Seattle Bar Snacks: A.J. Rathbun Names His Favorites

A.J. Rathbun
best bar snacks in seattle aj rathbun seattle magazine

I spend a lot of time talking about local cocktails and spirits that are served in our lounges, bars and taverns, but less time discussing the eats that accompany those drinks. Which is funny because I like to eat. So, here’s a list of my favorite bar nibbles in Seattle. It’s by no means exhaustive (if there are some you think I’ve missed, please let me know in the comments), but covers those delectable edibles I’d reach for first to snack on with a cocktail. I went solely for snacks made at the bar at which they're served (even though per pound I suppose I eat the free Goldfish at the Rob Roy more than another other snack, to be completely honest).

Warm and Salty Goat Cheese Dates, St. John’s Bar & Eatery: Salty is often overused as a bar snack seasoning, but these luscious stuffed dates served up at one of my favorite friendly Capitol Hill spots don’t send the salting into overkill. Instead, these delicious dates balance out the savory with a smooth sweetness, making them swell with nearly any drink.

Spiced Chickpeas, E. Smith Mercantile: The variety pack of smoky spices on these warm chickpeas--rosemary, paprika and garlic--provides a full-figured flavor that leaves many standard snacks lagging behind. They go perfectly with the old-old-school (I’m thinking gold rush days) store vibe of the family-run E. Smith, and with the creative and creatively flavored cocktails.

Garlic Truffled Popcorn, Oliver’s Twist: You’ll find all sorts of flavored popcorn on today’s bar menus–and I can see why, as the light and fun nature of popped corn is a natural drink sidekick. In my mind, the version at this Phinny Ridge favorite is tops because its taste has a memorable truffle-ness that’s underpinned--and not overtaken--by garlic accents.

Torta Fritta, Bar Cotto: Cap Hill’s north Italian outpost is known of course for its fine selection of Italian salumi (and also I hope for its Italian-inspired cocktails). But I actually think the small fried dough balls, or Torta Fritta, served usually alongside the meat and cheese, are the stars. Slightly hot, doughy but still magically light and airy, they are ideal with an herbally drink.

Roasted Cauliflower Toasts, Essex: The seasonal Sriracha-spiked Brussels sprouts at this north Ballard cocktail lovers hangout are marvelous, but my wife recently tried to convince me that the roasted cauliflower toasts with Harissa aioli, pine nuts and fresh herbs are even better–and you know, I think she’s right. They’re divine with one of the bar’s creative cocktails (usually containing well-crafted homemade ingredients). And, if the Brussels are on the menu, there certainly isn’t any good reason not to try both.