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Head to Capitol Hill for Seattle’s ultimate bar crawl

Jamie Boudreau crafts one of his signature creations at his acclaimed Canon, one of Capitol Hill's must hit establishments on the unofficial Let's Eat bar crawl. (Canon image)

The pub crawl might be a time honored tradition, but navigating a “spirited” night (or day) from bar to bar can be a test of strength and endurance (not to mention your pocketbook.) Esquire Magazine is out with its own words of wisdom – or warning – on surviving a cocktail crawl to the bitter end.

Among the tips: pick a theme, limit it to four or five bars, set up your transportation ahead of time, limit your drinks to one per person at each bar, and by all means eat throughout your journey or you’ll be down for the count well before the end.

The ultimate Seattle bar crawl was the topic of conversation on this week’s episode of KIRO Radio’s Let’s Eat with Terry Jaymes, Seattle Times restaurant critic Providence Cicero, along with special guest and fellow Seattle Times critic Tan Vinh.

“The key words are ‘pacing yourself,'” says Vinh. “If you have one here, you want to eat there, you want to go to another place and nibble food in between. But it’s dangerous because the cocktail scene is so good. The beers here are so good.”

Vinh is critical of the Esquire article for leaving out Seattle’s exploding bar scene in its list of suggested itineraries, especially the stretch of Capitol Hill along 12th Ave. that’s become home to some of the top food and beverage destinations in the region, if not the country.

“I guarantee you, if you haven’t been, that’s one of the best bar hopping strips in America,” Vinh says.

Vinh’s suggested itinerary starts with Von Trapp’s, across from Seattle University. The new German-style beer hall has quickly become one the city’s hot spots, especially for its house-made sausages and pretzels. And while it’s earning a reputation for its eclectic beer selection of nearly two dozen taps, Vihn and Jaymes give high marks to the unique beer cocktail of gin or rye with lemon, ginger and IPA crafted by noted Seattle bartender Eric Carlson – “one of the best bartenders in the city,” Vinh says.

Your next stop is just a few door to the north at Canon. Vinh praises both its cocktails and its French inspired menu which features the likes of oysters, marrow, foie gras, and a smokey pork confit. As for Jaymes, he can’t get past the unforgettable Angostura-Bourbon Nuts, a decadent concoction of cashew, pretzel, and melted caramel corn. And Vinh says while they don’t advertise it, Canon offers the best happy hour bar food no one talks about. Just make sure you ask.

Speaking of happy hour, Vinh says that’s the best time to visit most bars, since they tend to offer both drink and food specials that can help from busting your budget, especially with specialty cocktails now commonly going for north of $10.

Speaking of deals, Vinh says Barrio, the next bar on his suggested Capitol Hill crawl offers one the best. The upscale Mexican eatery offers $5 Margaritas all day on Sundays, a day Vinh says is vastly underrated for getting in to a number of hot spots jam packed most other evenings or afternoons. And unlike some places, they’re open all day.

If you’ve paced yourself properly, give yourself a pat on the back as you head to the fourth stop on the Capitol Hill cocktail crawl: Tavern Law.

Good luck squeezing in to this trendy spot named by GQ Magazine as one of the 25 best in America. As one reviewer put it recently on Yelp, don’t call them bartenders, call them mixologists because the staff handcrafts an amazing array of unique concoctions epitomizing Seattle’s gourmet cocktail scene. Their menu of rich delights ranging from mac and cheese with duck fat bread crumbs to pork belly with popcorn grits are a gourmet compliment to their artisan drink concoctions.

To end the night, Vinh says, do your best to make it to Ba Bar.

“After you go through all that, you stumble to Ba Bar for Pho.”

Tune in for Let’s Eat on KIRO Radio Saturdays at 4 p.m. and Sundays at noon. Available anytime ON DEMAND at

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