Naga Lounge or Lot No. 3? Those are the drink dens most bar hoppers frequent when they think craft cocktail in Bellevue.
It’s still a Cosmo-and-candy-cocktail kind of town. It’s still the only city I’ve been to where folks still order Long Island Iced Tea and Harvey Wallbangers in abundance (but to be fair, I don’t hang out in Daytona Beach …).
But, three Bellevue bars that debuted in the past 10 months certainly think Eastside tastes can be redeemed — and they’re bringing the cocktail renaissance across the bridge. Call it the “It’s 520 somewhere” movement.
I found my Manhattans and craft cocktails in the most unsuspecting places last year in Bellevue. For one, at Nordstrom by the $198 low-rise jeans. Yes, Nordstrom in Bellevue Square has a cocktail bar, The Habitant. And I stopped by Daniel’s Broiler nearby only to find that its wine bar was replaced by a lounge featuring Prohibition-era drinks.
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But the best of the newcomers is Bar Code. It’s three blocks north of the Bellevue retail hub but seems miles away from the typical area bar.
If you went by its drink menu alone, you would have sworn this was a cocktail crib on Capitol Hill. There’s mescal and chartreuse, the “in” ingredients of hipsters and cocktail geeks. There’s half-price Whisky Wednesday and a special drink list showcasing booze from local distilleries.
It’s an uncompromising menu, designed for serious cocktail drinkers — with gin infused with Cinchona Bark and barreled aged Cachaca and served with fancy ice cubes.
Rows of rare tinctures and bitters stud the shelves. Drinks fall on the bitter and boozy side, instead of sweet and fruity.
The drinks I had were nuanced and ambitious, including a spicy rye cocktail with a hint of smoky mescal, the habernos bitter dialed down with fresh-squeezed orange and lime juice. There’s also a rum-and-rye cocktail with walnut liqueur, sherry vinegar, maple syrup and chocolate bitters, which, made by an inexperienced hand, would overwhelm your palate. Here, it’s deftly done, not overworked. There’s a nice wintry play on a Manhattan with hints of cacao nib.
Bar Code doesn’t have much of a kitchen, though the food is serviceable — a BLT, truffle popcorn and some gooey, meaty flatbread. Food is secondary. It’s all about the craft cocktails, however lonely that crusade may seem in Bellevue.
Bar Code, 1020 108th Ave. N.E., Suite 100, offers happy hour Tuesday-Saturday (note: closed Sunday and Monday) 4- 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. to closing, with $6-$7 cocktails, $5-$6 wine and $5-$6 bar snacks. Limited street parking but Bar Code has free garage parking nearby at the corner of Northeast 11th Street and 108th Avenue. Check website for parking instructions (425 455-4278 www.barcodebellevue.com/default.aspx).
Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @tanvinhseattle