Hit the Town: Best Places for a Great Night Out in Seattle
Plan your best night ever with our evening playbook--there's something for everyone
By Patrick Knowles with Sheila Cain and Rachel Hart; additional reporting by Ryan Kindel, Madeline Lootens and Evan Webeck
September 28, 2015
Calling all first-date flirters, karaoke kings and queens and tranquility seekers—the sun has set and this is your invitation to a whole new side of the city. From classic soul jams and comedy clubs to trivia nights and bingo, there are countless ways to celebrate staying up as the lights go down.
1. Music Appreciation
The Lo-Fi Performance Gallery in South Lake Union bumps with old-school Northern Soul as sweaty patrons groove under a solitary disco ball. It’s a bit after midnight, and the packed house (with a line out the door) is here for the monthly all-45s Emerald City Soul Club. There’s a good chance that the tracks everyone is dancing to were first dropped before their parents were born, but it doesn’t seem to matter. This audience is getting down without pretense or pretension—partying like it was 1959.
In a day when almost anyone can plug a memory stick into a Serato and mash up, say, Danny Brown with the Doobie Brothers, or have Pandora’s algorithm shuffle out a play-list, someone’s skill in conducting vinyl night dance parties like this starts well before that person gets behind the DJ booth. It begins early in the never-ending pursuit through yard sales, eBay bids and a closely knit community of obsessed record hunters. Simply put: Spinning 45s is a style of turntablism that relies more on the knowledge of the music than layering the beats per minute of two songs.
While Emerald City producer Marc Muller considers himself a vinyl addict, he also knows that you don’t have to have deep pockets to shepherd yesterday’s forgotten tunes into a club setting. “So many modern and not so modern artists have liberally ‘borrowed’ from some of the artists we play,” he says. “For example, Biz Markie’s ‘Just a Friend’ samples heavily from Freddie Scot’s ‘You Got What I Need,’ and an audience goes crazy when they hear that since it’s so familiar.” He adds, “Everyone, young and old, has heard a Motown song or two, and we are a spot to just let go for a few hours to music that is usually unknown, but still somewhat familiar. People can just let loose.” It’s a fitting approach to a party that has steadily built a 10-year following (their anniversary is this November) with simple word-of-mouth buzz and a few boxes of vinyl. Second Saturdays. 9 p.m.–midnight. $10. Eastlake, 429 Eastlake Ave. E; 206.254.2824; thelofi.net
Track down vintage vinyl from artists you grew up with, check out recent releases, or stumble through musical genres you didn’t know existed (see: Scottish pirate metal, crunkcore, space disco). We asked clerks at a few must-visit record stores what they thought was the Holy Grail of vinyl and the most expensive gem they ever sold.
Georgetown, 1201 S Vale St.; 206.762.5638; georgetownrecords.net
Holy Grail: The Lamar Harrington Band, “Oom Cocka Mau-Mau/Paralysed!” on Bad Taste Records
Most expensive album sold: Pink Floyd’s “Arnold Layne” sold for $500
Jive Time Records
Fremont, 3506 Fremont Ave. N; 206.632.5483; jivetimerecords.com
Holy Grail: Seattle’s own Patrinell Staten’s 1969 single “I Let A Good Man Go/Little Love Affair” Most Expensive: The Har-You Percussion Group, Sounds of the Ghetto Youth (they wouldn’t tell us.)
Sonic Boom Records
Ballard, 2209 NW Market St.; 206.297.2666; sonicboomrecords.com
Holy Grail: A set of the first nine albums released from the International Artists Label (psychedelic Texas rock in the ’60s)
Most expensive: An original pressing of Modest Mouse’s The Lonesome Crowded West sold for $250
Singles Going Steady
Belltown, 2219 Second Ave.; 206.441.7396; Facebook, “Singles Going Steady”
Holy Grail: Misfits 1978 single, “Bullet”
Most expensive: Nirvana “Love Buzz” 45, sold for $1,500
Bop Street Records
Ballard, 2220 NW Market St.; 206.297.2232; bopstreetrecords.com
Holy grail and most expensive: Patrinell Staten’s “I Let A Good Man Go/Little Love Affair” sold for $3,300
The Greenwood Karaoke Crawl
If the idea of bingo conjures images of smoky, florescent-lit Grange halls, think again. Seattle’s Greenwood Senior Center has put a fresh twist on the retro group game, and its monthly Bingo Karaoke Night is one hot ticket.
