Your Lair. Kelly O

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Everybody loves a booth. Things happen in booths that will never happen at a table—funny things, nefarious things, things that involve touching. Sitting in a booth makes a just-all-right place really good and a really good place truly great. Booths are the ideal situation for a human; they "allow inhabitants themselves to become key agents in ensuring their security," Oscar Newman wrote. He wasn't actually talking about booths, he was talking about his theory of defensible space and tribes and domiciles and forts and society, etc., but whatever—it also applies more generally to The Place You Want to Be, i.e., a protective cocoon with a prospect on the outside world, i.e., a booth. Here are some we've enjoyed sitting in lately.

EL GALLITO in the Central District: The back of each booth here is like a stack of cushioned logs, alternating red and black, finished in a trim of white piping, and the seat of each booth has an insane bounce. There are eight booths total, four under a row of windows and four down the middle of the restaurant. The last two of these aren't connected to any walls or partitions: You can scoot in (or fall out) on either side. In addition to dinner every night, El Gallito is open for lunch on weekdays. Recommended: going in on a rainy day, taking a seat at the farthest booth so you can watch soccer on the TV in the corner, and bouncing slightly in your seat while you eat guacamole with warm chips. (1700 20th Ave, 329-8088) CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE

ORIENT EXPRESS in Sodo (formerly Andy's Diner): You know why these booths are great? Because they're on a motherfucking train! You know why else they're great? They're on a motherfucking HAUNTED train! I double-dog dare you to sit down in one of the still-comfy retro-and-regal chocolate brown leather booths in train car one with a Ouija board. Dollars to doughnuts, if you tried hard enough, you could get President Franklin D. Roosevelt himself to come over from his train car (which he traveled around the country in during his 1944 reelection campaign) and sit with you and tell you stories of love and war and his mistress Lucy Mercer. You'd probably have to buy him a glass of bourbon first. (2963 Fourth Ave S, 682-0683) KELLY O

MESOB ETHIOPIAN RESTAURANT in the Central District: Bypass Mesob's front room, with its glaring peach walls and unflinching fluorescent lights, and head back to the divey tiki-style bar. There you'll find two padded, plastic-covered booths—possibly reclaimed from an Arctic Circle in Idaho—with broken springs but excellent lumbar support. The booths are a cheap ticket to a poor man's paradise: Straw dangles above your head, disturbed by a ceiling fan with mirrored arms. A picture of a waterfall sits next to your face. The room is filled with Christmas lights and bamboo shoots and the smells of cheap, good Ethiopian food. If music's playing, don't bounce; you will be disappointed. (1325 E Jefferson St, 860-0403) CIENNA MADRID

TALARICO'S in West Seattle: Talarico's features two different kinds of booths. On the north wall, you'll find a row of low-slung black pleather three-sided beauties that stretch their arms open in a generous hug. In these booths, diners behave the way they do in hot tubs; in large groups, they spread out, limbs stretched every which way. When it's two people in that expansive space, they tend to be cuddled together. The south wall of Talarico's is made up of tall wooden booths with facing seats, creating enclosed spaces perfect for sharing secrets. The best part is, no matter which kind of booth you choose, you'll get Talarico's signature bigger-than-your-head slices brought to your table. The slice will take up all the empty space in your booth and fill your heart—and your stomach—with a gluttonous Italian kind of joy. (4718 California Ave SW, 937-3463) PAUL CONSTANT

MAE'S PHINNEY RIDGE CAFE in Phinney Ridge: Dining in the knickknack-encrusted labyrinth of Mae's Phinney Ridge Cafe is a lot like dining within the four stomachs of Auðumbla, the great primeval cow of Norse mythology, from whose cosmic udders suckled the frost giants at the dawning of the world—that is, if Auðumbla had recently devoured your grandma's house, four Hallmark stores, two antique malls, and North America's entire annual gross output of eggs. In an anatomically delightful twist, Mae's lets you sit and dine right in Auðumbla's gaping maw: One of its booths is encased in a wooden frame and decorated to resemble the giant, toothy mouth of a hungry moo-cow. Directly facing it on the opposite wall is a second booth, its decor reminiscent of a dank, gray, and stalactite-ridden cave. We shall not speculate on which part of Auðumbla's anatomy that booth references. Get the Shake & Eggs (it's a milkshake AND some eggs!!!). (6412 Phinney Ave N, 782-1222) LINDY WEST

