The expansion of our local bar and restaurant scene continued unabated in 2017, with many (many) new beer bars, wine dens and cocktail joints opening. There were so many that picking a “best” list was nearly impossible. But we conducted the thorough (and delicious) research needed to narrow it down to the below, which isn’t in any specific order.
Navy Strength (Belltown)
Don your grass skirt (maybe over long johns) and sail into this tiki port of call. From Chris and Anu Elford, owners of liquid landmark Rob Roy and neighboring No Anchor, Navy Strength serves immaculate tiki classics, including Seattle’s top Mai Tai, as well as adventuresome modern takes. Case in point: the Zombie Pyre, which combines the serious rums it demands with port and Italian amaro. It’s described as “A brooding, aromatic bastard of a drink.” Indeed.
Also, don’t miss the rotating “travel” drinks section, presenting flavors from a rotating countries (currently the Philippines). Chef Jeffrey Vance’s food stands up to the beautifully beachy cocktails thanks to items like the garlic coconut sticky rice. -A.J. Rathbun
Alchemy (West Seattle)
With a candlelit Brontë-ish atmosphere—highlighted by black and white décor, velvet-covered chairs and a giant wooden table—you might expect large glasses of red wine here. But under bar director Tony Larson, Alchemy’s focus is on painstakingly imagined and constructed cocktails, at times using unusual ingredients and unique presentation involving drinker participation. The Bon Fire—a rye old fashioned with a trio of bitters: Angostura, peach and “funky orange” bitters—arrives smoked in a beaker for the customer to pour over a big ice cube. Original chef Larkin Young recently departed, but thankfully his double deviled eggs (with both cured and smoked yolks) remain. -A.R.
Union Saloon (Wallingford)
An archetypal neighborhood bar is that comfortable-yet-well-crafted place you know you could make your second home the moment you step inside. Union Saloon fits that description, with deer and elk horns, hanging saloon lights, handsome Sapele-wood bar with a brown and tan harlequin-patterned leather sides giving it a warm small-town, Western feel. Equally inviting is the “Saloon Twos” menu of reasonably priced mixed drinks like the gin and tonic ($6 during happy hour). While the hearty open-faced sandwiches are enough for a full meal, don’t fill up and miss owner, and local restaurant vet of 20-years, Michelle Magidow’s cakes slices. -A.R.
Beer Star is White Center's new beer mecca. Photo by Maria Billorou.
Beer Star (White Center)
Well, looky who’s on the come-up. Since opening in once restaurant-hungry White Center, stroller pushers, dog walkers and jersey-clad football fans have all flocked to this gargantuan beer hall that helped spur the ‘hood’s restaurant revolution. Think Chuck’s on steroids, but decidedly more bar than bottle shop, with nearly 50 taps marked on its snazzy digital menu boards warning you when that coveted keg is about to kick. In beer-centric Seattle, Chuck’s Hop Shop’s model is often mimicked, but Beer Star arguably does it best (or at least biggest) with adjoined Chinese Takeout and Li’l Woodys keeping the ale hounds fed. -Michael Rietmulder
The cocktails at this new Ballard bar and restaurant are too good to ignore. While drinks sage Paul Shanrock—who presides over the large bar area—includes well-balanced riffs on classics (see the refreshing Raspberry Mule) on his menu, the cocktails shine brightest when indulging his obvious love of Italian bottles. The best example is A Lovely Day for Bloodsport, made with Cividina grappa, Luxardo Bitter Bianco (a citrus-y aperitif) and Carpano Bianco vermouth. While the name is, well, bloody, the drink has a lovely visual clarity and a botanical, vegetal taste. -A.R.
Civility and Unrest Bellevue (Bellevue)
Among the many restaurant openings in the new Bellevue Collection, Seattle chef Jason Wilson’s the Lakehouse earned more buzz than most. But it was his modern speakeasy downstairs, an ultra luxe lounge hidden behind a graffiti panel barely discernable unless you know where to look, that intrigued us more. Here, a well-heeled crowd mingles over craft cocktails (mostly of the brown liquor variety) and bottles of bubbles. And since this project is led by a chef rather than bartender, the bar bites are far beyond the ordinary—look for spot prawn rolls, spicy merguez sausages and pretzels made from Wilson’s own coffeeflour. -Chelsea Lin
Pablo y Pablo (Wallingford)
The latest outpost from the Heavy Restaurant Group, Pablo y Pablo is a welcome addition to a once bar barren stretch of 34th Street in lower Wallingford. The cocktails from Chad Phillips and Heavy’s spirits chief Casey Robison pair perfectly with the Mexican fare (the vegan nachos with lush cashew cheese are worth having no matter your diet), and have a foot in the classics while still being fresh and original. The La Paz for instance, made with Bolivian brandy, banana liqueur, lime and ginger beer, will bring a little bounce to winter days with its light, tangy, refreshing nature. They also have a worthy list of tequilas and mezcals, which can be had solo or paired with complementary chasers for an extra buck. -A.R.