A multi-generational crowd gathers for bingo and karaoke in Greenwood; photo: Tia White
The bingo half of the equation got its start in 2008, when the Greenwood Senior Center replaced its long-standing auction with this old-school crowd-pleaser. It was a hit. The following year, organizers kicked things up a notch by adding karaoke between games. Some of the center’s younger staff members started telling their friends, and by the time the Halloween-themed event rolled around in October, interest was at a fever pitch. Organizers had set up for 150 guests, but close to 200 showed, sending volunteers scrambling to set up extra tables and chairs. Since that night, the event’s popularity hasn’t waned.
“We had no idea it would take off like this,” says Cecily Kaplan, the Greenwood Senior Center’s director. “We figured most of our audience would be empty nesters.” But players range in age from mid-20s to 70s and older; the only folks you won’t see here are kids. “This is party bingo,” Kaplan adds.
Jeanne Barwick, former Mae’s Phinney Ridge Cafe owner and irreverent number caller, cajoles the audience relentlessly, especially if one of the players prematurely announces a “Bingo!” (It’s easy to do, especially with beer and wine being sold in the lobby throughout the evening.) If you win, watch out. The rest of the players will crumple up their losing tickets and launch them at you. Last Friday of the month (usually). 7–10 p.m. $12 Phinney Neighborhood Association members, $18 general public. Greenwood Senior Center, 525 N 85th St.; phinneycenter.org/bingo
Prime your pipes at one of Greenwood’s watering holes within walking distance of the Greenwood Senior Center.
The Yard Cafe (8313 Greenwood Ave. N; 206.588.1746; theyardcafe.com) offers more than a dozen mostly regional, rotating beers on tap and an extensive menu focusing on Latin fare and American pub grub, including eight kinds of tacos (meat, fish and veggie), which are small and cheap enough ($3.50–$4 each) to try more than one. Or saddle up to the woodsy bar at The Cozy Nut Tavern (123 N 85th St.; 206.784.2240; Facebook, “Cozy Nut”) for a Salty Nut, a fizzy slant on a Salty Dog ($8), or the Blackberry Bootlegger ($9), with blackberry-infused bourbon, orange bitters and fresh blackberries, a fruity take on the traditional old fashioned. It won’t be long before you’re ready for the cross-generational party bingo.
There’s really only one way to keep the party going after an evening of Bingo Karaoke—more karaoke. The Baranof (8549 Greenwood Ave. N; 206.782.9260; Facebook, “The Baranof”)—one of Seattle’s most well-preserved dive bars—offers karaoke Tuesday through Sunday, starting at 9 p.m. The bar’s favorite retro cocktail? “They’re all retro,” yells a somewhat cheeky bartender over the buzz of a Friday night. Our favorite? The $2 Jell-O shots are made with rum, whiskey or vodka—or sometimes, Fireball cinnamon whiskey (those will set you back $3). What better way to spend your bingo jackpot?
3. Couples Classes
Who doesn’t imagine pondering “mystery items” as amateur chefs or critiquing routines of C-list dancing stars from the safety of a couch? It’s not a guilty pleasure because we are inquisitive about these things, but rather it’s a guilty pleasure because we are inquisitive about these things while lounging in our sweatpants. We owe it to ourselves to get off the couch and expand our skill sets with someone we love.
