Updated at: 08-06-2023 - By: Craig Huey

If you’re on the hunt for a dive bar without Katy Perry on the jukebox, your best bet is to tag along with an off-duty bartender. The 13 Seattle locals we polled all had recommendations for dive bars.


Seattle, like its southern sibling (or perhaps more accurately, rival) Portland, is dedicated to a casual drinking culture. Even if they don’t all fit the stereotypical mold of a “dive bar,” there are still plenty of enjoyable establishments where you can relax with a beer in a low-key setting.

Many of Seattle’s best bartenders told us that when they’re off duty late at night, they crave the more…um…declassé things in life, such as cheap beer, tubed meats, and Jell-o shots. The availability of bar games (such as pinball, corn hole, and, as per usual,Big Game Trapper) and rock out to the jukebox (please don’t play any Nirvana, though) are also essential elements. The best kinds of bars are the low-key ones, where hardworking people can escape the hustle and bustle without having to worry about spending the night chatting with starry-eyed tech workers.

Thirteen of Seattle’s best bartenders were polled about their favorite spots to enjoy mezcal and Rainier. If they’re off duty, they’ll probably be at one of these bars watching the Seahawks or just trying to avoid getting wet on another miserable Seattle day.

Anu Apte-Elford

Rob Roy’s Owner


My go-to dive bar is __________. Shorty’sshortydog.com; (206) 441-4422; 2222 2nd Ave.

Quote from Apte-Elford:Topping my list is Shorty’s in Belltown. What more could a partygoer want than pinball machines, hot dogs, beer, and shots? Walking past Shorty’s on the way home from Rob Roy is a nice perk. For a large group of friends to congregate, this is the perfect spot. However, it is a wonderful place to become disoriented.Image via Yelp/Ben T.

Rick Brooks

Naked City Manager


Most frequented dive bar:There’s a great smoke shop in Ballard called Ballard Smoke Shop (5439 Ballard Ave NW, 206-783-0997, ballardsmokeshop.com).

According to Brooks:“The Smoke Shop in Ballard is one of my favorite dive bars in Seattle, and I’ve been living/drinking here for 11 years. If you can, try to avoid going on Fridays and Saturdays, which are known as Amateur Nights. On non-sports-related days, you can count on friendly bartenders, free soup at closing time, and great people-watching. Simply put in a request for Darlene!This picture was taken at the Ballard Smoke Shop and was posted on Facebook.

Lauren “Lolo” Carroll

Attendant at the Fremont Brewing Company’s Tap Room


Most frequented dive bar:The Al’s Bar and Grill(2303 N 45th St, 206-545-9959)

It’s Carroll who says:A watering hole must have a certain worn-in quality, and this one has that. With a classic jukebox, comfy barstools, a pool table, and a selection of arcade games, this establishment is perfect for passing the time with friends. It’s the kind of place where only locals would hang out, and the atmosphere is usually relaxed. Particularly warm and welcoming are bartenders Karl and Dean. Ask Karl for a dealer’s choice if you’re planning on getting into some mischief tonight; he won’t let you down.Photos by Yelp user Matt T.

Ellie Rose

Central Pizza’s owner and resident bartender


I like to hang out at my favorite dive bar.Parting at Dusk2514 E Cherry St, (206) 324-7462

When asked what she thinks, Rose explains:About fifteen years ago, I started frequenting that place. I’ve seen it move three times and each time was exciting. I’ve never had an uncomfortable experience here, and I can always find interesting people to talk to. The delicious food is a highlight. You wouldn’t expect great food in a dive bar, but everything is made from scratch here. The patio is also wonderful during the warm months. Oh, and There goes a buck! (Image via Yelp/TaDao V.)

Keith Villanueva

Worked as a bartender at Sazerac


Most frequented dive bar:The Lounge in the Quarterquarterlounge.com; (206) 332-0772; 909 Madison St.

From Villanueva:There are cornhole tables on the back patio and small booths with cheap drinks and standard bar fare up front. Very stealthy and highly intoxicating; just what you need after a long shift.Image via Yelp/Amanda L.

Gregory Zacher

Tulio Ristorante’s Head Sommelier


Preferred low-key watering hole:In a word, it’s the Lookout Bar & Grill.Location: 757 Bellevue Ave E, Phone: (206) 329-0454, Website: thelookoutcapitolhill.com

For Zacher,It has the charm of a hidden gem while being conveniently located away from the mayhem of the Pike/Pine district. In addition, in the summer, the patio’s views of South Lake Union and the Space Needle are spectacular. That’s not the place to go if you’re looking for a hipster drink. A fantastic beer and a shot of whiskey are what you seek out. Not only can you play some fun board games with your pals, but they serve up some delicious bar food as well.This picture was taken from Facebook/The Lookout.

