Food & Drink

The Best Hotel Bars in Seattle

As travelers swarm the city for summer fun, locals can play tourist year-round

By Julia Wayne May 19, 2014


This article originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of Seattle magazine.

Stoneburner at Hotel Ballard
With bar manager Erik Carlson steering a stellar cocktail menu and sommelier Dawn Smith carefully cultivating a wine list that includes dozens by the glass, this is a good place to drink. And the eating is fine, too. Guests are spoiled by chef Jason Stoneburner’s menu, which features local ingredients (some from the restaurant’s farm) simply prepared, with some of the produce and herbs coming from sibling Bastille’s rooftop garden across the street. Love veggies? Spring was celebrated perfectly with asparagus shaved and served raw with yogurt or roasted with an egg, but summer will bring even more green plates, typically with about a half-dozen to choose from. Innumerable (seriously, try to count them) varieties of lighting add a quirky touch to the restaurant, and a long, sweeping dark wood bar creates opportunities for intimacy. High-top booths are packed with farmers market patrons on Sundays and gym rats from adjacent Olympic Athletic Club during the day. Ballard Ave nightlifers and guests of the new, locally owned boutique hotel upstairs take over in the evening. 5214 Ballard Ave. NW; 206.695.2051;


Cypress at The Westin Bellevue
Bellevue locavores flock to Cypress for a glass of Northwest wine and a smartly paired bite to eat. Tucked into a corner of the Westin in Lincoln Square across the street from Bellevue Square, the candlelit room complete with fireplace, is surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the paved courtyard. The spacious wine bar and lounge attracts, in near equal numbers, hotel guests and locals, who come to munch on flatbread pizza and clams with chorizo. Friday nights are often packed, as Cypress features local bands—with no cover—and frequent winemaker events are popular and low-key. 600 Bellevue Way NE; 425.638.1000;


Art at Four Seasons
Cheese lovers, rejoice! The Kerry Sear–helmed kitchen at the base of this luxe hotel offers one of the best small-bite selections around, plus bigger plates, such as a hanger steak burger. Smart turophiles graze on cheese and antipasti during “More Cheese Please” events, held twice a day (starting at 4:30 and 9 p.m.). The well-heeled crowd, an even mix of business execs and informed locals, can also choose to order from the restaurant menu, if the (incredible) tomahawk steak or scallops are more to their taste. Sink into the low suede chairs set widely apart around a short table and sip on one of 55 local gins, vodkas, whiskeys and other spirits. Diners wanting a more comfortable eating experience are advised to grab one of the half-dozen comfy chairs at the limestone bar or claim one of the high-top tables around the room. It’s never too loud or too crazy to strike up a conversation with a handsome stranger. 99 Union St.; 206.749.7070;

BOKA at Hotel 1000
Weekday nights are for business travelers, who pop down for a burger and some truffle fries at the modernly decorated restaurant of this downtown hotel. A long, snaking bar offers singles and groups of any size a chance to belly up for cocktails, such as the pear sidecar (with Clear Creek pear brandy and pear mousse), while snacking on bites such as ahi poke or splurging on a succulent local pork chop. Glass walls undulate with brightly colored neon lights running every shade of the rainbow. Weekends attract more youthful crowds, which fill the low-slung room. 1010 First Ave.; 206.357.9000; 

Bookstore Bar & Café at the Alexis

Book-lined shelves adorn the walls of this beautiful barroom, and diners can even purchase a tome to go with their Scotch—both of which are featured in abundance. High-top tables and ground-floor benches fill with hotel guests and downtown cocktail drinkers; twice-daily happy hours (2–6 p.m. and 10 p.m.–midnight) draw a diverse crowd. Classics lovers shouldn’t miss the Blackened Manhattan (Jim Beam Black, Averna amaro, Aperol, orange bitters) or Remember the Maine (Rittenhouse 100 proof rye, Punt e Mes, cherry Heering, Pacifique absinthe). If the sometimes-elevated volume at the bar isn’t your thing, you can step into the newly remodeled dining room adjacent to the bar to snack on seasonal delights, such as the kale salad with seared ahi and the ever-popular short rib burger, served with frites. On a date? Grab one of the two-tops or try to snag a pair of seats from the half-dozen at the bar, next to curious solo drinkers, who chat with the bartenders about the wall of spirits behind them. 1007 First Ave.; 206.624.3646;

Lola at Hotel Ändra
Not exactly your typical hotel bar, this Tom Douglas restaurant at the base of the simply designed, Scandinavian-style boutique Hotel Ändra delivers nouveau Greek food that is tops, along with consistently professional service. The extensive menu of small and large plates is available in all parts of the bar (which connects with the hotel lobby) and restaurant, and you shouldn’t miss the happy-hour deals on snacks, such as the skewers (get the halloumi cheese and fig) and spreads (Monday–Friday, 4–6 p.m.). The crowd skews local, with regulars stopping in for drinks such as El Guapo (with Cazadores tequila, amontillado, Drambuie and locally made bitters)—and any of the wonderful lamb dishes or tagines. 2000 Fourth Ave.; 206.441.1430; 

