Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Greater Seattle >
Feb 16, 2011 06:47 PM

Taproom/Brewpub Feng Shui? Good & Bad...

Yeah, it's supposed to be all about the beer and food. But there are some places where the spaces are so welcoming and "right" that you're drawn right in, and even less-than-stellar provisions can be downright enjoyable. There are others that, despite first-class brews and fare, don't really "work", leave you wondering "What's up with this place?"

In the former category, I'd put Brouwer's, in the latter Maritime's Jolly Roger. Anyone else notice this? Does it make a difference where you spend your time/money? What other places would you put in which category?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Though I know nothing of Feng Shui, I agree that the warehouse style of the new Jolly Roger is awful, where the old one was homey and convivial and fine. I do not know if it is ceiling-height, acreage, noise-volume, service (or lack), but the new one wants me to flee, and I do.
    Of course, Brauer's resists my attention in much the same way, though the first item on my "what's up with that" list is the fratty clientele (not my preferred milieux), and the food makes no sense, either.
    Hale's Ales is perfectly ghastly in the "family area" (under 21 OK), but welcoming, if bland, in the pub (I'd be proud to take a visitor there for a pint of good local ale). If only the food had some little highlight, I'd be there now...
    Not a tap-room, certainly, but Chinooks has a fine Happy Hour menu, and I absolutely recommend it for a laid-back afternoon in summer - have the Primavera (not HH, I imagine). Feng Shui is obscure, and I leave this to you, but seeing bobbing boats in the harbor at Salmon Bay is a treat at every azimuth, and all about fine. Get the seasonal slump...
    Neither is Art of the Table any kind of pub, but presents a whole day of happiness at Happy Monday, every week. I trust your judgment of the Feng Shui (odd, for sure), and look forward to your reports...
    Hooter's strikes me ridiculous, but the staff presents enthusiastically and I may be outside my bounds.
    Ivar's Salmon House has a reasonably attentive staff, a menu with some nearly great items, and the most fabulous situation ever beneath the traffic of the city and in view of Lake Union and the city, beyond. OK, so it gets most of its Feng Shui cred from its site, but the food ain't bad and we enjoy the interpretive displays of local native history and culture.
    By the tie I left, I could remember nothing, but Kate's certainly had some kind of welcoming thing going for me, that day.
    Latona Pub - a perfectly respectable offering, but no vibe.
    Murphy's is just TV-Football city. Maybe filing, but not inviting...
    Norm's is good, but pedestrian, and no scintillation is here.
    Alibi Room, on Post Ally, get much of its magnetism from the gum-wall, I expect, but the gloomy ambiance is oddly embracing, and the mac&cheese was a comfort.
    The Leary Traveler draws us again and again. OK, the food is OK, the environment is loud, the beer is sometimes OK (though sometimes it seems nobody ever actually tasted the offering) but it's just a great place to be.
    Sully's has a definite grasp of old Seattle. Fisher's have drunk here, for certain, and its possession of the spirit of the old city vibrates. My recollections are distorted, I imagine, because they are from the dark days of smoke in bars, but I choked my way to a good feeling about this place.

    Ivar's Salmon House
    401 NE Northlake Way, Seattle, WA 98105

    Salmon Bay Cafe
    5109 Shilshole Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98107

    Art of the Table
    1054 N 39th St, Seattle, WA 98103

    Lake Union Cafe
    3119 Eastlake Ave E, Seattle, WA 98102

    Alibi Room
    85 Pike St Ste 410, Seattle, WA 98101

    4 Replies
    1. re: mrnelso

      Wow, thanks for the comprehensive response. I like Sully's, too. Kinda harkens back to the days of the U-shaped bars. There should be more of those.

      1. re: kaleokahu

        Was at Porterhouse in W Seattle and it's so so in the warmth dept. I've tried it a few times cause it's the closest place to me and I can walk. But yesterday it struck me that behind the bar there is no mirror. My memory is shot but don't most good bars have a mirror?

        1. re: JayDK

          Porterhouse is now closed and for sale.
          Warning: No one has been very successful in this place giving credence to the original post.

          1. re: JayDK

            You might be able to research the ownership history of the place. It might turn something up, like it being built on a Temperance Graveyard, or a slope that makes people feel uncomfortable. (Or it could simply be that there isn't enough parking to support a business)
            It would be a good lesson in where not to locate a restaurant business.

    2. The Jolly Roger is almost too open. It can get noisy and they don't have the best seating (stools are not comfortable and the chairs are oddly hard). But I cannot get away from their lunch food. Will keep me coming back regardless of any other issues.

      Try the Dray. Compact, but cozy. Something about it just makes me comfortable. Maybe it is the incredible selection.

      In the same vein, only newer, is the Noble Fir. This place is very inviting in its layout (love the hiking/travel books/maps library). And their beer selection rivals the Dray.

      5 Replies
      1. re: BallardFoodie

        BallardFoodie: Thanks for the recommendations. I went to The Dray tonight for Happy Hour, as a matter of fact. Cozy and welcoming. Also a dog-friendly place, which I believe makes for a more people-friendly place. Will also try Noble Fir, although their website's photo of the bar makes it look a little... stiff. Books and covers, though, so I'll try. Thanks again

        1. re: kaleokahu

          I've seen an actual line out the door at the Noble Fir twice now. What gives? Once was pretty early (~5) on a Saturday. Is it that amazing?