Get messy with a main squeeze at Pottery Northwestcouples class—feel free to bring wine and chocolat; photo: Sudhi Tirnahalli
We all remember (and can never unsee) Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze’s romantic tryst with clay in the movie Ghost, right? Well, date-night classes at Pottery Northwest are nothing like that. These introductory-level sessions offer hands-on instruction, as you and your partner work on a wheel. Fridays. 6–9 p.m. $30, with a $10 firing fee to keep your creations. Lower Queen Anne, 226 First Ave. N; 206.285.4421; potterynorthwest.org
Forget the Chopped timer, there is no reason to fret when learning how to make masa with the culinary director of Hot Stove Society, Bridget Charters, or wok up a storm with former Seattle Post-Intelligencer food editor Hsiao-Ching Chou. Develop your own “taste memory” at the Tom Douglas cooking classes, located just above his restaurant Lola. Kick the lesson off or end it with a quick cocktail at Ändra Loft. Days and times vary. $50–$110. Belltown, 2000 Fourth Ave.; 206.436.0383; hotstovesociety.com
Alt-country twangs and jingle-jangle guitar hooks fill the room as Michael “Mikey” Augusta honky-tonks a two-step for his roaming weeknight/weekend classes of Outlaw Swing. It’s not a free-form interpretative cowboy strut, but it’s also not a buttoned-up affair or synchronized line dancing. Rather, the two-hour class finds its stride by leading partners somewhere between a raucous good time and a good ol’ American hootenanny. Prices and times vary. Various venues and studios, including Conor Byrne Pub in Ballard and The Ould Triangle in Greenwood; outlaw-swing.com
4. Parents’ Bar Hop
The great thing about starting your night at 5 p.m. is you can pretty much get any table at the hottest restaurants in town. The downside? Zero buzzy restaurant din to make your night out feel, well, like a Night Out. We give you our kid-free, parent-forgiving take on the pub crawl, designed so you check several Capitol Hill hot spots off your to-try list in one fell swoop (those babysitters don’t pay for themselves!) and get you home before you fall asleep in your nightcap.
Clockwise from top left: andrea coan; hayley young; aaron brethorst; andrea coan
Start with a 5 p.m. reservation at the sleek brass-and-marble, shotgun-style Single Shot (611 Summit Ave. E; 206.420.2238; singleshotseattle.com), tucked next to Top Pot Doughnuts on E Summit on Capitol Hill. Innovative cocktails and a mix of food provide something for every type of eater, from that dreamy pork chop to rotating menu items such as a chickpea pancake. (Gotta love a menu that declares, “We happily accommodate all dietary restrictions without ridicule whenever possible.”)
At this time of night, even a leisurely dinner should take only about 90 minutes. Then, stretch your legs (you don’t want to give up your parking spot) during a half-mile walk south to Montana (1506 E Olive Way; 206.327.9362; montanainseattle.com), a bar owned by Rachel Marshall of famed Rachel’s ginger beer. Here Moscow mules flow from the tap into pint-size glasses with colorful straws, and sippers kick back in deliberately graffitied wood booths. You are such a rebel!
Saunter east a few blocks to Pine Street and Nagle Place to watch hilariously rousing bike polo (most weeknights until 11 p.m. 1635 11th Ave. S; Facebook, ”Seattle Bike Polo”) at the Cal Anderson playfield tennis courts. We’ve rarely seen anyone use this space for its intended use. It’s exactly what you think it is: bikes, mallets, balls. On a tennis court.
When the night sky appears above, walk back to Olive Street and nab a seat for a chocolate-tastic cocktail or dessert (or both: boozy milkshakes!) at Autumn Martin’s brand-new outpost of Hot Cakes (1650 E Olive Way; getyourhotcakes.com). By fall, there should be a fire pit for making s’mores.
5. Group Bonding
Jump in your WhirlyBug at Edmonds’ WhirlyBall and try to hit the bulls-eye backboards equipped with buzzers!; Photo: angela ciccu
A hybrid of basketball and lacrosse, hurling and bumper cars, the game of WhirlyBall (Edmonds, 23401 Hwy. 99; 425.672.3332; whirlyballseattle.com) takes a Mad Max approach to indoor sports. Kids and adults, armed with an air scoop racket, one whiffle ball and a WhirlyBug vehicle, are set loose for an evening of competitive bonding and teamwork. Times vary (closes no later than midnight). Rent one court for 10-25 players at $198 per hour; 8-years and up.
6. Quiet Nights Out
After a day filled with endless base-touching meetings, commuting frustrations and IT glitches, you owe it to yourself to turn down the volume of the workweek. If you’re interested in lowering your heart rate in a cacophonous city, you are not alone. In fact, there happens to be quite the quiet community, and interestingly enough, it’s one that welcomes folks to share in the experience of “keeping to yourself.”
