Seattle is home to some of the best bars and restaurants in the nation. Fresh seafood, locally raised meat and an innovative distilling and bar community have long stocked this water-anchored city’s ovens and bars. But with so many options, picking just the right bar for a date can be daunting. To help you choose, we asked some renowned names in the food and beverage world to share their favorite spots.
Doug Frost is one of four people in the world to hold both the Master of Wine and Master Sommelier degrees, and he’s a fan of the food and bar scene in Seattle. He says that Tavern Law “offers a remarkable set of whiskies,” which have long been a favorite in cool-climate Seattle, where it gets dark early in the winter. The Capitol Hill bar is home to a not-too secret upstairs bar called Needle and Thread. Frost loves to snack on the popcorn chicken, “especially if Tavern Law is not your first or second stop of the evening.”
Frost says this wine bar is home to “plenty of good wines, whether or not you’ve heard of them before.” It also boasts a nice group of ciders, a clever list of beers and the kind of food — think meats, cheeses and sandwiches — that makes drinking wine all day very appealing. It is located in a charming 1905-area craftsman building with an outdoor deck in the Madrona arena — great ambience for a romantic evening. The owners are even given to calling it a bar “with benefits,” as it is also home to a shop and they host garden parties.
Many consider this classic bar to be the mother yeast of the now serious and very evolved Seattle bar scene. The “ZigZag was there when no else was,” Frost says. “The staff was informed by the classics, but also by a true and genuine respect for the best spirits and liqueurs of the world.” He adds that the bar “has continued to do top flight work and to influence the regional bartending industry.”
“This was part of the second wave of great Seattle bars: smart drinks whether classics new or old. And what’s wrong with sushi and cocktails? Absolutely nothing,” Frost says. The bar features an extensive whisky menu, including Scotch, Japanese, Indian, Irish and Canadian options, and starts serving sushi at noon. It’s open every day of the year from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m., so it’s a suitable option for either a day drinking date or a date that lasts late into the night. It is home to comfy couches, a cushy banquette and a $5 sushi roil from 4 to 7pm. And you can bring your dog.
The Walrus And The Carpenter
Kathy Casey has consulted with some of the best bars around the world but chooses to base her Liquid Kitchen group in the Ballard area of Seattle. One of her faves is the conveniently located Walrus and the Carpenter, which is luckily just down the street from her office; she says it’s the perfect place for a first date. The restaurant’s cocktails, she notes, “are perfect for pairing with uber-fresh small plates.” For the amorously minded, she recommends ordering “a selection of freshly shucked oysters and a glass of bubbly to get your libido on.”
Should you encounter a wait at the Walrus, just head to the long, narrow bar at Barnacle next door, which is part of the same restaurant group. “This European-inspired aperitivo bar hosts a huge selection of Italy and France’s finest herbal spirits,” Casey says. So feel free to geek out on those bitters here as the owner is incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about them. The group is also (impressively) doing good for society while making great drinks, and donated more than $42,000 to charities last year. Worth mentioning if your date is a socially conscious, do-gooder sort (this is Seattle we’re talking about).
Stampede Cocktail Club
Located in the eclectic Fremont neighborhood, Stampede Cocktail Club is a perfect spot for a casual night out, Casey says. It’s located on the first floor of a two-story house. “This bar is decked out in funky decor and whimsy. It sports a large patio for warmer days and fun little side rooms to get cozy in.” Cocktails are top notch with lots of plays on the classics, as well as creative and tropical spins. If you want to get your dance on after you’ve had a few, Nectar Lounge and the Ballroom are conveniently just down the street.
Dark, sultry and sexy is how Casey describes Foreign National. “This is the place for an intimate evening of sipping spirit-forward craft cocktails like their namesake drink the Foreign National, made with Pisco, Amaro, sour orange, neroli, bergamont and honey.” Also on offer are foggy Negronis and liquid-nitrogen fueled Sazeracs (if you want the atmosphere of a smoke-filled bar without the stench of cigarettes, order one of these). The place also offers Asian Street Food-inspired dishes such as curry puffs and fermented-pork-and-sticky-rice sausages.
“When the rain gets you down, mix it up for a tropical evening out and head to Rumba,” Casey says. “Like the name, its focus is all things rum.” At this 1950s-Cuba inspired bar on Capitol Hill, Wednesday is Tiki night, and there is also happy hour every day of the week at 5 p.m. sharp featuring multiple daiquiris and punches. She suggests exploring the funky Rhum Agricoles from the Caribbean. For extra points to start the date off right, Casey recommends you “ask the bartender for the rum map and start your rum journey together.” It’s like going on a tropical vacation in just one date.