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Book Review: Seattle’s Best Dive Bars: Drinking & Diving In The Emerald City by Mike Seely

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Is this the greatest book ever written? As a native Seattlite, and long time connoisseur of dive bars, I would have to say yes. Mike Seely, who is managing editor of the Seattle Weekly, really gets it right about these places.

A good old fashioned dive is a dying breed these days, at least in ultra yuppie Seattle, so the newcomer needs a guide like this. I have been to probably 95 of the 100 bars listed here, but with this guide, I now know which ones I have missed on my own personal drunken quest.

I found myself laughing out loud at a lot of the descriptions, like this one of the Comet Tavern: “One of the city’s most bona fide dives, all piss odors, cigarette smoke, cheap beer and disheveled patrons. Puke rimming the toilet? Yep. Regulars nodding off before closing time? You bet.” My kind of place indeed.

Back in the Eighties, Joe Bob Briggs wrote a book about what he called “Bar bars.” Basically what he was describing were dives. He talked about favorites all over the US, and it was a great read. I think Seattle’s Best Dive Bars works the same way. Even if you have never been to Seattle before, you can relate to these watering holes where time just seemed to stop about 40 or 50 years ago.

Of course, actually having been to many of the places Seely talks about makes it all the more entertaining. He gets the details right too. The ratings system is one to five mugs of Rainier, and the cover is a great shot of the legendary Blue Moon Tavern.

Seely’s number one dive bar in Seattle is one of the few I have never been to, and plan on visiting very soon. It is the Rimrock Steakhouse in the Lake City neighborhood, and the bar is called The Stirrup Room. The current owner describes the legacy of The Stirrup Room: “Used to be, if you passed out on the floor with two dollars in your hand, they’d serve you another drink.”

Perfect. I’m about done here, and Lake City is not too far away, so we’ll see you there.

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About Greg Barbrick

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    What? No mention of Sorry Charlies? Sacrilige!

    -Glen

  • Greg Barbrick

    Glen, in a section called “Ghosts Of Dive Bars Past” he does mention Sorry Charlies. In fact, it is number one. I don’t know if he was there or not the night we drank with the wrestlers “The Giant” or “Diamond” Dallas Page. But it was a great night.

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    What about Chuck & Sallys?

    -Glen

  • Greg Barbrick

    No, Chuck’s didn’t make the cut. But The Poggie did. Seely should have had a profile of Orville in there. Or maybe “The Drunks”

  • http://seattleweekly.com/divebars Seely

    Chuck & Sally’s ceased operating over a year ago with no advance warning. It’s still there on the corner on California, but it’s closed. It, too, is on the Ghost of Dive Bars Past list. Greg, thank you so much for the great review!

  • Coolcat

    Don’t miss a trip to the Back Door Pub in Lake City. My Fave.