Capitol Hill’s New Late-Night Deli, Hidden High-Concept Cocktail Bar is Ambitious

It's deli in the front, party in the back for By the Pound and Bar Justice.

By AJ Rathbun


December 15, 2017

From F2T Hospitality, the folks behind West Seattle’s Alchemy, By the Pound opened two weeks ago on Capitol Hill. People are already talking about the takeout delicatessen (open 11 a.m. to 4 a.m.) and Bar Justice, the hidden bar behind it. I stopped by recently and here are three impressions.

The Drinks
Like everything at By the Pound, there are two sides to the drink story. The deli offers an array of sodas, including throwbacks Bubble Up and RC Cola (a fave from my youth). In the bar, soda naturally takes a back seat to booze. There are eight from F2T’s top barman Tony Larson and his staff, plus a rotating house mule variation. If feeling (slightly) spicy, the Chihiro with Reyka vodka, Ancho Reyes verde chili liqueur, lime, pineapple and cilantro is a piquant and zingy treat.

But the Darling Nikki was my top sipper. An Aviation variation with delicious Sipsmith London gin (newly available in Seattle), maraschino, crème di violette and a house lemon cordial was delicate and unveiled layers of botanicals and citrus. Larson’s pet project is the menu of 12 thoughtful boilermakers, with unexpected combos like Aspall’s Imperial dry cider paired with Woodinville Whiskey Co.’s rye. It’s a perfect list to pick from after a long work day. They also serve beer and wine.

The Food
The sandwiches, available for takeout at the deli or plated in the bar, star on chef Chris Jensen’s menu. They range from updated standards like a remixed Reuben and turkey club with herb-roasted turkey, to a veggie sandwich called the Orange County with cider-wheat bread, avocados, red peppers, basil chiffonade and a balsamic reduction.

The Benny & June was one of the finest grilled cheeses I’ve had in years, with Beecher’s Flagship cheese melted between broad slices of impeccably grilled Macrina brioche. It’s crisp on the outside, soft and gooey on the inside with a smidge of that brioche sweetness. A tangy tomato soup comes on the side. Up front in the deli, meats and cheeses are for sale in bulk, as are salads, including a chopped kale and edamame with ginger sesame vinaigrette. In the bar, ancillary snacks include warmed chewy cheese curds mingling with fresh herbs (nice on a cold night) and a small menu of sliders.

The Space
The deli is bright, with a back wall of white subway tiles, a display case with salads, meats and cheese, and smiling staff waiting to whip out sandwiches. There’s also a friendly bathroom covered with pictures of staff and friend’s pets. To get to the hidden bar, called Bar Justice, you travel through what appears to be a walk-in fridge door. From 6 to 10 p.m., it’s reservation-only and guests are given a passcode to get it. After 10 p.m., it’s first come first served.

The bar is cozy and cool, with a purpose: establishing a space away from the always-connected and often-confrontational social media world; a place where face-to-face conversations can happen. To help kick start the process, each room has a focus to drive dialogue. The main room’s is arts and humanities, and it has one big wall covered by newspaper and magazine stories about musicians, artists and writers (think Walden to Queen). Behind the three comfy booths there’s also a loaded angular bookcase with reads ranging from Edgar Allan Poe to World War II. The case was made by carpenter Eric Allen, who also made the wooden bar shelves behind the bar and its six tall bar stools.

A sliding door leads to the red room, with red walls and a long shared table that has lights hanging low above. It has a late night political council feel—which makes sense as this room’s focus is on activism and civil rights with articles on one wall featuring Martin Luther King Jr., Harvey Milk and others, with murals to come.

Accessed from a spiral staircase, the green room won’t be open until later this year or early next. Its focus? Invention, science and exploration (Marie Curie to Leonardo), with a big fish tank and Narnia vibe.

The whole Bar Justice idea from co-owner Sean Majors is… ambitious. But if it works, more rational dialogue (if only for a night) couldn’t hurt. Especially when accompanied by good drinks.

By the Pound and Bar Justice
1801 E Olive Way

Photography by Peachy Juban-Notter

Pastry: An Affair to Remember

Chef Ewald Notter of Dote Coffee Bar makes it easy to fall in love with pastry and chocolate

Most romances unfold in predictable ways. An invitation for lunch, where you share sandwiches in a loud café, silently wishing your bread was crisper, but never giving up on the idea that one day it might be. An awkward laugh as your fingers touch while you both reach across the table for sugar in that…

TRU2814675 homepage-min

Mix It Up. Try old-school cocktails this holiday season

These 10 drinks may not be on the menu at your local bar, but all pack a punch as well as some colorful history

Editor’s note: A version of this story previously appeared in “Seattle” magazine. Impress your guests this holiday season with these 10 concoctions from a vintage bar guide from Glenn Shaw Creations – supposedly from the 1950s – found in an antique shop in Olympia a few years back. Keep in mind that these drinks may…

image0 square-min

Sip, Slurp, Celebrate at Frank’s Oyster House

Let’s be Frank about Champagne

The best bubbles in Washington state may very well be found at an East Coast-style restaurant in Seattle’s Ravenna neighborhood. That, at least, is the opinion of The Champagne Bureau, USA, which has named Frank’s Oyster House and Champagne Parlor as one of the top 10 bars and restaurants in the nation for the quality…

The apiary at The Lodge at St. Edward State Park.

Seattle Buildings Just Let It Bee

There’s a buzz happening throughout the region

You know the Smith Tower as Seattle’s original skyscraper. You know that the 108-year-old, 38-floor tower was once the tallest building west of the Mississippi.   You may not be aware that the 22nd floor is now home to an apiary containing a thriving colony of thousands of honeybees. It is one of several apiaries located…

Diners have several outdoor options on Ballard Avenue Northwest, including at The Ballard Cut.

Dining In, Dining Outdoors in Ballard

Ballard restaurateur Tommy Patrick helped reimagine Ballard’s outdoor dining scene at the start of the pandemic, sparking a trend that’s likely here to stay

In a past reality that seems almost like a dream, Seattle’s outdoor dining existed only in the summer months, when we were all just happy to be in actual sunshine, even if it disappeared as quickly as the tables and umbrellas. Then, during the early days of the pandemic, dining stopped. Everything stopped. From a…

Cake_BlueberryChiffon_Whole copy Cropped-min

First Paris Baguette in Washington set to open in 2023

The quick-service restaurant is coming the the Pacific Northwest

Washington state’s first Paris Baguette quick-service restaurant is set to open in early 2023, courtesy of a local businessman and restaurateur hoping to recapture some of his past. Paul Liu, who immigrated to the Seattle area with his family from South Korea when he was 10, developed a fondness for the internationally recognized neighborhood bakery-café…