PHONE BOOTH IN THE HALL OUTSIDE THE BENBOW ROOM in West Seattle (BYO phone): One of the casualties of cell-phone living—besides privacy, patience, and the ability to remember phone numbers—is the phone booth. A good phone booth, preferably old and wood and dark, is a marvelous place to conduct a telephone conversation, a little womb of quiet in the middle of the city. Those kinds of phone booths are mostly gone, but the Benbow Room in West Seattle (attached to the Heartland Cafe) still has one. Get a cocktail and call your grandma. (4210 SW Admiral Way, 922-3313) BRENDAN KILEY

EL GAUCHO in Belltown: The steak house with the mink-backed booths. Steak. House. Mink. Backed. Booths. Cheers, PETA. (2505 First Ave, 728-1337) BETHANY JEAN CLEMENT

VITO'S on First Hill: Vito's is back, and the maroon vinyl booths on the lounge side are as good as ever—and before, they were so good they were rumored to have been the site of at least one conception. Get there early on Saturday and Sunday nights for prime seating for local jazz legend Ruby Bishop. (On the restaurant side, beware the banquette fake-out: Most of the tables just have regular chairs with trompe l'oeil tufted padding behind them.) (927 Ninth Ave, 397-4053) BETHANY JEAN CLEMENT

HATTIE'S HAT in Ballard: The little booths in the bar are awkward and awesome, allowing full appreciation of the columns and mirrors and curlicues of the bar itself—hand-carved in France, brought by boat around the Horn of Africa, installed in 1904, deserving of full appreciation. Enjoy with an excellent and potent Bloody Mary. (5231 Ballard Ave NW, 784-0175) BETHANY JEAN CLEMENT

13 COINS in South Lake Union: These are not the correct booths in which to stage a romantic rendezvous—in each, the funerary slab of a table is so wide you can barely reach your lover's fingertips—however, they are exactly the correct booths in which to conduct organized crime, act like a fancy grown-up, and/or feel leatherbound and cozy (if somewhat ripped off) while eating a $30 Dungeness crab Louie with so much goddamn crab on top that when you're done, you feel like you don't even need to eat any more crab (unthinkable!). (125 Boren Ave N, 682-2513) LINDY WEST

EL PILON in Columbia City: The best seats at this great little Puerto Rican place (six things on the menu, no liquor, awesome floral-aproned white-haired cook/owner) are in the bright-red sparkly booths. (5303 Rainier Ave S, 577-7165) BETHANY JEAN CLEMENT

WEDGWOOD BROILER in Wedgwood: When you step through the doors of this lovable, broken-in old haunt (it has not changed a hair in decades, and every table is a booth), your DNA is forever altered. After 45 minutes and a Reuben (exemplary) and a baked potato (double exemplary), you begin pontificating on simpler times, complaining that there's too many channels on your cable TV box, and feeling just tickled that the nice oldies station is playing Christmas music. (8230 35th Ave NE, 523-1115) LINDY WEST

RE:PUBLIC in South Lake Union: The raised-up booths along the south wall are clearly where you want to be, especially if it's upscale-drunkypants-partytime—this is a Hot Spot, and the bar is right in the middle of the place. From here you may look down on the hoi polloi and eat crispy pig tail—akin to a mini corn dog, with the tail just a meltingly creamy-fatty memory of meat sealed inside a small tube of deep-fried goodness, served with a dab of whole-grain mustard vinaigrette and a deviled egg. YUM. (429 Westlake Ave N, 467-5300) BETHANY JEAN CLEMENT

WASHINGTON STATE FERRIES in the water: Because of some stupid blue law or obscure part of the social contract or whatever, people are not allowed to fall asleep in bars. Which is a total drag—what's more refreshing, more pleasant than a little disco nap in a quiet corner? Wouldn't those long nights out at restaurants and bars be so much better if you could recline in a booth—when, say, your friends' conversation goes in a direction that doesn't interest you—and have a quick snooze? Well, the Washington State ferries are here for you, with onboard beer and wine and nice long booths that will accommodate the most protracted person. Most ferry rides in this state are between 30 and 60 minutes—perfect nap length!—and depart from and arrive at places to eat and drink. Why not have cocktails and oysters in downtown Seattle and dinner somewhere on Bainbridge Island, punctuated with two gentle snoozes, lightly rocked by the big boat traveling over small waves? Alternately, sit and watch the Sound and have another drink. Either way: heaven. (Seattle Ferry Terminal, 801 Alaskan Way, Pier 52, www.wsdot BRENDAN KILEY

