The people at the Red Sky were nice enough, but it seems to have all the down sides of a local dive (e.g. bad cocktails, people getting beaten and even shot in the parking lot), with virtually none of the up sides (e.g. character, a range of interesting personalities). For my tastes, nearby long-time joints like Kuhnle's and Smokey's would make a much better choice.
1508 2nd Street, Marysville, WA 98270 - (360) 386-8875
Web site: facebook
The Red Top, one of the few true taverns (beer and wine only) left in the state, has been here in the old logging town of Darrington and in the shadow of White Horse Mountain since shortly after prohibition. Darrington lies on a gravel plain between the North Fork of the Stillaguamish and the Sauk River, about 25 miles from the Washington coast, and about halfway between Washington highways 2 and 20, the upper and lower boundaries of the scenic Cascade Loop. The first known residents were the Sauk-Suiattle tribe, with Europeans arriving in the 1890s. The latter knew the area as "The Burn," "Sauk Portage," and "Starve-out," before a card flip and a post office misspelling settled the matter in 1895.
A thriving mining and logging community by the first decade of the 20th century, Darrington remained unincorporated and thus was ineligible to vote to remain wet after Snohomish County was voted dry in 1910, and there would be no more legal bars until then end of federal prohibition. Tax records show that the current Red Top building dates back to 1951, but city guides list a Red Top Beer Parlor in town since at least 1935. The current cinder block building that houses the tavern is attached to a semi-circle log cabin, which used to be the Timber Bull Restaurant and is now a rarely used event space.
Inside the Red Top is a horseshoe shaped bar, and walls personalized by locals and visitors. There is a stream of outsiders who drop by, most on their way to hiking, rafting, camping, fishing and the other recreational activities that are now as large a part of the local economy as logging. But it is still predominantly a local joint, with tributes to its logging history and rural character in various photos and notes. Once in a while it becomes even more, as when one of the long time regulars passes away, or especially as locals gathered to mourn and support each other after friends and family were lost in the Oso landslide just 12 miles up the road. In good times and bad, it's a dandy old place to have a cold one.
1020 Darrington St, Darrington, WA 98241 - (360) 436-1590
Est. 1951, 1935 or earlier in another location - Building constructed: 1951
Previous bars in this location: None
Web site: facebook
Reviews: heraldnet - yelp
On the surface this appears to be your typical small town Chinese Restaurant / Pizza Parlor / Sports Bar / Karaoke Joint / Dance Hall. But a closer look at the upstairs portion shows it can also get a hint risque now and then.
View from China Pearl Restaurant, Friday Harbor, WA
Taking a quick look at online reviews for Herb's Tavern in Friday Harbor one finds the typical range of positive and negative. One of the bad reviews includes "The furniture has seen better days" -- a comment that immediately informs me that this person's tastes in bars have nothing in common with mine. Another reviewer's "Funnest Place in Town!" seems like it is probably true -- although the competition is not overwhelming in this San Juan Island community of two thousand people. One of the nearby hotels warns about the noise.
The San Juans, an archipelago of 428 to 743 islands (depending on the tides) east of Vancouver Island, were the subject of a 30-year border war between the British and Americans, although the only fatal shot was fired at a pig. Friday Harbor is now the gentle hub of the area, its restaurants, shops, and galleries, happily free of corporate chains, looking over sailboats, sailplanes and ferries bringing in tourists and locals.
Herb's has been here since 1943, according to the signs. It seems as much the heart of the town as any place here, with personalized bar stools, live music, karaoke, pool tournaments, and fairly typical bar food and drink options. You can spot it by the bar scenes painted on the windows of the upper floor, and you'll know you're their when you see the bras hanging from a bicycle attached to the ceiling.
Hidden in the back of a diner in a motel parking lot and accessed through a funky door in back of the swimming pool, the Oak Harbor Bar seems like a cross between local dive and hotel lounge. But they pour a generous glass of cheap wines, and keep a small mix of locals and tourists three sheets to the wind.
430 Southeast Pioneer Way, Oak Harbor, WA 98277 - (360) 675-9100
The La Conner Pub, known locally as simply "The Tavern," feels like the heart of this town. It's a gambrel ceiling joint that's been around for almost 80 years, mixing a smattering of tourists into an atmosphere firmly set by the locals, and serving dive bar style drinks with old school cafe seaside comfort foods. And like a lot of small town bars, it tends to have a little of everything -- family diner, dive bar, community meeting hall, live music venue, pool tables, darts, pull tabs, and a fine patio looking out on
It was here that we met Reed, who had just had three teeth pulled, and was methodically "medicating." Reed talked about starting a drunk driving school, the main key appearing to be experience. Pointing to his shot of whiskey he explained "If you only do this once in a while, you're in trouble."
