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Urban dwellers will always argue that suburbanites are missing out on what's available in the the big city. But the pro-city crowd can't win the bar argument, since the neighborhood bars which have sprung up beyond the city proper are just as endearing as bars with metropolitan zip codes -- and perhaps a mite more welcoming and comfortable.
Here, our picks for the best neighborhood bars in Seattle's suburbs. As always, Erin Thompson compiled the comments, and the finalists are listed in no particular order.
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Time Out Sports Bar looks out of place in downtown Kirkland, which is otherwise full of chic boutiques, posh spas, and waterfront restaurants. But that's precisely why it draws so many college students and recent grads, especially those hailing from Wazzu. Time Out is as unpretentious as it gets, and offers cheap deals that would prove competitive even in Pullman. Case in point: Taco Tuesday, which offers 50¢ tacos (!) and $5 Long Islands. And if, before the weekend, you find yourself yearning to relive college again, you can come back for Thirsty Thursday, when the bartenders serve $1 wells from 9 to midnight. Because at Time Out, the party never stops -- just like Pullman.
9. Pla-Mor Bar & Grill
As Maple Valley has exploded into plot after plot of subdivided suburban redundancy, the Pla-Mor retains the former forested no-man's-land bearded, backwoods, beer-drinkin' soul. It contains the sort of south county characters Almost Live used to ridicule, but you secretly always wished you could be on the next barstool over from. Those were the days; at the Pla-Mor, they still are.
The historic space the Rollin' Log occupies was at first called the Grand Central Café. Later it became Issaquah's post office. Later still, after the entire population of the U.S. became a bunch of losers (aka Prohibition), it was inevitably repurposed as a bordello and speakeasy. Today, it's just a bar. There are pool tables, a jukebox, a taxidermy moose, and, of course, alcohol. But the Rollin' Log also has a scary secret: It's haunted! According to the bartenders, four different supernatural entities linger about the place: a cowboy, a man in black, a little girl, and an evil troublemaker.
Housed between the carpet shops and fast food joints of Highway 522, the Cozy Inn Tavern has been a go-to for after-work drinks since the end of prohibition. The regular crowd plays pool, pull tabs and pinball, or simply kicks back and enjoys sips of local brews. It's $3 for selected pints during happy hour, and $9-$12 for a pitcher, which makes a trek to this bar in the former drinking capitol of Seattle all the more worthwhile.
Darrell's Tavern used to have a fleet of big, old Lincolns permanently parked in its front lot on Aurora Avenue North, right next to Highland Ice Arena. Rumor has it that back in the day, anyone who was old enough to drive one of these Lincolns off the lot was also old enough to order a beer at Darrell's. But Darrell's is now under the stewardship of Dan Dyckman, a longtime local bartender who's pulled taps at Maple Leaf's Fifth Avenue Tavern and the Dubliner in Fremont, among other places. Dyckman's left virtually all the tavern's shaggy-dog aesthetic--Country Club malt liquor signs, '60s grandma's-house light fixtures, floor-to-ceiling carpet, the horseshoe bar, bingo tables--intact.
Newport Hills' Mustard Seed Grill & Pub offers two big family-friendly sections--each with 10 booths, four tables, and several big screens on which to watch the Super Bowl while teaching little Johnny the merits of taking the Giants and 3½. A longtime waitress says the Seed is just likeCheers because 90 percent of the customers are regulars--and the other 10 percent soon will be after they try the crispy-on-the-outside, juicy-on-the-inside pressure-cooked chicken. With jo-jos and homemade coleslaw, it's an absolute steal at $8.99.
4. Cabin Tavern
Since Prohibition, those lucky bastards who live in Richmond Beach have had the perfect tavern: the Cabin. It's got television sets tuned to sports and classic rock on the jukebox. It's in the middle of nowhere, yet not too far from anywhere. It has cheap and filling food, Black Butte porter, a massive patio, and aesthetic imperfections so mind-bogglingly unique that they turn into charm. The fact that its proprietors haven't bothered with flattening the sloped floor by the bar hasn't been a deterrent, nor has the fact that it's become a favorite stop on the Harley-Davidson circuit.
Visible from I-90, the Mt. Si Tavern looks like just another place to pull off the interstate and grab a quick beer. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Stepping into the Mt. Si Tavern is like stepping into a beer commercial, and not just because of the shed out back with a pair of skis mounted atop it and a Budweiser sign nearby. Inside, the tavern has a log-cabin feel, with booths hand-carved from what was undoubtedly timber harvested from nearby forests. The bartenders are super-friendly-- especially if you order Pabst--and there's a pedestrian speed bump of sorts near the bathrooms that's liable to trip you up if you don't know it's there. There's also a backyard featuring two horseshoe pits, the aforementioned ski shack, a flower-ringed evergreen tree sticking out of an impeccably manicured lawn, and majestic Mt. Si rising high into the sky. This blue-collar country club makes you forget entirely that one of the country's busiest interstates is only a few yards away.
On appearances alone, The Hobnobber in downtown Burien is nothing to write home about. It's a scruffy, ultra-basic tavern that only serves beer, mainly keeps its TVs tuned to network news, and boasts a roster of regulars whose median age is well north of 40. But, oh, what a name. According to Merriam-Webster, "hobnobber" is derived "from the obsolete phrase drunk hobnob." Its archaic meaning is "to drink socially." Its modern-day meaning is "to associate familiarly." Really? What's wrong with the archaic meaning? What's the world coming to when drunken hobnobbing is excised from trusted texts? Thankfully, as long as The Hobnobber keeps their glasses chilled, the term's true meaning will be simultaneously preserved and embodied.
1. Roanoke Inn
If you live in Mercer Island, your neighborhood bar is The Roanoke. The Roanoke is in fact the only true neighborhood bar on Mercer Island, and Mercer Island is no small neighborhood; it's an incorporated city. Befitting an affluent isle where if you rent you're viewed as poor, the Roanoke's white exterior resembles that of a country-club clubhouse (the croquet lawn supports this notion as well). Inside, however, it boasts no such pretentiousness, and reveals that one of Seattle's oldest, richest suburbs (at one point Mercer Island was known as East Seattle) is a veritable Robert Duvall to Medina's Adrien Brody. If you get the feeling that everybody knows your name, it's because it's true.