Way back when, before downtown Bellevue was overrun by mega-restaurant chains, there was a cavernous lounge in the back of Daniel’s Broiler called Havana Dan’s, where moneyed Eastsiders puffed on expensive cigars.
This cigar bar closed in 2005 after the indoor smoking ban passed. But it found a second life as a wine bar, the Vintage Lounge, where Seahawks players watched SportsCenter and Microsoft dudes in skinny jeans toasted on Leonetti and Robert Parker’s 90-point reds.
Well, cocktails are big now, and the folks behind Daniel’s Broiler are nothing if not an adaptive bunch. Vintage Lounge this summer was rebranded as Prime 21 Lounge, a swanky whiskey and craft cocktail bar, with beautiful wait staff in chic black uniforms.
Prime 21, like other Bellevue newcomers Bar Code and The Habitant at Nordstrom, pushes an ambitious cocktail program more associated with booze rooms on Capitol Hill.
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It’s a souped-up man cave, with games shown on flat screens, whiskeys studding the wall like trophies and chain-link curtains around banquettes for privacy.
The bar boasts bourbons that Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve and Eagle Rare distilleries made exclusively for this local steakhouse chain. There’s also a stellar collection of whiskeys including a Weller Antique and a Thomas Handy Sazerac rye. Many cost $3 to $5 more than what you would pay at a bar in Seattle, but the Old Rip Van Winkle, 10 year for $12? That’s a deal. Grab it while you can. With all those ambers, Prime 21 shines more as a whiskey bar than it does as a cocktail lounge.
The drink menu focuses on cocktails from the turn of the past century, but the bartenders haven’t grasped the bartending fundamentals. A Manhattan was served with floating ice flakes because the drink wasn’t strained properly. A couple of cocktails weren’t that cold because the bartenders didn’t shake them enough.
This steakhouse has two bars, so there can be some confusion. The main bar by the dining room is where Daniel’s popular happy hour takes place. But even if you sit in the back at Prime 21 you can request the $8 cocktails and other happy-hour specials though the deals aren’t on Prime 21’s menu.
Prime 21 Lounge, inside Daniel’s Broiler, 10500 N.E. Eighth St., Bellevue (21st floor), is open from 4 p.m. to about midnight Sunday through Thursday and from 4 p.m. to about 1 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Happy hour runs from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and from 9 p.m. to closing with $8 martinis and Manhattans, $3 off on wine and $1 off on beer (425-462-4662 or www.schwartzbros.com/daniels-broiler/daniels-bellevue).
Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @tanvinhseattle