COLLINS PUB in Pioneer Square: Much of the seating in Collins Pub takes the form of booths, and the most interesting booths are along the south wall that faces the bar (and leads to the main area of standard, uninteresting booths). What's curious about the booths extending from the wall is that they are designed to seat only two people, one on each side. But whenever the place is crowded, usually after Sounders games or during art walk, the patrons find ways to fit more than two souls into these mini booths. (526 Second Ave, 632-1016) CHARLES MUDEDE

BIG MARIO'S on Capitol Hill: If the booths here seem familiar, that might be because they used to be the booths at Cafe Septieme, and before that (according to rumor), booths at a steak house. There is nothing special about them. They are brown. But there is something special about the mirrors right above them, two perpendicular walls of reflectiveness, so that you can see all the people in the place at any moment, and even if you're facing the back of the room, you can see what's happening out the front windows. As for the pizza, get the pepperoni—they're the small ones that curl up at their edges, creating little pepperoni cups full of pepperoni juice. (1009 E Pike St, 922-3875) CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE

ATHENIAN in Pike Place Market: The view that the hard wooden booths at the Athenian provide cannot be matched by any other booths in Seattle (and possibly the Pacific Northwest). If you sit here, with a frosted glass of beer in your hand and a broken love in your heart, you will see the whole bay, the entering and exiting cargo ships, green West Seattle, black Bainbridge, and, during happy hour, the cold glory of the setting sun. These booths were made for Seattle; Seattle was made for these booths. (1517 Pike Pl, 624-7166) CHARLES MUDEDE

COLLEGE INN PUB in the University District: If the booths at the Athenian have the best view, the booths at the College Inn Pub have the best mood. They are made of wood, and there's lots of writing on the surface of this wood. HOSS, B.D.S., COOPER, Jessie—who are these people? Where are they now? Did they get laid? The booths in the College Inn Pub, which are great for groups, inspire the mood of a dungeon. (4006 University Way, 547-1525) CHARLES MUDEDE

PESO'S in Lower Queen Anne: Peso's is a veritable case study in the ideal defensible space. You have the comfort of carne asada and mashed potatoes (with green beans covered in bits of slightly crunchy bacon) and the security of a massive elliptical wood table surrounded by a protective shell of red-velvety upholstery. From here you observe popped-collar douchebags pounding tequila shots and performing other mating rituals. It's perfect: They're out there and you're safe in the booth, your defensible space. (605 Queen Anne Ave N, 283-9353) DOMINIC HOLDEN

CROCODILE in Belltown: The pizza place in the back of the Crocodile isn't a Via Tribunali anymore, but it still has the grandeur of its grandest booth. Said booth sits in the back corner and forms a huge C that spans two tables. A party of 10 to 12 (depending on said party's collective girth) can comfortably eat, drink, and be as mirthful as they damn well please without really being noticed. The black leather seat backs tower nearly six feet high and muffle merrymaking, creating your own intimate conclave. While the Croc rocks nearby, you can roll in the glory of 18 kinds of beers, pizza, garlic cheese bread, and your own revelry. (2200 Second Ave, www.the DAVE SEGAL

MECCA in Lower Queen Anne: The booths, which are in a row across from the counter, seem to offer comfort to people who have been through a really bad night. You need a shot of something. You need to put some food in your stomach. You need to start life all over again. These are the booths at the Mecca. (526 Queen Anne Ave N, 285-9728) CHARLES MUDEDE

BOOTH GARDNER of our great Evergreen State: One of Washington State's most prominent booths, Booth Gardner was our 19th governor. He served from 1985 to 1993, which means he shepherded in the grunge era and oversaw the explosion of Seattle in the greater nation's consciousness (you could chalk this up to coincidence, but you'd be a Booth-hating fool to do so). And with the exception of Gary Locke, Gardner has had the best postgubernatorial career in Washington history, leading the 2008 death-with-dignity campaign to a rousing victory while starring in an Oscar-nominated 2009 documentary short film along the way. Now that's a booth. (Democrat, born Aug 21, 1936) PAUL CONSTANT

BUSH GARDEN in the International District: One does not go to Bush Garden for the booths, which are small, against a mirror, and crammed. One goes to this establishment to drink hard booze and participate in karaoke. The booths leave no impression whatsoever. Former Stranger film editor Annie Wagner, however, once saw a man who looked like James Brown sitting in one of the booths. The man claimed to be from Alaska and stated to a woman sitting in the booth next to him: "The royal penis is clean." (614 Maynard Ave S, 682-6830) CHARLES MUDEDE

