Congratulations! You're single! Or you're polyamorous? Or you're a unicorn? Whatever the case, you're on your phone and you're looking for love.
But once you find a match, where do you go on that first date? You can't stop by the place you always go, unless you want to have this awkward conversation with all your friends: "Oh, hey, friend! Uh. Yeah, this person claims to be Terry. We're just, you know, tacitly admitting to each other that we've outsourced our romantic lives to an application on our phone. Okay bye!"
Obviously, you want to go to a place that you like but don't often frequent, a place that reflects your rich interior, but also one that doesn't give too much away. Someone recently asked for my short list of such places. Depending on what your regular spots are, results may vary.
1432 Western Ave, 206-209-2239
Perfect second location. It's nautical but not nauseating. There are candles but not too many candles. It's weirdly located, so it's not often packed in the evening's later hours. The clientele keep to themselves, but, as the great David Dondero says in the song "Summertime Suicide No. 1," people tend to let a little conversation breathe.
Jesse is your man behind the bar on the weekends. He's efficient and cordial, and he has an excellent sense of personal space. He'll remember your drink, even if it's been a couple of weeks, and he'll shake your hand when you leave. He's always playing some R&B or soul music at low volume.
You cannot beat this bar after 10 p.m., which is when the late-night happy hour starts. You know those Marcona almonds you love so much? You get a bunch of them in a cute jar for $3. You can also get octopus and other light food from the sea in a tin! In. A. Tin!
A huge pork leg perches in a special pork-leg holder at the far end of the bar. If you don't have a Tinder date, you can snuggle up next to that thing.
2328 E Madison St, 206-323-1098
"Everybody forgets about the BottleNeck," says Whitney Bashaw, a fine writer and one of my favorite baristas. She's right. This neighborhood dive would be a good setting for an indie movie about a ska band. It's cheap, dark, and full of regulars you've never met. Happy hour is Monday to Friday from 4 to 6 p.m., and includes $4 drafts and wells, and $5 glasses of wine. There are also Manhattan Mondays ($6 Evan Williams bourbon manhattans, 4 p.m.–2 a.m.) and Twelve Buck Tuesdays ($12 for select bottles of wine, 4 p.m.–2 a.m.).
422 E Pine St, 206-324-0506
This place is a Tinder date factory. Most of the tables are easy-exit two-tops. The house is huge and also has many hideaway sections. You could technically go on two dates at the same time in this place and no one would suspect anything.
Go when it's packed. (Happy hour is 4–6 p.m. weekdays, 3–6 p.m. weekends.) The high ceilings swallow all the noise, so the people next to you, even if they're close, can't hear how bored you sound as you relay the condensed history of your life for the third evening in a row.
The dinner is $12 and the non-happy-hour drinks are about the same price, which is cruel. But the mescal selection is good, and the bartenders are quick to announce their favorites, which is helpful. The salsa bar, the servers will never let you forget, is right by the door. If the date is going poorly, you can always "top off the tomatillo tub" and bolt.
1501 Western Ave, #202, 206-625-1146
The Zig Zag is one of those Seattle institutions that everyone assumes will be around forever, and so they never go. Sea breezes perfume the verdant patio and accidentally pair well with your $12 house cocktail ($4 off during happy hour, 5–7 p.m., Monday–Friday). Everyone knows that this place has the best cocktails. The staff is always friendly, knowledgeable, and unobtrusive.
601 Broadway E, 206-420-8488
This place has a lot going for it. The drinks are powerful (happy hour is 4–6 p.m. daily) and the ice cream is made in house. It's very dark, there are lots of intimate table-for-two situations, and there's also a nice little low-key but sort of cosmopolitan patio situation. Plus, the place is still new enough that none of your idiot friends go there yet, and it's far enough away from the Pike/Pine corridor that it doesn't swell with randos on the weekends.
I ran this list by someone else at work, our office manager Evanne Hall, and she had a few suggestions, too.
7517 Aurora Ave N, 206-782-2337
"For North End beer nerds."
315 N 36th St, #2b, 206-696-1613
3421 Fremont Ave N, 206-633-2671
"Good for couples who want to judge other couples."
2311 NW Market St, 206-783-0478
"There's a peep-show diorama upstairs."
2325 NW Market St, 206-784-0699
"Dark. Little plates. Hot."