The five best dive bars in Seattle, Washington, from Kurt Cobain’s favorite hangout to a pizza shop serving alcohol.
Bartender extraordinaire Abigail Gullo knows the #1 way to get to know a city is through its dive bars.
In fact, Gullo has been doing research and development on the best bars in the country for a long time—and as a former resident of New York and New Orleans, she’s been a customer at some of the best, too. “I was always obsessed with classic cocktails as a kid and would collect diner placemats featuring old cocktails so I could pretend to make Pink Ladys and Rob Roys at home.”
“Seattle is actually a working-class town that has only recently become Amazonia.”
Despite moving to Seattle just a year ago, she’s already made the city her home—and as the current bar manager at Ben Paris inside The State Hotel, it didn’t take her long to figure out which ones she’d make her go-tos.
“Seattle is actually a working-class town that has only recently become Amazonia,” she says. “It’s a blue-collar town with a new nerdy coat—and both these groups can appreciate a well-made Old Fashioned.”
Seattle may be changing rapidly, but fortunately for Gullo, the dive bars aren’t going anywhere. Below, she shares the dive bars that have made her feel most at home in Washington State.
“I was spoiled by my dive bars in New Orleans because many of them still knew how to make a great cocktail. I have found my locals here in Seattle to be the same! The Hideout on First Hill is covered in art and looks like a dive bar, but the drink program is top-notch. Whether I need a Radler or a tallboy of Rainier after biking up the hill or a fancy cocktail, The Hideout’s wonderful bartenders have what I need.”
“I briefly lived in Ballard, and after being traumatized by the crowds at Trader Joe’s, I stumbled into an oasis of divey-ness that made my heart soar. Mike’s Chili Parlor is an institution. Since the 1920s when they fed chili to the Greek dockworkers in the neighborhood, this family has been bringing dive hospitality to this corner of Seattle. It’s cash only and has a great jukebox. Hot chili, a cold beer, and a Saints game on the TV—this quickly became my favorite dining spot. Who needs that Trader Joe’s food, anyway?”
“Mike’s Chili Parlor is an institution.”
“As a born and bred New Yorker, I take my pizza very seriously. When I moved to the Capitol Hill neighborhood, I did a self-guided pizza walking tour to determine the best NYC-style pie for when those cravings hit. The winner, hands down, was Big Mario’s. Not only are the slices perfection, but there’s also a dive bar in the back that looks like it’s one pushed-back stool away from dissolving into a punk rock bar fight—and I am here for it! (As a born-and-bred New Yorker, I also take punk rock bar fights very seriously.)”
“I have two very New Orleans dogs, which means they are quite comfortable in a bar seat. We found our doggie dive bar just a few blocks from our house: Linda’s Tavern is dog-friendly so long as they are well behaved, like my angels. It was Kurt Cobain’s favorite dive bar, too—I wonder if he loved the chicken sandwich as much as we do? Great beer, awesome soundtrack, cute dog shirts. If I squint, I can pretend I am Bridget Fonda waiting on her grunge boyfriend, Matt Dillon, from Singles. Le sigh.“
“I can pretend I am Bridget Fonda waiting on her grunge boyfriend Matt Dillon from Singles.”
“I love good Chinese food but don’t care for the shiny new places. New Luck Toy in West Seattle is my favorite place to get lost for an afternoon. The bar service is gruff—a dive bar staple. They also have daiquiri machines! People call them “slushies” elsewhere, but the daiquiri is a New Orleans dive bar staple I miss so much. Plus, they have Stewie Family Guy Pinball, my all-time favorite pinball machine from my all-time favorite dive, the late, great Magnetic Fields in Brooklyn, New York.”