BARÇA on Capitol Hill: When you first walk into Barça, you might think you have made some kind of a subcultural mistake; with its red-and-black decor, it resembles a goth bar. But sit down in one of the booths—round and luxe, with high backs—and your trepidations vanish. Though Barça's booths aren't ideal for huge groups—due to the circular layout, drinkers on the fringes face away from the table, toward the greater bar—when you share the booth with fewer people, you all lean forward and inward conspiratorially, huddled around your drinks. These booths create intimate friendships. (1510 11th Ave, 325-8263) PAUL CONSTANT

5 POINT near Seattle Center: The queen of 24-hour diners and the diviest dive bar that ever dove, the 5 Point offers a complexion-enhancing neon lighting scheme, badass waitstaff, and a magically never-sucky jukebox. You should note that these vinyl booths are equally glorious for drunks and nondrinkers; they create an atmosphere in which coffee and midnight pancakes are just as appropriate as cheap beer and peeing yourself. Don't forget to glance up from your booth at some point, because a moose covered in bras is just overhead, and it's embarrassing to sit in the same room as a bra-covered moose for an hour without noticing. (415 Cedar St, 448-9993) ANNA MINARD

RENDEZVOUS in Belltown: These are easily the city's best kissing booths—four private half circles with backs that extend a foot higher than your head, upholstered in pillowy faux leather. The vibe at Rendezvous is outdated classy; picture your grandmother in a flapper dress. The booths are dark and deep, with peekaboo views of dusty chandeliers, patterned red wallpaper, and orange velvet drapes. The lighting makes every date look one-third more attractive than real life, and the booths are perfect for people with long legs. You can squeeze six people in, easy, but hot damn, they're still remarkably cozy with only two. This is a spot worth lingering in and getting your tongue on. (2322 Second Ave, 441-5823) CIENNA MADRID

REDWOOD on Capitol Hill: Don't be startled. You might see sharp, bared teeth out of the corner of your eye as you share a pitcher of Manny's and a basket of deep-fried creamed-corn nuggets. Two howling wolves printed on a mesh window shade guard Redwood's southwest corner booth. Its smooth, worn dark wood holds five comfortably, eight cozily, or two with room for piles of winter layers. An electrified Coleman lantern overhead glows with warm light, while a projection screen above neighboring booths entertains (usually with sports or an old film). This close, the screen is hard to see, but that's all right—from here you can watch the whole room. And the wolves got your back. (514 E Howell St, 329-1952) JESSE VERNON

SHORTY'S in Belltown: The first thing a booth at Shorty's has to do is convince you to sit down when you could be standing and playing any number of blinking, whirring games. Maybe that's why the tables are made from decommissioned pinball machines, internally lit but motionless, and, thankfully, made level (six and half degrees is no angle at which to rest a beer). They are convincing; on a recent night, every booth was full. In one, a surfer/bartender who works on Mercer Island explained the difference between "bar people" and "booth people": "Booth people tend to like fireplaces more, they drink red wine more than beer, they might order something more expensive and stay a while longer." The guy seemed like more of a bar person, but he said the bartender was in a bad mood. He also said a Virgo will always sit facing the door. Murder City Devils were on the sound system. The table said "for amusement only." (2222 Second Ave, 441-5449) ERIC GRANDY

CONFESSIONAL BOOTH in any Catholic church: Yes, the Catholic Church is looking about as corrupt as the court of Caligula these days. Which means you can indulge in its sacraments for your own secular purposes without feeling the slightest whiff of guilt. Drink down that Communion wine! Use its public bathrooms! And take advantage of confession—it's like talk therapy, but fast and free! Tormented by a deep, dark secret that you just can't bring yourself to tell anyone? Well, if priests are still good for one thing, it's keeping the secrecy of the confessional—you could cop to murder and the old dears wouldn't even turn you over to the police. So look up the act of contrition online (there are dozens of versions, but most begin: "My god, I am heartily sorry for my sins...") and get yourself into a confessional. Spill your guts. You'll feel better. And don't worry about the priest judging you. He's got plenty to be ashamed of—on behalf of his institution and himself. (Check the website of your local diocese for times and places.) BRENDAN KILEY