The smell of cedar shelves and literary treasures is a calming staple at Elliott Bay Book Company; photo: angela ciccu
For bookish folks, take to The Elliott Bay Book Company (Capitol Hill, 1521 10th Ave.; 206.624.6600; elliottbaybook.com) and wander aimlessly (or purposefully) through the aisles while noting the posted staff recommendations. Skip over to the far corner of the mezzanine to the remainders section, where you will undoubtedly find passed-over literary gems. As you step out of the shop, take 10 paces and find a seat at Linda Derschang’s new Little Oddfellows, where you can break open a new read over a glass of red.
Bibliophiles unite on the first Wednesday of the month at Sorrento Hotel for the monthly Silent Reading Party (6–8 p.m. First Hill, 900 Madison St.; 206.622.6400; hotelsorrento.com). In this quiet-enough-to-hear-a-pin-drop setting, settle in for a read in the plush couches and chairs in the newly refurbished Fireside Room and order up a signature libation. Perhaps a rum-based Old Cuban to go with your Hemingway or an absinthe-inspired Ms. Tolkas to pair with Gertrude Stein’s memoir of Paris.
Just a quick tap on the Bather Count app for Banya 5 (South Lake Union, 217 Ninth Ave. N; 206.262.1234; banya5.com) gets you up-to-the-minute reports on the capacity and vibe (from quiet to packed to the gills) before heading over to enjoy the spa’s parilka (concrete and brick sauna), tepid saltwater pool or a deep massage that uses a house-made blend of pure shea butter and coconut oil. Dip into the incredibly hot/cold experience of awaking and then calming the senses.
As day comes to a close and the sounds of a disjointed orchestra of keyboard clicks slowly fades into a distant memory, head over to The Grinning Yogi (Capitol Hill, 345 15th Ave. E; thegrinningyogi.com) for its Monday- and Wednesday-evening Lullaby class. One of the only requirements is that you have a “willingness to offer time to yourself.” So, feel free to tune into your breath and the peaceful quiet around you.
The ceiling of St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral on Capitol Hill reverberates with a rising and falling well of angelic song.
It’s Dolby Sound times a thousand, as if you can hear the nuances of chandeliers and marble even in the still of the air.
A nondenominational harmony fills St. Mark’s Cathedral on Capitol Hill; photo: gerard van wesep
As it has done for just shy of 60 years, the church’s Compline Choir is about to wrap up another evening of singing prayers for a “quiet night and perfect end.” Director Jason Anderson, who has contributed his own pipes to the collective since 2004, notes that the singers come from a variety of faiths. He says, “Those gathered form a congregation engaged in a mystical experience that facilitates a journey towards the divine—whatever the divine might be for each individual.” But you don’t need to be a saint (or even believe in God) to enjoy the acoustic resonance here. Anderson adds, “The choir is itself a unique community of laypersons with diverse beliefs that seeks to express musically a concern for the nurture and care of the soul; it’s a spiritual nourishment.” Amen. Sundays, 9:30 p.m. Capitol Hill, 10th Ave. E; complinechoir.org
Wearing your heart on your sleeve doesn’t mean you can’t joke about the bawdy and risqué at the female-driven Comedy Womb (Belltown, every Tuesday night in The Grotto at Rendezvous, 2322 Second Ave.; 206.441.5823; comedywomb.com). The stage is open to all genders, but mind your manners, folks. Common sense rules apply. No heckling or table talk in the audience, and no misogyny, racism, homophobia, or transphobia on the stage. Cracking up next to you: Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen of Portlandia.
Get your laugh on at the Triple Door; angela ciccu
Blending cheeky burlesque, a cappella comedy and regional and national stand-up, Triple Door (216 Union St.; 206.838.4333; thetripledoor.net), straddles the variety of comedic worlds of Seattle with shows such as Captain Smartypants: Zero Brides for Seven Brothers, 9/12 and Burlesco Divino: Wine in Rome, 9/30. Cracking up next to you: Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement from Flight of the Concords.
It would be difficult to imagine a world without improvisational comedy. No Stephen Colbert (or Carell and Martin for that matter). Mashing workshops and sharp-witted performances, Unexpected Productions (Pike Place Market, 1428 Post Alley; 206.587.2414; unexpectedproductions.org) and Jet City Improv (University District, 5510 University Way NE; 206.352.8291; jetcityimprov.org) create innovative spaces for both performers and audiences (your suggestions make the show!) to get ridiculous. Cracking up next to you: The entire cast of Wet Hot American Summer (led by Amy Poehler.)
