With all the watering holes across the city, I couldn’t think of a popular enclave that didn’t have its own neighborhood bar. But Brian Claudio Smith found real estate along the quiet Sunset Hill drag of Ballard and pounced on it. Baker’s is one of the big craft-cocktail bar openings this year, adjacent to one of the city’s top restaurant openings this year, Samara.
This neighborhood has never looked more lively. Last Friday night, I popped into Baker’s and was shooed away and wasn’t allowed to wait since the place was jampacked. I then walked next door to Samara and the party ahead of us was told its wait would be 20 minutes.
To Sunset Hill readers who have been hankering for this moment — be careful what you wish for. Hot spots also bring parking congestion and the noise level ratchets up a few decibels on Friday and Saturday nights.
Bar owner Smith used to work at the Hunt Club on First Hill and then bounced around bars and restaurants in Denver and Brooklyn before returning home to open Baker’s, a 20-seat bar (and come summer, about 30 more seats in the garden patio).
He consulted with Matt Janke and Cody Westerfield of Lecosho on the food — lots of charcuterie, cheese and easy small plates, so the small kitchen doesn’t have to do the heavy lifting.
At its heart, Baker’s is a craft-cocktail bar, with a 24-drink menu, divided into three sections: Prohibition era and the classics, aperitifs and original cocktails conceived by Smith and his bar staff. It’s a drink list that’s more ambitious than any neighborhood bar needs it to be. Smith swears he isn’t aiming to be a cocktail destination like Canon.
“What will keep the lights on is the locals,” Smith said.
Most cocktails are priced around $10-$12, about a couple of bucks cheaper than on Capitol Hill or other parts of Ballard.
6408 32nd Ave. N.W. (Ballard), Seattle; bakerseattle.com
The highly anticipated pisco bar that’s supposed to debut in Columbia City is still in a holding pattern. But this Peruvian bar is open in Belltown. There’s not a deep bench of piscos behind the bar, but the cocktail list features Peruvian classics such as pisco sours and Chilcano (Pisco Moscow Mule). Overall, Imperial Lounge hews closer to a mainstream drink program (lots of whiskey bottles) than it is Peruvian-themed. Food is South America and pan-Latin with ceviche and other comfort food. It’s some of the better cheap bar food I’ve had in recent months — the Chicharrón sandwich, a slab of pork roasted and charred and spread with sweet potato and mayo and served on a fresh baguette, and the Latin American street food Salchipapas with coins of frankfurter served over a bed of mustardy fries. Go during happy hour when the food ($5-$10) is discounted. Happy hour runs 2-6 p.m. daily and again midnight-2 a.m.
2400 First Ave. (Belltown), Seattle; 206-259-7000, imperialloungeseattle.com/
This spacious, kitschy faux-Polynesian theme bar is outfitted to resemble an isle of straw huts, and apparently because you can never get enough tiki, there’s a hidden backroom that reveals — wait for it — a second tiki bar! The soundtrack is stuck in the ’70s. The rum collection and tropical cocktail menu are modest compared to the bars that run Tiki Tuesday around Capitol Hill. But Georgetown has always been more of a dive bar and brew hub anyway. This is the old space of Brass Tack restaurant, so the large, open kitchen remains, which the owners took advantage of by featuring an extensive menu of Asian-inspired and tiki staples such as Spam musubi, Chinese doughnuts, fried rice and “Drunken to-fu,” the last is dashi broth with tofu and mochi. The taco-and-tequila spot that’s attached to Sneaky Tiki, Tu Cantinas, remains open.
6031 Airport Way S., Seattle; 206-914-2611, On Facebook