Seattle: Best of Belltown

Just north of downtown, Belltown is a vibrant neighborhood full of great dining — both fancy and casual — plus bars, clubs, and shopping. If you’re ready to put on your dancing shoes, head to Belltown for a night out.

2200 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA 98121, USA
First, some history: The original Crocodile Café venue opened in the early 1990s and was owned by Stephanie Dorgan, who later married R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck, and he became a co-owner. They divorced in 2006, and the Crocodile Café closed unexpectedly in 2007. A group of investors purchased and reopened the venue as the Crocodile in 2009, after giving it a decidedly swanky new face-lift. So it’s not exactly the long-running (and run-down) club that once hosted legendary grunge-rock bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Dinosaur Jr, Mudhoney, and Alice In Chains, as well as Death Cab for Cutie, Yoko Ono, Sleater-Kinney, R.E.M., Built to Spill, Neutral Milk Hotel, and the Beastie Boys. Still, the new Crocodile Café is alive and well, offering rock shows, karaoke, DJ nights, and more. The back bar pizzeria serves wood-fired pizza, salads, and meatball sandwiches, so you can dodge that awful opening band and grab a bite while you’re waiting for your favorite band to go on.
2322 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA 98121, USA
Part restaurant and part performance venue, the Rendezvous is a full night out in one cozy spot. The restaurant has typical bar food (burgers, salads, deep-fried snacks) that’s basic but good; happy hour goes from 3-6 pm daily with food specials. The tiny Jewelbox Theatre is an intimate cabaret-style theatre, where you’ll find everything from burlesque to comedy variety shows to live music and theater. They also have two excellent private rental rooms for parties. Upstairs, the Red Velvet Lounge looks out onto the main dining floor and has its own sound system. Downstairs, the basement-level Grotto is a dark, red-lit cave with its own private bar and plenty of room for dancing.
1932 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA 98101, USA
A couple of doors down from Fancy (see what they did there?), Schmancy is a whimsical little shop full of toys for kids of all ages. Novelties like food-shaped plush toys, finger puppets, mini knitting kits, Kidrobot figurines, and Japanese blind-box mystery toys crowd the shelves, so there’s plenty to look at in this tiny store. Owner Kristen Rask is also the founder and curator of Plush You!, an annual exhibit that showcases plush creations from artists all over the globe, and has authored several craft books for plush toy crafters. Whether you’re looking for a kooky housewarming gift or trying to win a kid’s eternal admiration, Schmancy has the stuff you never even knew you needed.
2222 2nd Ave Ste.100, Seattle, WA 98121, USA
You know a bar is serious about craft cocktails when they publish their bitters menu on their website. Clever Bottle has an impressive roster: sunshine bitters, X-mas Tree, chocolate, sunshine, cinnamon spice, bluebell flowers, apricot brandy, rose, and peach rosemary. Their cocktail menu is longer than the food menu, though it does feature some unique offerings like goat cheese truffles, Salumi salami, and Beecher’s mac and cheese. During happy hour, craft cocktails are $7 (normally $8-10), house wine is $6, and all beer $1 off. Inside, the bar is stylishly minimal, with a hardwood bar and tables and vintage wine bottles on display. When other Belltown bars are jam-packed, Clever Bottle is a quiet and sophisticated alternative.
1914 2nd Avenue
Just down the block from Schmancy (get it?), Fancy is a charming little jewelry boutique with gorgeous, modern jewelry and art. They’re a Seattle-based company focused on producing high-quality jewelry that is 100% handmade of ethically sourced materials: all precious metals are recycled, and all gemstones and diamonds are either repurposed or Kimberly Process approved. Prices start below $100 and go up quickly, so if you can’t afford a broken heart, don’t go in and fall in love with their high-end and beautifully made designer pieces.
2311 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA 98121, USA
Wasabi Bistro is everything you’d expect of a sushi joint in Belltown: elegant, modern decor, high-quality fish, and expensive prices. In addition to three pages of flagrantly inauthentic sushi, like the Geisha on Vacation roll (spicy crab, asparagus, pineapple, cream cheese, served tempura style and topped with coconut sweet chili sauce), they also have more restrained traditional sushi and rolls. There’s also a handful of cooked entrees for non-sushi-eaters who find themselves here. Happy hour is 4-6 p.m., and again at 10 p.m. on weeknights and 11 p.m. on weekends. Selected beer, sake, and wine is $4-5, plus food specials and three-roll combos for $14. Vegetarian and gluten-free options available. Reservations recommended for dinner.
2504 4th Avenue
Seattleites have no lack of choices when it comes to independent coffee roasters — and their neighborhood cafes. Known as the “Home of the Velvet Foam,” Uptown Espresso is so enamored of their rich, velvety steamed milk that they’ve even named their signature coffee blend after it. If you’re feeling exotic, try one of their fancier drinks, like the Caffe Generra (mocha with orange zest) or their rich hot chocolate, topped with whipped cream or velvet foam… or both.They also bake their own biscotti, croissants, muffins, and other pastries for your sugar fix. The West Seattle location is quiet and spacious, with indoor and outdoor seating, perfect for settling in with a book or working quietly on a laptop while you caffeinate.
2300 1st Ave, Seattle, WA 98121, USA
Endless Knot is a fun and stylish women’s clothing boutique in Belltown carrying mostly independent and local designers, including Seattle label Prairie Underground. Expect boutique prices, but you can find colorful, pretty separates and dresses for under $100 with a bit of digging, and there’s a sale rack in back. The bags and jewelry are simple, modern classics that you’ll be tempted to wear out of the store, and they have inexpensive coats and jackets in case you didn’t bring the right outerwear to Seattle.
2226 1st Ave, Seattle, WA 98121, USA
“Seattle’s best happy hour” is not a title to be bestowed lightly, but List has more than its share of devotees. And with good reason: their happy hour features half off the food menu, plus discounted beer and wine. List serves Italian food with a focus on seafood, and it’s an excellent value at happy hour. We loved the gnocchi with black truffle cream, spicy meatballs, and cannelloni with spinach and ricotta. Unsurprisingly, List fills up quickly on the weekends, but if you stop by early, you can settle in, admire the modern decor and striking red chandeliers, and watch the plates pile up with delicious deals. Their happy hour is all day Sunday and Monday, and 4 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday (with a late happy hour Tuesday through Thursday from 9 to midnight).
2121 1st Ave #101, Seattle, WA 98121, USA
Love designer labels, but not the high price tags? You could snap up a bargain at Sell Your Sole Consignment Boutique. The Belltown shop features separates, dresses, jewelry (including new, Northwest-made pieces), and accessories on the first floor, with a cozy shoe loft on the second floor featuring a comfy couch and an enormous full-length mirror inviting you to try on Jimmy Choos, Manolos, and more. Their inventory is in immaculate condition, and some items are even new with tags on. The storefront is inside a building and set back from the street, so keep your eyes peeled for their sign out front and rest assured that a high-end haven lies within.
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