Remember that band you saw just a few years ago at that little venue outside the city? That band that you, and only you, followed and now they are playing sold-out arenas and you won’t dish out the cash to see them again because, “you like the old stuff better”? Well, if that band were a comedian, the cozy venue made for up-and-comers would be Laughs Comedy Spot (Kirkland, 12099 124th Ave. NE; 425.823.6306; laughscomedy.com). Cracking up next to you: An incognito Lorne Michaels scouting talent or a tipsy Amy Schumer chatting it up with industry folks.
Every city should have a comedy venue large enough for the Big League comedians—with their huge fan base and all that hot air. Parlor Live Comedy Club (downtown Seattle, 1522 Sixth Ave.; 206.602.1441; Bellevue, 700 Bellevue Way NE, Suite 300, 425.289.7000; parlorlive.com) delivers on the A-listers. Cracking up next to you: Chelsea Handler and Wanda Sykes.
8. Those Nights When You Have Extra Energy
Everybody’s working (out) for the weekend. Enter: the visually charging MashUp class; photo: angela ciccu
Walking into a Mashup class at Kirkland’s Bassline Fitness is a bit like stepping into a Nicki Minaj music video (minus the anacondas). The cardio-heavy, hour-long circuit thrums to a dance-club pop mix—meaning you can satisfy both your fitness and your nightclub joneses and still be home in time for Game of Thrones. Mondays and Wednesdays. 7:15 p.m. (and other day times). Drop-in-class $22; Kirkland, 126 Central Way; 425.739.4444; basslinefitness.com
9. For When You Want to Play in the Dark
“Athlete” Timmy Bendis prepares for Obscure Sports Seattle’s upcoming 2015 fall season with wide-eyed enthusiasm and a steady regimen of Stella Artois and apple pie. The 22-year-old has a dream: to create the single greatest pickup athletic league in the history of the Northwest (or at the very least, have a few laughs while playing glow-in-the-dark capture the flag with other grown men and women).
Pick-up games and unabashed fun never gets old; photo: brian lecourse
Leading what started off as a makeshift band of mostly University of Washington students can be a bit like arm wrestling an octopus, but in just one short year, Bendis saw the number of participants grow from 16 to more than 200. For a pickup game of this size, there are always unforeseen obstacles, but Bendis and company seem to overcome them through humor and coming together with random folks who share a similar joy in what might be seen as ridiculous. When someone sprained their ankle during a game, the responding EMTs’ only question was whether they could jump in and take over for the downed player.
And was it just a coincidence that a torrential April shower threatened to cancel Glow-in-the-Dark Capture the Flag Part VIII, which had been dubbed “20,000 Flags Under the Sea”?
Cashing in on its “still entirely unbankable fame,” Obscure Sports Seattle plans to move into the more established pickup clubs in the city, such as Underdog Sports leagues, with biweekly games of dodge ball and a biannual Quidditch tournament (yup, Harry Potter fans bring a broomstick), and there are rumors of adding a kickball team.
“This is all about having fun and meeting people,” Bendis says, “two things that I feel are missing from Seattle most of the time.”
He adds half jokingly, “What if, in a few years, we drag teams from all over the country to Seattle, fill up CenturyLink, or Husky Stadium, and play 10 vs.10? What if all of this is the next big sport? And then, what if my ego balloons and I just float away?”
Well, stranger things have happened.
Glow-in-the-dark capture the flag times and dates vary. Suggested donation $5; other games free. University District; Facebook, “Obscure Sports Seattle”
10. Nerd Nights Out
A crescendo of applause from the Bushwick Book Club audience joins a drumbeat as local musician Chris Poage, dressed in a hot white tuxedo, hits a snare and plays a matching frosted synth keytar. Just minutes before, Poage (who is pretending to be an alien rogue trader from Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels) told everyone in the theater that he had never read any science fiction in his life; now, he is selling us imaginary nuclear lasers via song at EMP Museum’s JBL Theater.
