As the artistry of cocktails pulls the bar trend in one direction, a new crop of no-frills watering holes in Seattle pushes back. Convenience stores, warehouses, and office parks quietly harbor some of the best places in town to drink beer. If there is good ale flowing through the taps, people will be stoked to sit down and have a pint, even if they're squeezing between racks of potato chips. What these scrappy upstarts lack in food, table service, and ambiance, they make up for by curating the biggest or best tap lists of anyone around.
Unburdened by the strict liquor laws that govern bars serving liquor, there's no time or money spent luring people in with false hopes of gourmet cuisine—though Super Deli Mart will serve you a dang-fine hoagie. But for the most part, we're talking just chairs, tables, and a few tap handles or a chalkboard to choose from.
What you'll find at these spots is a staff that's passionate about beer. People who love beer this much aren't content to spend half their time pouring Long Island iced teas for sorority girls. They need a space where the customers are there just for the malt and hops. Serving from over thirty taps (Chuck's) or just a few (Super Deli Mart only has six extremely well-chosen beers at a time), you can count on these folks to pour you a taste while they wax intellectual about double-hopped IPAs or what makes a great session ale. At Hilliard's and Two Beers you can drink just a few feet from where some of the best beers in the city ferment. At all of these places, you'll see more than the standbys: these are the places to go for one-offs and special seasonal offerings.
If you need something in your belly as well as your glass, you can always bring the kitchen—or at least the meal—with you: few of these places have restrictions on outside food. If you're lucky, there may be a food truck parked nearby that day. Otherwise, it's just like eating at home, only the beer is better and there are handfuls of strangers sitting around you, many with children or dogs. Since most of these no-hard-liquor spots aren't technically bars, they can open their doors to patrons of all ages along with their furry friends.
Looking for locally-brewed rarities or Belgian delicacies on tap? Start your no-frills beer destination tour in the slideshow above »
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.