Here’s the deal. Sitting outside to drink in the sun is overrated. Sunny days, on the other hand, are swell. To illustrate, join us on what should be a mostly sunny Wednesday inside Ba Bar for our June CHS happy hour (RSVP here). The mostly-sunny light will stream into the space illuminating the good people of CHS and readers alike as we celebrate the summer solstice. And there will be drinks. If you are into that kind of thing, below you’ll find a roster of spots outdoor and outdoorish to grab a drink on the Hill.
Please note that these reviews have nothing to do with the food, drinks, or service at any of these establishments. The categories below–Full Frontal Sunlight, Pasties, Wardrobe Malfunction Exposure, and Sun Burkas–are all about the sun access and seating potential. The rest is up to you.
Full Frontal Sunlight
No cover or awning; actual sun-on-skin action at these places.
Linda’s (707 E Pine St.). Pros: One of the largest open courtyards on the Hill; lots of seating. Cons: It fills up WAY early on a nice day. If you’re one of the lucky ones with a table, predatory seat-stalkers will stare daggers at you, like starving, Dickensian children who are desperately in need of a micro-brew.
The Lookout (757 Bellevue Ave E). Pros: View of the Space Pizza Hut (as I call the new paint job of Seattle’s iconic icon). Lovely surrounding trees. Cons: The lovely trees also kind of block the view and the sun. Stoopid nature!
Captain Black’s (129 Belmont Ave). Pros: The two terraces arguably offer the most outdoor seating of any bars/pubs on the Hill. Unobstructed sun access. Cons: In the event of rain, all the folks on the two terraces would somehow have to cram themselves into the small, pirate-themed interior of the bar. Yaaarrgh.
Julia’s (300 Broadway E). Pros: Lots of seating on the open terrace; Broadway people-watching galore. Cons: You may end up ignoring the people you’re with because you’re distracted by the lady in the silver bike shorts with the parrot on her shoulder trying to figure out how to use the parking meter.
Purr Cocktail Lounge (1518 11th Avenue). Pros: On the sunny side of the street in the afternoon, so good ray-soaking potential. Plus, the only gay bar on the Hill with Full Frontal (sun, that is…) that’s open during the day. Cons: Only three tables outside.
The following offer partial sun exposure (but it also speaks to the customers’ probable pallor, so it works on a few levels…).
The Highline (210 Broadway Ave E). Pros: For an enclosed, under-concrete terrace, this place gets flashed with some surprisingly lusty sunbeams. It helps that it’s on the right side of the street for afternoon sun. Cons: When the sun’s not at the right angle, it might feel more indoorsy than outdoorsy.
Saint John’s Bar & Eatery (719 E Pike St). Pros: A lovely outdoor area that feels a bit like a grotto. (Full Disclosure: I’m not entirely sure what a grotto is, but it reminds me of one nonetheless.) Quiet and peaceful, it’s a good place to go to after work to have long, philosophical conversations and/or to gossip about that weird guy in Accounts Receivable who always wears a Tricorder on his belt. Cons: It’s pretty much entirely in the shade (could be pro, depending on your POV). I’ve only been there after 4PM, and even on a sunny day, it’s very, very shady. Not “Earn big $$$ working from home!1!!” shady—the other kind.
The Summit Public House (601 Summit Ave E). Pros: There’s decent-sized terrace, but your sun exposure is minimal unless you can do some Cirque de Soliel-style contortionism as you sit on the tables underneath the wide awning. Cons: Seating is only picnic tables, so if there are less than three people in your party, you might be glared at by larger seat-stalking groups.
Capitol Club (414 East Pine). A second-floor terrace with a few tables. Pros: Views of highway police chases! Cons: Views of highway police chases.
The Grill on Broadway (314 Broadway E). Pros: Lots of tables; on the sunny side of the street. Cons: It’s really more of a restaurant than a bar, so I feel a bit evil for taking up a whole table if nobody in my part plans on ordering food.
Wardrobe Malfunction Exposure
Places that offer brief and/or occasional (yet titillating!) contact with the sun.
DeLuxe Bar and Grill (625 Broadway Ave E). Pros: Four tables of various sizes, including an adorable one-or-two-person-sized picnic table that I’m sitting at as I type this. There’s a narrow cloth awning with gaps between the panels, so you get some peek-a-boo sunbeams. Cons: The place caused me to use the term “peek-a-boo.” Egads.
The Lobby Bar (916 East Pike St.). On both levels, you have seating with kinda-sorta-almost-not-quite access to sunlight. But for a few hours in the late afternoon, when the sun is at the right angle, it’s almost like being outside. Pros: If you play your cards right, you can get a farmer’s tan on one of your arms. Cons: You’ll have a farmers tan on one of your arms.
The Pine Box (1600 Melrose Ave). When I was here a few weeks ago, there were two picnic tables set up in the wee patch of the former hearse driveway that’s fully exposed to the sun. It was nice. I recently returned on another sunny-ish day, and the in-the-sun tables weren’t there. Pros: Dead celebrities used to love this space, back when it was a hearse loading dock! Plus, Adrian Grenier (who, apparently, is still alive) was recently spotted here. (Remember that show Entourage? Yeah, I also thought got cancelled, like, a thousand years ago. Anyway, that guy.) Cons: The rest of the “outdoor” tables are enclosed in concrete on all but one side, so you feel like you’re in a former hearse loading dock (oh, wait…). That, and you might run into Adrian Grenier.
Some people have an odd definition of “outdoors”...
Poquitos (1000 E. Pike St.). Nice atrium with fire pits, plenty of seating—a fine place to enjoy a beverage. There’s even one wall of windows that’s opened up when the weather is nice. BUT! It’s not outdoors. In all fairness, I don’t think anyone at the restaurant calls it outdoors, although many patrons describe it as such. It’s indoors–just with a really big open window.
22 (405 15th Ave E). Again, a very nice mostly-enclosed patio; I’ve sat out there many times. But, seriously–other than a gap in the roof that lets in the breeze (but not the rain), it’s just like being indoors, only cooler (literally and metaphorically).
Coastal Kitchen (429 15th Ave E). After waiting 40 minutes for the popular weekend brunch, you’ll be glad you’re finally seated, even in this “outdoor” area that’s under an awning and surrounded by a wall. Order some milk, since you’re not getting any Vitamin D from the sun.
Before you write a Sternly Worded Letter about all the spots I missed, let me remind you that this is not a comprehensive list! In the interest of space, I didn’t include any coffee shops with outdoor seating, for instance. And I’m sure there are plenty I don’t know about.