Athenian Inn

Where can you get killer views from several observation decks, over 200 beers, and a wildly diverse menu—all served in a historic landmark? If you said the Space Needle or Smith Tower, you are, as John McLaughlin says, WRRRONNNG! It’s the Athenian Inn, a fabulous and gritty bar and restaurant hidden away (as much as you can be smack dab in the middle of a major tourist attraction) in the Market.

Three Greek brothers opened the Athenian in 1909, and over the years it’s gained reputation, grime, and crow’s feet. Well, at least the employees have. (This is not true of charming greeter/owner Louise Cromwell, who looks ab fab). The Athenian was one of the first restaurants in Seattle to get a liquor license (in 1933), and if you had a nickel for every cocktail they’ve served, you’d be kickin’ Bill Gates’ ass right now.

Many locals ignore the Athenian either out of fear (peering in the window, you’ll see cragged regulars, scuffed and warped floors, cold wooden booths, and often empty bar stools, as all the action is around the corner where the sweet views are) or ignorance. This didn’t stop Rob Reiner from shooting Sleepless in Seattle, and it shouldn’t stop the rest of you yuppies. The Athenian is 10 times as happening as Place Pigalle or Etta’s, and serves a better cup of joe than Starbucks across the way, even if that is the original Starbucks.

The Athenian has more beers by the bottle than any other place in town, and, like the staff, they don’t discriminate what/who they serve: from Brazil, Brama Pils, $3; Scotland, McEwan’s Export, $4; Ivory Coast, Mamba Malt, $7; or if you’re splurging, try the Chimay Reserve from Belgium, unlike anything you’ve had before, $10; though most folks are drinkin’ Schmidt’s from a can, USA, $1.50 per 16 oz. Draft beers (20 on tap) before noon are half-price (75 cents a schooner!), and believe me, there are plenty of folks squatting before midday. They’ve also got 35-some-odd dessert wines, if you’ve got an alkie sweet-tooth.

By no means is this well-worn dive beer and wine only; cocktails are served, and the old-school barkeeps even make suggestions: Brandy Flips, Pink Ladies, Rusty Nails, Dirty Mothers, you name it, they’ll crank ’em out. My Stoli Bloody’s were $3.50 a pop—try gettin’ that deal at the Pink Door. And talk about a Happy Hour—well drinks are $2 between 5 and 6:30pm, and Gordy, the pleasant and knowledgeable bartender who’s been servin’ ’em up since 1933 (just kidding—he’s only been there 12 years) will keep you comin’ back for more.

If you go, regulars sit at the southwest corner of the bar, so try not to get in their way. They’re heavy smokers, they were here before you, so deal with it.

Athenian Inn, 1517 Pike Pl, 624-7166. Open daily except Sundays, 6:30am- 7pm.

bar joke: An Irishman walks out of a bar.