The bridge-induced isolation of West Seattle breeds a fierce case of neighborhood pride that's on display as much at the local bars as it is at the community centers. There's a surprising amount of insularity for a neighborhood that covers so much land, but the shared experience of crossing water to get to work (or anywhere else) brings people together here. Often that bonding occurs over a cocktail or two.
Many of the local bars are neighborhood fixtures (even if they opened in the past five years) and the people of the neighborhood are fixtures at the bar. "Thanks, Don," one regular said to the bartender as he was leaving the busy West 5 bar we visited recently, "I didn't tip you." The bartender, without flinching, responded, "I know, you cheapskate." Being tucked away from the rest of the city has an economic advantage for most of these bars, too: with no discernible drop in quality, cocktails cost less in this neighborhood. The bartenders have left the vests and sleeve garters to the mixologists of Capitol Hill, and left the $15 cocktail behind as well.
What they brought with them is good, strong drinks, served up in unique environments: the Benbow Room's Pirates Booty Juice introduces you to four types of rum at once—and if you have too many, you might introduce yourself to the fish that live under the floor. Unfortunately, the tasty Corrington Collins at Feedback Lounge will not make you any better at the pinball games on offer there. Trust me, I tried. Themes and locations are disparate, but these Westside bars all share the same sense of fun, not taking themselves very seriously—as reflected in the floor-fish—and a strong local pride, reflected in the drinks named for local residents: both the famous (the Frances Farmer at Shadowland), and less so ("a friend of ours named Corrington," according to the bartender at Feedback Lounge).
If the prices and the local pride convince you to cross the bridge, here's the map to guide you from 'tini to tiki on the other side. Check out the slideshow for where to go and what to drink there in West Seattle »
Shadowland (try the Frances Farmer)
Ma'ono Fried Chicken and Whisky (try A Flower in the Hops)
Benbow Room (try the Pirate Booty Juice)
Feedback Lounge (try the Corrington Collins)
West 5 (try the Chartreuse Martini)
About the author: Naomi Bishop is a Seattle based food writer and marketer. Find more of her musings on her food blog, TheGastroGnome, where she claims that being a GastroGnome is not about sitting idly on the front lawn of culinary cottages. You can also follow her explorations of cooking and culture around the world at @GastroGnome.