Joe Denhalter

Saloontender at Momiji


You can find me most often at my favorite dive bar, where: Hidden LocationHideout Seattle, 1005 Boren Avenue, (206) 903-8480, hideoutseattle.com

To quote Denhalter:While The Hideout on First Hill in Seattle isn’t technically a dive bar, it does have some divey qualities thanks to its graffiti, worn furniture, and dim lighting.What is it?Artwork from local artists is displayed (and sold) on the walls, while more affordable (and often humorous) items are available from a vending machine. Some of my favorite Seattle bartenders are behind the stick; even though they can mix a mean cocktail, nothing beats kicking back with a Rainier and a shot of your choice.(Image by Yelp user Jon D.)

Kevin Watson

Brewer of New Things at Elysian and Bartender on Capitol Hill


Most frequented dive bar: The Sloop Inn(2830 NW Market St; 206-782-3330; theslooptavern.com)

“Watson says” You can get the best cheeseburger in town for cheap, the beer portions are enormous, and you’ll never see anyone you know there.image courtesy of theslooptavern.com

Jesse Cyr

Head of Operations at Rob Roy


My go-to dive bar is __________.In the Lava LoungeLava Lounge Seattle is located at 2226 2nd Avenue and can be reached at (206) 441-5660.

Cyr says: It has a wide variety of interesting people as customers, the bartenders are always friendly, and the tap selection is decent. The large booths are great for catching up with a large group of friends all at once. Back in the bar’s rec room, where I inevitably find myself at some point during the evening, they have Buck Hunter and darts. The drinks are generously poured, and you can get Fernet, Ramazzotti (my personal favorite), and a variety of bourbons for a reasonable price, especially when compared to other Seattle bars. Tiki mugs and large murals also adorn the walls of this bar. Absolutely nothing!(Image courtesy of lavaloungeseattle.com)

Christopher Elford

Rep for the Seattle chapter of the bartending fraternity The Bon Vivants


Most frequented dive bar: You can find Bernard’s on Seneca315 Seneca St; 206-623-5110; bernardsonseneca.com.

A quote from Elford: It’s like entering a different era. Pours are as generous as the prices when I order bottled beers and Cutty Sark neat. The ambiance is like a bar in the carpeted basement of a fancy hotel. It’s well-lit, frequented by the same people, and the bold may be greeted with a hot pan of complimentary onion rings. In addition, the bar closes at 9:30, making it ideal for daytime drinkers. When I first went, there weren’t enough seats in the car for everyone, so I volunteered to ride in the trunk with the driver. Upon being freed from a trunk, Bernard’s should be your first stop. Nothing but pure magic, baby!Images courtesy of Yelp/Bob E.

Ian Roberts

One Who Owns a Pine Box


Most frequented dive bar: A.R. BaranofLocated at 8549 Greenwood Ave N, call (206) 782-9260.

To quote Roberts: I used to live above the bar for a while, and it’s always the first place I want to go when I’m feeling groggy in the morning. There’s a chance of crustiness, but the bar serves some of the best Jell-o shots in town for a reasonable price.(Photo by Russell L. on Yelp)

Charles Smith

Jet City Winery Owner Charles Smith


Describe your ideal dive bar. Last chance for Slim(560 South First Avenue; 206-762-1900; slimslastchance.com)

Author Smith explains One of my favorite bars in Georgetown is Slim’s Last Chance. There are rockabilly tunes playing on the jukebox and mezcal and chili are available on tap. In the afternoons, I always reach for this!(Image via Facebook/Slim’s Final Chance)

James MacWilliams

Canlis bartender


Most frequented dive bar: Massive Mario’spizza at 1009 E Pike St, Seattle; 206-922-3875; bigmariosnewyorkpizza.com.

As MacWilliams puts it: Big Mario’s on Capitol Hill is our go-to, and we frequently go there with Nelson Daquip. We frequently visit the off-site cellar of Canlis after a day of work. Bartenders with tattoos, cheap beer, free tequila shots, pull tabs, and pizza that’s actually pretty good. Truly, it’s the best pizza in town. It’s not the same without the lingering cigarette smoke and greasy pizza of the original Capitol Hill location, but a new Big Mario’s is opening up on Queen Anne.(Photographs courtesy of JunebugWeddings.com,Yelp/Dana D.)