Loulay at the Sheraton Seattle
Chef Thierry Rautureau marries the French flavors he’s famous for with sleek presentations at this, his latest restaurant, located in the Sheraton building. Lucky fans of his defunct eatery Rover’s rejoice in the soft scrambled egg with caviar, which the “Chef in the Hat” brought over from his now closed flagship restaurant, but the modern decor with rococo touches is a departure. Expect floral-forward and herbaceous cocktails with components, such as lavender and sage simple syrups. Start your meal with crunchy crab beignets or oysters served up with a variety of mignonettes, or finish an evening with architectural desserts. Grab one of the dozen barstools and chat with the knowledgeable barkeeps about their wines, or perch at one of the handful of high-top tables in the bar area and peek out through floor-to-ceiling windows at the street while you eat. 600 Union St.; 206.402.4588; 

Oliver’s at the Mayflower Park

Classy surroundings and impeccable service are included with the top-notch martinis (which have long earned high marks in competitions) served at this classic downtown cocktail room. Floor-to-ceiling windows make the most of the Seattle light and give drink sippers plenty to look at outside on Fourth Avenue, if the indoor greenery isn’t enough. Happy hour (4:30–6 p.m., Monday–Saturday) offers free bar snacks to keep patrons in their seats when hunger hits, and the signature burger is divine. Catch 10-year Oliver’s veteran Patrick Donnelly Jr. with a shaker in his hand and you may never give up your post. 405 Olive Way; 206.623.8700;

Polar Bar at The Arctic Club

Plush leather couches and chairs make the second-floor bar and lounge at this hotel, bordering Pioneer Square in the Financial District, feel luxurious and glamorous. Housed in a historic 1917 building that was originally an exclusively men’s society club, the Polar Bar’s expansive, high-ceilinged room is made cozy by fireplaces and glowing lighting. It happens to have an impeccable absinthe selection, and the famed green spirit is served right by white-tuxedoed barkeeps. Happy-hour food and drinks (Monday–Friday 3–6 p.m.) are affordable, with all the Pacific Northwest–leaning bites prepared in the hotel’s Juno restaurant kitchen. (You also can order anything off Juno’s menu in the bar.) Crowds are a mix of young professionals, guests staying at the hotel for events and suited execs who gather at the frosted-glass bar. 700 Third Ave.; 206.340.0340;

Sazerac at Hotel Monaco
The bar at this New Orleans–influenced hot spot packs ’em in for happy hour (Monday–Saturday 4–8 p.m.), with a younger crowd filling the space during the solid four-hour window. Drinkers can enjoy deals galore, or dine off the full menu at the bar for a livelier, more relaxed feeling than in the dining room; the downtown business crowd opts to enjoy the rich food in that more formal setting. The absinthe-rinsed cocktail that gave the bar its name is prepared well, and the crispy Idaho catfish with jalapeño-lime brown butter and lemon-whipped potato has been the food favorite since the doors opened. 1101 Fourth Ave.; 206.624.7755;

Rview at the Renaissance Seattle
Super bargains during happy hour (4–6 p.m. daily) on a variety of sliders, sweet potato fries and other small bites beckon all comers to the 28th-floor bar/lounge of the Renaissance. More than 50 local wines are available by the glass, so you can sip as you sit on ottomans and throw-pillow-covered couches that are standard hotel-chic. But Rview’s main draw is the stunning panoramic view of downtown Seattle that can be enjoyed with dinner. Sharing is caring here, with the best choices coming from the small-plate list, but entrées, such as grilled salmon, are also available. 515 Madison St.; 206.583.0300; 

Shuckers at The Fairmont Olympic
Seafood prepared raw or gussied up is available for lunch, dinner or happy hour (Monday–Friday, 3–5 p.m.). And while there are plenty of custom cocktails to drink alongside the wide selection of oysters ($1.50 during happy hour), all hail the perfect gin martini ($8 during happy hour)—suited to pair with crudi or richer dishes (of which there are many), such as the seafood paella. Business lunchers populate the place during the daylight hours, while nights are for the tony Fairmont hotel guests, who mix with locals seeking more refined moments away from the downtown hustle. The lively bar pairs louder volumes with cocktail specialties, such as the Shuckers Smash (Jack Daniels, mint, lemon, sugar), and popcorn shrimp or calamari. The full menu is available at the cherry wood bar, and scallops with mushrooms or seasonal fish preparations are the popular picks. 411 University St.; 206.621.1984;

