The Hideout is hidden in plain sight on a little stretch of nowhere on Pill Hill. Discussion of its whereabouts almost always causes confusion; hardly anyone remembers the space's former occupant, Cafe Otis, an ill-fated enterprise named after a dog. There's no sign, other than a quietly lurid neon "COCKTAILS" that's oddly easy to drive or walk right by (though it's difficult to imagine why you'd be walking here, unless you're on your way to get an MRI or something).

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The Hideout is like a dream, if your dreams tend toward velvet curtains and midgets talking backward. Giant crystal chandeliers illuminate dried-blood-red walls patchworked with art, European-salon style; giant crystal ashtrays punctuate the bar. Low tables made of monumental slabs of aquamarine glass sit along a banquette down one wall. Nothing's frayed, yet there's a tatter to it all, like it's been there forever, waiting for you.

The Hideout is smarter than your average bar. It's the brainchild of Greg Lundgren—the salon for his Vital 5 Productions art organization. Seattle's art intelligentsia usually end up packed in here after openings elsewhere; patrons play Concentration with the paintings (all by Northwest artists), picking out what's new, and hearsay about them circulates like gossip. An arresting, noirish portrait of a '40s beauty (not for sale) is rumored to have been found at a garage sale; Lundgren's father painted the gleeful, dark little abstract that seems to address the topic of clowns (also not for sale) in the only sensible manner possible. You're encouraged to take a clipboard off the wall at one end of the bar and write, draw, or stain a contribution to the Hideout's new journal, The Vital 5 Review, "an experiment in alcohol-based editorial" (a mission this column wholeheartedly endorses). Instead of CD covers, the jukebox is filled with miniature pieces of art for sale, and if you locate the spiral-bound book that tells you what's what, you'll also have a list of all the songs the jukebox plays for free.

The Hideout also has a sense of humor. Specialty drinks include the Hemingway ($10)—a shot of Hornitos, a bottle of Dos Equis, and a Nat Sherman cigarette—and the Andy Warhol ($9), your personal 15 minutes of fame in the form of a Cosmopolitan and a Polaroid photo of you. The drinks are deep, the bartenders are funny, and burned-out candles replace themselves magically.

The only thing to eat at the Hideout, other than free wasabi-coated peas and the chocolate truffles that come with the Elizabeth Taylor, is a cheese plate ($6.50/$8). The cheeses—Jarlsberg, Cambozola, and an aged cheddar— represent the midrange: nothing to get worked up about, but highly satisfactory. After a recent early-evening visit, the paper on my Review clipboard had only a simple diagram:

Bad mood➔Hideout + cheese➔Marked improvement.

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The Hideout is at 1005 Boren Ave, 903-8480. There's parking behind the building for $3.

bethany@thestranger.com