The Swallow

This LGBTQ bar has been one of the surprise hits this year, drawing crowds late at night along a usually quiet strip of White Center, with drag shows and techno, punk and disco parties on Fridays and Saturdays. The spot has created enough buzz from the LGBTQ community that The Swallow started opening on Mondays and will soon turn its back parking lot into a 25-seat patio.

The backers are veterans of the Capitol Hill nightlife scene — Barry Smith, who manages the Cha Cha Lounge, and Marcus Wilson, the founder and former art director of the Pony bar. Thai Tran, formerly of Microsoft, also has a stake in the bar. “We had been looking at Capitol Hill, but Capitol Hill has been tapped out and so expensive, Smith said. “I think a lot of gay people are moving away — farther south, and I think that is where our opportunity is.”

Smith credits the Lumber Yard Bar, located across the street, for bringing the gay scene here. The Lumber Yard, billed as White Center’s first gay bar, draws as big a crowd as any LGBTQ bars on Capitol Hill since it debuted last year. Smith hopes his bar can add to that. With pictures of sailors in their birthday suits all over the walls, The Swallow is a nautical-themed bar, or as Smith quipped, a “naughty-cal” bar.

9608 16th S.W.; 206-257-0217,

addo: 206

Chef Eric Rivera has taken over the bar space vacated by Oaky’s Tex Mex in Interbay. Rivera, who has worked at Chicago’s Alinea under famed chef Grant Achatz, does his take on bar food — from his homage to the Dick’s Deluxe burger, to his pork Jibarito sandwich, where two slabs of fried plantains serve as buns.

Look for his special events: from Taco Tiempo, a seven-course gourmet taco tasting, to “Three Dog Night,” where Rivera does a Chicago Dog, Seattle dog and his own take on the ballpark classic.

addo:206 sits in the Batch 206 Distillery facility. Rivera’s spot is currently open only on Wednesdays through Sundays, though expect expanded hours of operations when Expedia’s 4,500 workforce moves into the area by winter.

1417 Elliott Ave. W.;  

 The Velvet Elk

This cocktail den in Mount Baker, formerly known as The Saloon, was quietly sold. I was worried new owners and life partners Kim Beecroft and Sofia McKee would gut what is one of the hidden gems remaining in the city. But they kept that vintage vibe, even adding antique furniture and velvet paintings. The namesake painting sits in the front of the bar. There is a cozy lounge area upstairs. No kitchen here, but the bar has a toaster oven to heat up Japanese stuffed fried bread if you get the munchies. Craft cocktails hew on the bitter and boozy side.

The Velvet Elk makes for a good, cheap date night — take the romantic stroll around Mount Baker Beach, a half-mile from the bar.

3605 S. McClellan St.;