Seattle’s Best Dive Bars: A Toast to Seattle's Seedy Side

"Seely’s naked contempt for Jager-bombs and the people who drink them is as refreshing as a frosty schooner of Vitamin R."

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Dive into the Sloop and you might catch a glimpse of a crew member from "Deadliest Catch." Photograph by Cary Melton

Mike Seely, managing editor of the Seattle Weekly, writes like Ernest Hemingway in his new book, Seattle’s Best Dive Bars. He’s Papa for the PBR crowd, exploring the gritty, working class watering holes that are the antithesis of the geeky chic image the city has embraced.

He doesn’t candy coat his close-to-the-ground reports on these off-the-radar spots. For instance, he says The Waterwheel Lounge looks like the kind of place “where you might get your head bludgeoned on the rim of a toilet by a hulking longshoreman named Ted who’s been drinking boilermakers since sunrise.” But, hey, the Wheel turns out some “amazing all-American chow” and the drinks are cheap.

This sub-pub crawl guide is the result of roughly 15 years of bleary-eyed research, Seely said recently while sipping a $2 pint at the Pioneer Square Saloon. This historic venue isn’t really a dive, even though it’s in the book. It’s more of a classic saloon, in a neighborhood full of dance clubs. A place for grown-ups, not shot-swilling hipsters.

Seely’s naked contempt for Jager-bombs and the people who drink them is as refreshing as a frosty schooner of Vitamin R. That’s Rainier Beer, bub. (Which was a hometown product before being bought up by Pabst.)

The book—which is arranged by neighborhood—taps into the crusty charms of the unheralded tavern kitchen. After devouring Dive Bars, I cannot wait to sail into the Viking and order a Sloppy Sven, sample the chili at Mike’s or to tie up at the Sloop for an order of fish ‘n’ chips and a possible sighting of a crew member from “Deadliest Catch.”

I’m not the only writer who’s a fan of Seely’s slurry turn of phrase. Tom Robbins—whose latest book is called B is for Beer—wrote a glowing blurb: “Informative, witty and wonderfully atmospheric, Seely’s thirsty travelogue should leave even the most pious Washingtonians praying that there’ll be honky tonks in heaven.”

At 4 p.m. May 30, Seely will sign copies of his book while doing shots of ouzo at Mike’s Chili Parlor, (1447 NW Ballard Way, Seattle WA).

About the author: Leslie Kelly is a Seattle-based freelance food writer whose work has appeared in the (now defunct) Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, and The Spokesman-Review. She's currently working in the kitchens of Tom Douglas restaurants and blogging at Whining & Dining.

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