Sonic superstar and notorious partier Shawn Kemp, the reasonable assumptions would be Peso's or Ozzie's. But it's actually Oskar's Kitchen, a charming Mediterranean-inspired restaurant and bar that Kemp named after his pet fish. Its cozy Bubble Room lounge is a pleasure to unwind in, so order a cheap (but stiff) drink and nosh on complimentary pesto pita bread. And don't be surprised if Kemp sidles up alongside you and asks how you're doing.