          1. re: christy319

            Hi, christy319:

            I don't honestly know, I've only been there once, when there was no crowd. If it had been memorable, perhaps I would remember more specifics. I found the space nice, but nothing particularly wowed me.

            Ballard is obviously no longer the quaint little drinking village it once was. I figure that humongous Soviet-era-architecture condominium complex on Leary (and the many others nearby) added a few thousand aimless newbs who would like to see` each other at places like Noble Fir. Just a theory.

            Have you tried Kelly O'Brien's on 17th? I DO remember that place: not as polished in the atmo/decor, but a welcoming space, and I remember liking the food. Sister tav to Sully's Lounge (no, not Sully's Snowgoose).


            1. re: christy319

              They have a Wednesday night Pints for Parks promotion where they pull out a good pint (I've seen Pliny the Elder once or twice) and donate something like a buck a pint to a designated park. I've gone once during one of those and it was beyond packed.

              They also have some interesting progression nights where they have at least 3 beers from a good microbrewery on some kind of special so you can try all three. I've also seen stuff where they have head-to-head competitions or bring in a bunch of a specific type of beer (sour night, etc.).

              I think it is a pretty cool place. Parking is always an issue down on Ballard ave, though.

          2. re: BallardFoodie

            The Dray was going to be my recommendation on this front, too. Whether it's the owners or a contractor they hire, someone has a design aesthetic I love. Great restroom, too, always scrupulously clean, and with the squirrel mural and the speakers keeping you in touch with the music or soccer match.

            The same people also own the Yard (spell it backwards), which is an even a better space. A gastropub in a small building set waay back from the street, over half the seating is outdoors, either in the front yard or on the covered front patio. The front of the pub itself is basically entirely open to the patio, with some outdoor seating actually at the "foot" of the L-shaped bar. Makes for an indoor/outdoor experience very rare (unique?) in Seattle. The indoor area is reminiscent of the Dray, but darker and more cave-like. Food is upscale Mexican, and good. Doesn't have the Dray's beer menu, but does offer lots of hard liquor.

          3. It's been a year-and-a-half now, but tonight Wahine wanted to go back to Jolly Roger...

            Never in my life have I been in a place where the beer is so good and the ambiance and build-out so unbelievably lame. I LOVE THEIR BEER (I buy it by the quarter-barrel), but everything about the interior of this place is Terrible. It's so bad, I'd rather drink their beer someplace--anywhere--else.

            I get the pirate theme (subtle, I know), but did pirates of old have an incurable cheap-quartersawn-oak-furniture fetish? Are the owners deaf, or do they *like* the echoic acoustics? Having suffered this before, I would have taken a seat in their outdoor area, except they have done nothing to shield it from the four parking places that used to be the 8-space parking lot. Pecos Pit does a better job of that!

            The only word to describe this place in the summer of 2012 is *complacent* (This extends to the menu, which was never exemplary). They've lost the vibe of the old space, and they obviously don't care.

            What besides the beer redeems this place?


            5 Replies
            1. re: kaleokahu

              I agree it is far too loud. They need to install acoustically tiles on the ceiling or something.

              To answer your question, it is lunch. The sandwiches are amazing. My chief complaint with the place, besides sound, is that they do not serve the sandwiches for dinner. Dinner is more expenseive (15-20 bucks), is still pretty good, but not as good as the sandwiches.

              1. re: BallardFoodie

                Hi, BF:

                Well, that's another putoff... Their menu bores you into hors 'd slumber with the 3-tier pirate "Grubbins" motif, and they hide the entrees at the very bottom of the back page. They're presented like they're ashamed of them, or they're afterthoughts, or something. At least they had the good sense to rip off Pacific Inn's herbed breading for the gigantic ancient fried oysters. The Mexi-twist Caesar (tricolor tortilla strips with the bowl dusted with chipotle) was just weird.

                What sandwich do you recommend? I'll give them one more try.


                1. re: kaleokahu

                  Part your issue with the menu stems from the constant rotation of items. The first 2 tiers stay the same and the last tier, sandwiches and dinner items, change every 2 months or so. I suspect that they simply reprint the last page when that happens.

                  I'm a working stiff with 2 young kids, so I don't have many opportunities to get their for lunch. The last time I was there, they had a ghost chile philly that was tasty with subtle after burn. They usually have about 5-6 sandwiches, 2-3 that I have to decide between. Most of the time it is a riff on a philly, a steak sandwich, a chicken sandwich and 2-3 other wildcards.

                  1. re: BallardFoodie

                    Hi, BF:

                    Thanks, LOL, no warranty situation here... I'll try a Philly variant there (there is a dearth of good PCS is Seattle, IMO).

                    JOOC {just made-up acronym "Just out of curiosity"}, because of your Ballard handle, how do you think Jolly Rodger's Phillies compare with the defunct Reading Gaol's?


                    1. re: kaleokahu

                      I'm unhappy to report I never had one at the Reading Gaol. I wish I had now. It is by no means a traditional philly and constantly changes.