Tulio at Hotel Vintage Park
Walk into this old-style, dark-wood-rich room in the 1920s-era building and suddenly you’re in longtime chef Walter Pisano’s cozy living room. The wine list is seemingly endless, and every dietary concern becomes the kitchen’s highest priority. The crowd in the restaurant skews older, and service is deliberate and warm. Although the room is tight and can become packed, there’s always time to explain the menu or worry over the appropriate varietal to pair with the traditional and Northwest takes on Italian fare. Bar patrons get a more relaxed view of the elegant space, and can strike up a conversation with the educated barkeeps about the 20 Italian grappa selections available. Don’t miss the sweet potato gnocchi, smoked salmon ravioli or the roasted chicken, and you can’t go wrong with the clam linguine. 1100 Fifth Ave.; 206.624.5500;

First Hill

Hunt Club at the Sorrento
The dark, moody bar at the Hunt Club attracts sophisticated crowds that order strong, spirit-forward drinks from the well-developed menu at this hotel, which dates back to 1909. In the mood for something even more subdued? Relax in easy chairs in the stately Fireside Room for live music during weekend “Sorrento Nights” events, get cozy on a date, or stop by for the monthly “Silent Reading Party.” The twice-daily happy hour (4–6 p.m. and 10 p.m.–close) at the Italianate hotel features more than a dozen plates, such as deviled eggs with caviar and grilled lamb sausage; friends gather to munch off a “happy-hour tower” of three choices for $21 and drink from an equally long list of wine by the glass. 900 Madison St.; 206.622.6400;


Trellis at The Heathman
Much of the produce that shows up on the Trellis menu is raised and prepared by chef Brian Scheehser on his 10-acre farm, South 47, in the Sammamish Valley. The seasonal inspiration extends to a cocktail menu with farm flavors, such as the smoked-duck-flavored Manhattan. Yeah, you read that right. A wall of wine takes up one side of the restaurant, and Eastsiders and local-food-loving travelers fill its pale upholstered seats. The abutting bar bubbles with more energy than the formal dining room, with an excellent farm-to-bar menu that offers specials such as artichoke tots and a stellar heirloom tomato Italian bread salad. 220 Kirkland Ave.; 425.284.5900;

Bin on the Lake at Woodmark
The bar at this waterside bistro on Carillon Point isn’t just a favorite for travelers; it’s also a choice spot for locals to get away from it all. The refined rustic décor serves up outdoor elements in sleek lines, with a stone fireplace and cocktail tables created from shellacked tree stumps. Chef de cuisine Dylan Giordan (formerly of Serafina) brings his culinary nerdiness to the menu with periodic “A Study of…” menus, focusing on ingredients such as pork and salt, or a single method of preparation (braising, for example) applied across a variety of foods. While the waterside deck offers beautiful views to go with thick-cut meats in the restaurant, the bar offers 40 wines by the glass to match with burrata, beef tartare or anything from the main menu. 1270 Carillon Point; 425.803.5595; 


Six Seven at The Edgewater
Drawing inspiration from its location on the downtown waterfront, this restaurant and bar are part modern edge, part natural materials. A deck seats summer patrons this close to the briny sea, while inside, a beveled, rock-studded fireplace adds warmth to the room. Branches extend from manmade trees, and a fir tree, glass and metal bar carves the outdoors into modern décor. The menu is equally divided between land and sea, with small plates hovering around $10 ($5–$6 at happy hour, Sunday–Thursday, 3–6 p.m.) and entrées that are perfect for splurging. Every seat in the restaurant and bar benefits from a view of Elliott Bay (the whole menu is available no matter where you sit), including a dozen spots at the main bar and a dozen more on the second rail. We recommend ordering tempura asparagus fries and washing ’em down with a Broken Branch (Knob Creek bourbon, sweet vermouth, Luxardo). 2411 Alaskan Way; 206.269.4575;


Fireside Lounge at Willows Lodge
Part cushy living room, part lobby bar, the relaxed setting at this Woodinville escape has a little something for every vacationer or tasting-room hopper. Since this wine bar is in the middle of a prolific winemaking region, it’s not unusual to see local winemakers convening over a glass of their own juice, or sampling the competition. Frequent wine events and live music keep things fresh and interesting. Bobby Moore’s Barking Frog kitchen, across the parking lot, provides snacks or dinner for guests, who can nibble on sliders while lounging around the roaring fire or go big with a steak at a high-top table. The crowd-pleasing Grand Marnier prawns will likely never leave the menu—for good reason—and the cocktails are refreshing takes on craft classics and newfangled flavors, such as the cardamom rose martini (muddled lemon and cardamom pods with Hendrick’s gin, rose-geranium liqueur and fresh grapefruit juice). 14580 NE 145th St.; 425.424.3900;

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