OLYMPIA PIZZA & SPAGHETTI HOUSE III on Capitol Hill: This is where you're going to get as fat as a cattle. Do you want someone watching you have manicotti bathed in cheese sauce with salad drowning in (the world's very best) blue-cheese dressing, finished off with a cat-sized plate of mud pie? No. You want to walk way to the back of this rail-car-shaped feeding trough until you reach the last booth. Once you're there, order more calories than India consumes in a week. It's okay, nobody can see you. (516 15th Ave E, 329-4500) DOMINIC HOLDEN

KING'S HARDWARE in Ballard: There is a booth in King's Hardware, right near the front window, where one can arrive hungover on a Sunday morning, slouch low enough to feel sheltered (but remain high enough to let the eyes drift lazily on the to-and-fro of street traffic), and discuss important matters with friends, all without much fear of being overheard. It is wooden, without any seductive padding, which makes it the perfect morning booth: protective, sturdy, ready to receive bracingly spiced Bloody Marys, and not so comfortable that you forget there is a whole day ahead, filled with things that must be done. (5225 Ballard Ave NW, 782-0027) ELI SANDERS

GREEN LEAF in the International District: The first question that must be asked is this: Are those giant wooden wagon wheels that hold up the benches in Green Leaf's upstairs booths, or are they steering wheels once used by the captains of Viking ships? Question number two: Why is the most delicious Vietnamese restaurant in all of Seattle dabbling in either of these motifs? Question number three: How do these what-the-fuck stylings somehow end up being the perfect, startlingly cozy complement to lotus root salad and grilled beef with lop leaf? All of these things must be pondered, over spring rolls. (418 Eighth Ave S, 340-1388) ELI SANDERS

BLEU BISTRO on Capitol Hill: If you want you and your dining companion to be closer than in utero conjoined twins, this is your place—umbilical cord not provided, though straws are available with many cocktails. (202 Broadway E, 329-3087) ELI SANDERS

STELLAR PIZZA in Georgetown: It's as if Noah were ordered to build an ark to house samples of all booth life on the planet, and instead he built a delightful pizzeria serving impeccable sourdough crust and then threw all the booths in there. Here at Stellar, you have short booths (red vinyl benches, with backs that cover only a few lower notches of one's spine), all-encompassing wooden booths (equipped with walls so tall they almost constitute private rooms), half-booths (bench against a wall, chairs on the other side of the table), plus padded, quarter-circle booths housing large round tables (at which one quarter of the people get booth seating, while the rest get chairs and feel like the audience at an amphitheater). In any of these booths, it's clear what to order: a Georgetowner and a Corson Classic. (5513 Airport Way S, 763-1660) ELI SANDERS

STUMBLING MONK on Capitol Hill: When you need a lair, you come here, and when you need a booth inside your lair, Stumbling Monk provides. Creaky, high-backed, slightly moist with steam from the same ancient and overworked dishwasher that clouds the windows with water vapor, these are booths to be disappeared into. Also provided, at the bar, are the best beers to hold while disappearing: strong, Belgian, and served in goblets. (1635 E Olive Way, 860-0916) ELI SANDERS

HUDSON in Sodo: The half dozen or so booths here are perfectly fine: clean black wood rigged with modest vinyl seat cushions and low backs, which makes them feel more like a harmonious collection of tables rather than individual pods. What's special is each booth's surroundings: on one side, huge, multipaned windows looking out in three directions on the spare industrial sprawl of East Marginal Way and, beyond that, Puget Sound. On the other, Hudson's lovely bar, which runs through the center of the room like a booze-dispensing heating element. It's a not-huge space, but every seat is a good one. (5000 E Marginal Way S, 767-4777) DAVID SCHMADER

HIGHLINE on Capitol Hill: Deep inside this bar, you'll find a small collection of the funkiest minibooths you've ever eaten vegan pastrami in. Aside from the mininess (each booth seats two), the picnic table–style booths are on a platform that raises them a foot and a half off the floor, requiring a small burst of self-hoisting to enter and affording an elevated view of the surroundings to all who make the leap. These booths are best for Tuesday-night Cakearoke and for having comfortable conversations with people who are standing up while you are sitting down. (210 Broadway E, 328-7837) DAVID SCHMADER

LORETTA'S NORTHWESTERNER in South Park: This low-key place is built for comfort, and the booths are no exception. These utilitarian structures are dressed with funky old lamps and located close enough to the bar to order another round without standing up or screaming. Stay as long as you want—they've got board games and TVs pointing in all directions. (8617 14th Ave S, 327-9649) DAVID SCHMADER

This story has been updated since its original publication.