Tekla Waterfield leads a Bushwick Book Club zombie choir (in celebration of The Walking Dead) at Fremont Abby Arts Center; photo: melissa thompson
What exactly is going on here?
A synopsis: A book is selected collectively by club members, like a normal book club, each month (past works this year have included A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain, Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up and Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle). Local musicians are then asked to write and perform original pieces inspired by the work. Ticket buyers are also encouraged to read the novel beforehand.
Besides reminding people that reading every day is “kinda important and fun,” Bushwick executive director Geoff Larson (who has been at the helm of the Seattle chapter for five years; the other Bushwick is based in Brooklyn) believes that events like these are like Songwriting 101. “Most human beings have no idea what musicians do. People have a tendency to think that it’s magic, which it is, in a way, but there’s a whole process that goes into it,” Larson says. “Musicians start out with the same source material and before performing, they talk about how and why they wrote the song. It’s like the audience gets a chance to see what goes on inside their heads.”
If it sounds like a classroom, fear not. Fans of the club don’t take themselves too seriously, and Bushwick also happens to throw really, really fun parties. During intermission, three members of the audience were invited on stage to compete for prizes game-show style.
The next event, which happens to fall on Halloween, will tackle Stephen King’s Carrie—with a makeshift prom, neon lights and DJs playing pop hits from yesteryear. Of course, there will still be nearly a dozen musicians belting out original songs based on teenage isolation, blood and high school, as well. While Larson jokes that this evening may not be “educational,” it should get to the heart of the Bushwick ideology: Reading should be fun.
Upcoming Bushwick events: 9/25 at 7:30 p.m. Original music inspired by A Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz (Dusty Strings, Fremont, 3406 Fremont Ave. N; 206.634.1662; dustystrings.com). 10/31 at 7:30 p.m. Original
music inspired by Stephen King’s Carrie (Hale’s Palladium, Fremont, 4301 Leary Way NW; 206.782.0737; halesbrewery.com).
Game Nights in Seattle
On almost any given evening, Trekkies, techies or pop culture aficionados can find late-night pub quizzes. Chalk it up to Seattle’s top ranking as the “best read city” in the states (take that, Alexandria, Virginia!) or to the fact that by the time you finish this sentence, three new bars have probably opened in your neighborhood.
Trivia Mondays at Blue Star Café & Pub (Wallingford, 4512 Stone Way N; 206.548.0345; bluestarcafeandpub.com)
Trivia Tuesdays at Ballard Loft (5105 Ballard Ave. NW; 206.420.2737; ballardloft.com)
Trivia Tuesdays at Buckley’s (Belltown, 2331 Second Ave.; 206.588.8879; buckleysseattle.com)
Trivia Tuesdays at Pies & Pints (Ravenna, 1215 NE 65th St.; 206.524.7082; piesandpints.com)
Trivia Wednesdays at 95 Slide (Capitol Hill, 722 E Pike St.; 206.338.7666; 95slide.com)
Trivia Thursdays at Unicorn (Capitol Hill, 1118 E Pike St.; 206.325.6492; unicornseattle.com)
Pass the time with a pocket full of quarters and a pint of your favorite brew at these retro pinball saloons and their most popular games.
The Addams Family at Shorty’s Belltown, 2222 Second Ave.; 206.441.5449; shortydog.com
Lord of the Rings and Medieval Madness at Full Tilt Ballard, 5453 Leary Ave. NW; 206.297.3000; fulltilticecream.com
Medieval Madness and Fathom at Add-A-Ball Fremont, 315 N 36th St., No. 2B; 206.696.1613; add-a-ball.com
A Cryptic Race Against Time
The clock is ticking in one of the rooms at Seattle’s Puzzle Break, and that means you only have 60 minutes to unlock a witch’s spell over a kingdom, escape from an underwater laboratory—or more literally, unlock the room you are in. Search for cryptic clues (sometimes hidden right in front of you) and put your team’s collective IQ to the test for a mind-bending night out. Friday–Sunday. “The Grimm Escape” starts at 6 p.m., “Escape from 20,000 Leagues” at 7 p.m. $30/person. 18 and older, 16–17 years old with guardian. Capitol Hill, 1423 10th Ave.; 716.795.2759; puzzlebreak.us