Joe Russell spent eight years pouring drinks at Kells in Pike Place Market, but nowadays he spends almost every waking hour at his four-month-old namesake bar, Russell's (4111 Stone Way N, 547-1653). As it begins to shed that new-bar smell in favor of a surprisingly nonalcoholic aroma of pretzels and pie (the latter baked fresh daily by one of the bartenders), Russell's gives Wallingford a minimalistic watering hole with local wine on tap and a best-selling rye old-fashioned. "No relation, just a coincidence," Joe says as he points out a row of 30 or so empty Russell's brand whiskey bottles lining the back bar. "We are officially the number-one seller in Washington." Pointing out the retro red refrigerator and photos of family pickup trucks, accents that echo his childhood growing up near Spokane, Joe says that his place was designed "to feel like you're hanging out in an [auto] shop, without hanging greasy car parts on the wall."
When Joe manages to escape for a drink beyond his own bar, he's drawn to the good service, liters of Veltins, and frequent-drinker rewards at German beer haven Prost (7311 Greenwood Ave N, 706-5430). "They have punch cards—one punch for every half liter of beer you drink, 50 punches per card, and after you accumulate a certain number of cards, you get little things like your own stein, which they keep behind the bar for you. Eventually, you can get your name on a seat, and there's a tattoo." Russell's on his seventh punch card, and he says some Prost regulars have "like 45."