Old Seattle — Historic Saloons in Historic Buildings
Part Two of a Two Part Series. See Part One.
Continuing our weekend of day drinking through Seattle, today we’ll wander through some of old Seattle’s historic saloons.
Be sure to scroll all the way down for a bonus — suggestions for a Day Three quickie into Capitol Hill.
Day Two: Old Seattle — Historic Saloons in Historic Buildings
The walk from Pike Place to the stadium area is a good way to kill time before seeing the Seahawks, Sounders, or Mariners. (And unlike with stadium prices, you won’t need a second mortgage to buy a few drinks along the way.)
But even if you’re not going to a game, this route will take you through some of the oldest parts of Seattle, with some of the oldest buildings, housing some of the oldest bars.
Pike Place Market
1st Ave at Pike St
If you’ve never been to Pike Place Market, start out there today. Wander around for an hour or two, find some food and maybe a Bloody Mary. (Me? Been there, done it, don’t need to do it again. Throngs of tourists and their screaming offspring are things I can live without and there are better drinking options further along on 1st.)
Bonus Tip: The best place to find food and drink in Pike Place is along Post Alley, at the north end of the market. Two good choices are Kells Irish Pub and it’s Mexican cousin, Cantina de San Patricio, right next door.
The Diller Room
1224 1st Ave
When you’ve had your fill of the market, find your way to 1st Avenue The market is huge so check the nearest cross street — if it’s Virginia, Stewart, Pine, Pike, or Union, turn right. If it’s University, you’ve arrived. If it’s Seneca, you’ve overshot and need to turn left to get back to University.
Cross the street to The Diller Room, on the corner of 1st and University. (If it’s before 2:00 pm, you’re too early — keep walking south on 1st or kill some time in the Seattle Art Museum.) It might not look like much from the outside but trust me, this happy hybrid of dive bar and speakeasy is our kind of place.
Housed in the former lobby of an 1890s hotel, exposed brick and penny tile floors (the original kind, from before people started to tile their floors with actual pennies) give The Diller Room a vintage vibe that makes it a great place to while away an afternoon. Cocktails can be expensive, though, so I usually stick to a Tall Boy of something local. Like Rainier.
Seattle Art Museum
1300 1st Ave
Back outside, if you must do more tourist-y stuff, cross University St. to visit the Seattle Art Museum. Home to permanent collections and temporary exhibitions that are constantly changing, SAM is a must-see for art lovers. You’ll need time, though, so gauge your thirst level and decide accordingly.
1225 1st Ave
Moving on, cross 1st Avenue at University and directly across the street from The Diller Room you’ll find Von’s 1000Spirits . If you didn’t take my advice and eat earlier, Von’s is an awesome option, but if you’re just looking for your next drink, give it a pass — for now. But remember this place — come back to it later for great from-scratch pizza, pasta, burgers, and more. And it can be a lot of fun when it’s busy — they have a ‘Wheel of Fortune’ they spin to choose hourly drink specials.
Fadó Irish Pub
801 1st Ave
Next, continue south down 1st Avenue for five blocks, until you reach Fadó Irish Pub. Yes, okay, it’s a cookie-cutter, chain pub but it’s located in a heritage building, with original architectural detail still visible. And I’m thirsty after walking five blocks, not to mention they have a decent beer list and they show English Premier League soccer. Stopping for one isn’t going to kill anybody.
Pioneer Square Saloon
73 Yesler Way
Back on 1st, continue south past Pioneer Square — you’ll see the famous iron pergola — and turn right on Yesler Way. A little way down, just past Post Avenue, you’ll come to the Pioneer Square Saloon on your left.
This quirky old bar is as bare bones as they come but I love it. They only serve beer (a good craft selection) and wine — no hard liquor. The place oozes history — you get a real sense of what the area must have been like when Yesler Way was known as Seattle’s ‘Skid Road’. A table by the window affords great people watching but you’ll find better company on a stool at the bar.
Back outside, head back up Yesler Way to 1st Avenue. If you’re still in a touristic mood, take a walk around the neighbourhood. Pioneer Square is full of eclectic shops and interesting architecture, much of it dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries — like the building housing our next stop.
The Central Saloon
207 1st Ave S
When you get thirsty again, you’ll find The Central Saloon on 1st Avenue, about a block and a half south of Yesler Way. The oldest saloon in Seattle opened in 1892 as Watson Bros. Famous Restaurant and, with the exception of that dark time known as Prohibition, The Central has been satisfying thirsty patrons ever since. Come back in the evening for live music — you might just catch the next Jimi Hendrix or Nirvana (both of whom played here back in the day).
The Triangle Pub
553 1st Ave S
A five-minute walk from the Central, south on 1st, will bring you to the final stop of the day — The Triangle Pub. This is the place to be on game day — any game day, any sport, home or away — but it’s always worth a visit.
Housed in a building that is literally triangle-shaped, like the Flat Iron in NYC, the teeny-tiny space (maybe 10, 12 seats, tops?) has operated as a bar since 1910 (minus that dark time I mentioned earlier). The upper floors are reputed to have housed a brothel in the first half of the 20th century but today you’ll mostly find sports fans and aficionados of penny tile, cheap booze, and that vintage, dive-bar vibe.
If you’re going to a game, you can practically spit on both stadiums from the Triangle.
If not, and if you’re hungry, now would be a good time to head back up to Von’s. Even if you’re not hungry, it’s always a good time for Von’s.
Bonus! Day Three:
Capitol Hill — A Beer Hall and a Happy Hour
If you’re lucky enough to have a third day in Seattle, set aside some time for a little excursion into Capitol Hill. There are only two bars on today’s list, so if you’re a shopper, get that out of the way before heading to the first one for a late lunch/early dinner.
Personally, I hate shopping but if there’s something specific I need, I can usually find what I’m looking for in the Pine & 6th area downtown. Here you’ll find all the usual, big-name chains, plus local boutiques.
The Pine Box
1600 Melrose Ave
When you’ve shopped yourself into a thirst, head east on Pine St., across the overpass above the I-5, and keep going until you hit Melrose Avenue— it’s about a 15-minute walk from 6th. The Pine Box is right on the corner — the entrance is to the left, off Melrose.
Housed in the former chapel of an Art Deco, 1930s style funeral home, The Pine Box has atmosphere up the wazoo — high ceilings, stained glass, dark woodwork, and even an old choir loft. (I’ve heard rumors that you can sit up in the loft but I’ve never actually seen it open.)
With over 30 taps of lovingly selected craft beer to choose from, plus mouth-watering food options, this place deserves some time. Sample a few beers, fuel up on a Brat and a pretzel or mac & cheese with bacon, and just soak up the ambiance. If you’re not sure about which beers to try, the bartenders are friendly and knowledgeable and there are always at least a few regulars sitting at the bar who will offer helpful advice.
Speckled & Drake
1355 E Olive Way
When you’ve had enough of The Pine Box — (which, granted, may take hours, which is a good thing if you started early, since the next place doesn’t open until 5:00) — head outside and turn right on Melrose. At the end of the block, turn right on E. Olive Way. Just around the corner, you’ll find Speckled & Drake, a duck-themed dive bar.
Yes, you heard me right — I said ‘duck-themed’. But don’t let that throw you. The place has a funky, nostalgic ambiance and one of the best Happy Hours in the city, both for the cheapness of the drinks and the quality of the crowd. Stay for a couple or for the evening — trivia nights most Mondays and DJs after 9:00. You won’t regret it.
That’s it. I got nothing else. At least not until after my next trip to the Emerald City.
Enjoy! And remember — always drink responsibly. (Well, okay… if not always, then at least try for most of the time.)