The 1890s Lounge inside La Conner Seafood and Prime Rib House, is a re-opening of a sort of 60s/70s rock joint in a historic building that once served loggers and fishermen. "Most stories include a woman named Rosanna (who managed the live-music
bookings for the 1890’s lounge, and whose nickname was Rosanna Pianna),
as well as late-night escapades centered around a rather
cannabis-induced haze." (laconnerseafood.com)
La Conner itself is now an amiable, fairly touristy town strung along the Swinomish Channel, just a few thousand feet from where the Washington state coast approaches the Pacific in the form of Skagit Bay. A trading post was established here in 1869 by J.S. Conner, who named the place not with a French "La" but for the initials and last name of his wife Louisa Ann Conner. In 2005 La Conner proclaimed the wild turkey the Official Town Bird, a motion that lasted 5 years before the residents had enough of turkey feces, destroyed gardens, and nuisance complaints for the town counsel to officially name them a nuisance and arrange for their removal. (e.g. see NPR)
The current restaurant and lounge must be a far cry from gambling hall that greeted the old sailors and lumbermen, let alone the club that once hosted John Lee Hooker and Taj Mahal. But its genteel decor does include several nods to the past beyond the name, including some great old photos, and it now hosts some standout local artists like Knut Bell and Brent Amaker. The food is slightly upscale seafood and the drinks include some nice cocktail options. In the summer you should try to nab a table on the deck looking over the Swinomish.
614 S First St, La Conner, Washington - (360) 466-4014
Est. June 2, 2012 (Restaurant est. 1986) - Building constructed: 1900 or earlier
Previous bars in this location:
Mal’s Tavern, 1890’s Lounge (late 70s, early 80s)
Web site: laconnerseafood.com - facebook
Somehow I previously missed listing Ohana, which looks something like a tiki bar, but is a bit more of a Hawaiian and Japanese themed restaurant and karaoke bar. It gets a pretty fun late night crowd, and feels like a joint pleasantly thrown together on a beach walk with whatever decorations and gewgaws were at hand.
Yes, Habitant is a cocktail bar smack in the middle of Nordstrom in Bellevue Square, and described by the company as an experiment, though one could hardly fathom how it could fail (at least in this location). The vibe is more that of a frozen yogurt shop than a bar, with only slight railings separating it from the racks of women's slacks and blouses. My drinks fell a bit short of the quality I anticipate from a place described as providing craft cocktails, however they do have a nice selection of fresh juices and quality spirits, and while I would not go out of my way to get a drink there, it could certainly serve as a welcome respite when I am coerced into the mall.
Central Pizza was opened by a small group of people with Belltown Pizza connections in the former location of All-Purpose Pizza, on the gentrifying edge of Leschi and the Central District. In addition to some pretty good thin-crust pizza, they've added a bar, and while their comments about "straightforward" and "decent price point" cocktails might lead you to fear dive-bar quality, they in fact have some very nice and well-balanced classics and well as new creations (I enjoyed the "Aperol You've Done").
There seems to be a trend in sports bars and pizza joints in particular using reclaimed wood from old neighborhood gymnasiums and bowling alleys (e.g. Rookies in Columbia City, Bills on Greenwood, and Snoose Junction / The Alibi Room). Here it is the old Lakeside High basketball court that now compose the bar and tables.
Thurston's is not an easy place to pin down. The decor is formal, dark and swanky, but the food and drinks are more casual cafe -- chicken and waffles, loco moco, poutine; or what the restaurant themselves describe as Asian fusion, tapas and wine bar. Sometimes it seems to want to be stately, dark and romantic; other times it hosts karaoke nights or Seahawks games. My food was pretty good, my drinks were average, and the service was friendly.
From the outside looking in, at least at this point where they were but a month old, it seems like they need to settle on an identity to pull people in from an area without a lot foot traffic. But who knows, maybe that's really just me trying to make it easier to pigeon hole the place in my own mind, or perhaps a bit too influenced by Mona, which preceded it in this space and was more neatly categorized. I will be interested to see what sorts of crowds it has in the future on both Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons.
DK Cafe, AKA DK's Bar and Grill, is a cacophony of Elvis decorations, Beefeater, Santa figurines, Chinese lions, rope light, and every sort of cheap dance/stage lighting. The bar offerings are basic dive bar along with the sort of overly sweet drinks that cater to people who just turned old enough to drink. They accept no credit cards, but do take EBT cards.
9655 16th Ave SW, Seattle, WA 98106
Est. ? - Building constructed: 1981
A gentrification shift for Rat City, Company Bar has neat, nice wood, somewhat fancy food, good spirits, original art for sale on the walls, a hipsterish bartender, wine on tap and some fairly good cocktails.