Seattle's Least Expected Great Decks
Getting there is the strange part—which is why it's a Seattle secret that only the tourists know about. Reaching the front door entails walking through Miner's Landing, a stunningly tacky, noisy mall on the Seattle waterfront that runs the length of Pier 57 and evokes Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Gold-rush-themed but also somewhat nautically inspired, Miner's Landing features giant wooden sculptures of fishermen with enormous faces, families posing for photos around said wooden fishermen, incessant organ-grinder music blaring from a carousel, a carousel, an arcade, a gift shop packed with yeti dolls, the smell of fake-buttered popcorn and cotton candy mixed with creosote, every child ever born, strollers emanating the sounds of grief, fatigued mothers, an old-West-themed food court, about a kilometer of neon, a gauntlet of taxidermied animals (including a moose, several pheasants, a whole turkey, at least two elk, various mountain goats, a small bear, and one ram), and one African import store (every mall must have one). But after you navigate all that? At the end of this pier is the Fisherman's Restaurant & Bar, which contains two massive brick patios (more than 80 tables between two levels) that jut out into Elliott Bay next to the Great Wheel. Bedecked with umbrellas, the seating is shady and the views are unbeatable: ferries, mountains, water, the whole Seattle thing. And it's inexpensive, and it's got lots of beer on tap, a full bar, and a happy hour, and—most of all—it feels nothing like the rest of Miner's Landing. DOMINIC HOLDEN
If there were a joint like Add-a-Ball anywhere near my high school, the truancy rate would have gone through the roof and the average GPA would have dropped by at least a point and a half (and some enterprising student would've done a booming trade in fake IDs). This cement bunker full of vintage pinball machines and video games—and a few oddball combos of the two, such as the early-'80s game Zeke's Peak—is like the rumpus room of your fantasies, with cheap beer, an almost aggressively unfussy crowd, and a nice little corral of a patio to get occasional hits of vitamin D in between your button-and-joystick binges. We're not saying the people of Add-a-Ball are permissive about marijuana, but there's a convenient and spacious alley just around the corner, and your nose will tell you what people use it for. Because Add-a-Ball is just off the Burke-Gilman Trail, it's a delightful afternoon biking destination—just that little bit of exercise you need to justify frittering away a few juvenile hours with arcade games and booze. BRENDAN KILEY
Psssst: The patio at The Station cafe on Beacon Hill looks like nothing special. The essentials are all here: shade, potted plants, tables, and adequate seating. But it's small, tucked between two streets, and there's no view except down an alleyway between two houses. No matter—this is one of the finest patios in Seattle. You will find generous humans of all ages and walks of life, plus a smattering of tail-wagging, four-legged animal companions. You'll bump into and chat with local hiphop luminaries/cultural change-makers like Gabriel Teodros. The baristas, usually owner Luis Rodriguez or Waylon Dungan (aka DJ WD4D), want to hear what's up with you, not just make your coffee (get the Mexican mocha). The back patio offers solace: a gentle breeze, a hidden-away sensation. Drop by for tamales and homemade pastries, to get through your e-mails, to read a book, whatever—and while you do, the community vibes will nourish your soul. ANSEL HERZ
Naked City Brewery has the best kind of outdoor area that a lover of the city—a lover of what it means to be in and all about the urban—could ever imagine. It's not that it's fancy or anything (its furniture is plain picnic tables under equally plain but large umbrellas), or that it is beautifully designed (though it does have a few well-placed trees), or that it boasts a great view (though it does have colorful murals on its main walls). What makes this place so special is that it was once a parking lot—meaning once a space for cars and not for people. And any establishment that takes space away from cars (their storage, or even their movement) and hands it over to people, to social activities such as drinking and eating, deserves our deepest admiration. Indeed, every parking lot that's reclaimed in this way is a victory for Seattle. Naked City also has a lovely owner, great beers, and a decent house white wine. CHARLES MUDEDE
Bottlehouse is a winkingly quaint, tiny venue in the heart of Madrona, a yuppie-leaning "urban winery, tasting bar & shoppe" that's also a sneakily cheap spot to grab a baguette sandwich, perfectly seasoned olives, and/or artisanally seasoned nuts (they're a thing!). My friend and I managed to snag a gorgeous rosé and a glass of full-bodied Bordeaux, along with three delicious cheeses and cuts of Columbia City Bakery baguette on which to smear them, all for 20 bucks. "Humboldt Fog," despite its name, is a deliciously stinky blue cheese from Cypress Grove, not a sense-annihilating strain of pot, and comes highly recommended.
The patio's equipped with one strategically placed mosquito-repelling lamp and a mix of crowd-appeasing indie rock that could soundtrack everything from a yogurt to a yoga-pants commercial. If you don't quite have the cash but still want to seem classy, this is the perfect out-of-the-way, little-known spot to impress your date. KYLE FLECK
The outdoor seating at Empire Espresso—a charming cafe in the heart of Columbia City—is in the corner of a concrete court enclosed by one of the best-designed new buildings in the area (Columbia City Live Aboves, by the firm Arellano/Christofides). A simple chain marks out the seating space, which contains metal tables and chairs. What makes the place special, particularly during happy hour (4 to 7 p.m.), is its complete lack of ostentation. The courtyard, like the brick apartments and office spaces that surround it, seems to be very at home in Columbia City; nothing here is garishly celebrating the forces of change, urban improvement, and so on. What you are enjoying here is the feeling of being in one of the most interesting neighborhoods in the city, but not getting too excited about it. All sorts of people visit the cafe, and the owners and workers play all sorts of interesting music, which drifts out into the courtyard. The courtyard can also be accessed by way of a very nice, narrow alley. People walking up from Rainier Avenue appear in this alley, either heading home or coming to take part in this little part of our city. CHARLES MUDEDE