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Bars where Pete has had a drink

Saturday, May 08, 2021

#4208 #S1699 - Olympic Bar, Seattle - 5/7/2021

Olympic Bar, Fairmont Olympic Hotel, Seattle

Who would have predicted that the venerable Olympic Hotel would have gone steampunk? 

This is the hotel in Seattle where trains of police vehicles escort foreign dignitaries to their destinations across the city; where the University of Washington owned the land and most the property for a century even after they relocated north of Portage Bay in 1895; where WWII bond drives featuring Duke Ellington, Bob Hope, and Betty Gable rallied crowds in front of a miniature Washington Monument in "Victory Square"; where the "Presidential Suite" lived up to its name, hosting Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, FDR, Dwight Eisenhower, JFK, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush; where elegant diners munched foie gras pâté and sipped from a rotating sample of seasonal teas between the buttercream walls of the Georgian Restaurant; and where, most improbably of all, some intrepid locals actually convinced the hotel to host a Ramones performance in the Georgian Room -- an event which put a quick end to the hotel's short experiment booking rock shows (though not to the antics of various rock stars staying there).

Fairmont Hotel, Seattle, looking down upon
the new "Olympic Bar"
Granted, the steampunk appellative is only moderately descriptive of the new lobby, most obviously in the wheels and arms of a large kinetic sculpture that towers over the bar, and apparent in the metal and lights wrapping around the U-shaped prow of the bar. These were designed to evoke the roaring 20s of the hotel's founding. It's pleasantly a little dark, with various Edison bulbs and table lamps glowing off the grand oak woodwork and Belgian marble floors. The lobby area is finished with bookshelves, mid-century style, white, abstract sculptures, and books with white covers.

The bar features some unique house cocktails, and on my first visit I tried the non-alcoholic "Timeless" cocktail (Seedlip Garden 108, grapefruit, Fever-Tree Tonic, rosemary, black pepper), which was smooth and refreshing. On my second visit we each tried and approved of the house special "Seattleite" (Olympic honey vodka, espresso, Amaro Montenegro, lemon). The bar menu is fairly limited but all options seem quite fine from our sampling so far, which has included the pan roasted chicken, their burger, oysters, and strawberries and cream. The Saturday we attended was the first in which they resumed their famous tea service (in the lobby for now, and reservations required).

Remaining to be opened at this writing are Marine themed restaurant/bar in the Georgian space, and a bar in the old Terrace Lounge space which they say they are not going to call a speakeasy, even though there is a doorway hidden by a bookshelf. The service was friendly and just enough visits, and Jennifer was kind enough to show us the new speakeasy/whiskey bar space (but requested we not post our photos at this time), as well as answer questions about previous bars.

The $25-million remodel has very much embraced the history of the hotel, with various letters and artifacts framed in the walkways around the upper perimeter of the lobby. They have referred to a goal of keeping the lobby "a living room for locals." It's not likely to be a regular hangout unless you're an eccentric millionaire, but I am excited to have a go-to bar in the historic location and eager for the openings of the other two spaces.

411 University St, Seattle, WA 98101 - (206) 621-1700
Est. April 30, 2021 - Building constructed: 1924
Web site: - facebook 
Articles ranked: eater - seattletimes - seattlepikomo - yelpluxurytraveladvisor 

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