Along with Bar Cotto and Anchovies & Olives across the street, Le Zinc (1449 E Pine St., but enter on 15th, around the corner; 206.257.4151; le-zn.com) fits nicely into this Eurocentric corner. Its elegant, relaxed atmosphere and French-influenced menu make it a boon to Francophiles and neighborhood professionals hunting for happy hours.
Bar manager Chris Zulueta (who also tends bar at Bottlehouse) watches over a cocktail list that matches the spot’s Gallic leanings, with a range of creative drinks fused with French ingredients, from cognac to apple brandy Calvados to renowned liqueur Chartreuse to lesser-known delicacies such as the dreamy Salers gentiane aperitif, bitter and earthy with a kiss of citrus and spice. There are about 12 cocktails on the regular menu ($11–$12), and nine for happy hour (all $7), providing a solid range of inspired choices. The menu also shines with effervescent sippers containing crémant (or other sparkling wines from France that are not made in the Champagne region), including the tangy and delicate Air Mail ($7), with rum, honey, lime, orange flower water and the French sparkling wine. It’s ideal for when you’ve ducked into the bar (which sits on the ground floor of Vox Apartments) on a hot day.
The happy hour menu also has delectable nibbles, from the crisp and chewy fries that come with a garlicky aioli ($3) to six wild Burgundian escargots spiked with parsley butter ($7). The full dinner menu provides more substantial fare such as the fougasse végétarienne (flat bread topped with crème fraîche, ratatouille and thyme, $19) and three versions of le moules frites—the top choice is the moules homard ($18), mussels in a rich lobster broth accompanied by those tasty frites. I suggest getting one to share, then finishing it off with absinthe straight from the lovely absinthe fountain on the bar.
Owners Wilfried Boutillier and Axel Mace (who also own Maximilien in Pike Place Market) have created a cozy, smart space, with a sunken dining room slightly separated from the lounge area. The latter is highlighted by a zinc-topped bar, a handful of wooden-topped tables, and a corner area with leather chairs and couches. Fun French accents, including a half-wall made of wine boxes and a tower of bouillon kub square tins, add to the intimate European gastropub vibe and provide lots of conversation starters.