The Tractor Tavern may be my favorite place to listen to live music in Seattle. It's small, and the stage is elevated enough that you can see. The stage area is pretty much SRO, but some seats in the bar area (bar and stage are side-by-side) also offer a view.
The acts playing at the Tractor tend to be blues, country, alt-country, bluegrass, some singer-songwriter. It's generally not a hard rockin' place. You can usually pay admission at the door, although The Tractor does host some acts that selll out in advance. If you want to buy tickets in advance, the box office is the bar. And sometimes tickets are sold at local record stores, such as Sonic Boom (also in Ballard). For big names, tickets are sometimes sold online.
Another great thing about The Tractor are the water coolers on a ledge next to the bar. When you need a break from your adult beverage, you don't have to bother the bartender.
Dress Code: Anything
For a while there were 3 wine bars in Ballard. Now all but the orignal have closed.
Portalis, located on Ballard Ave, with many of the other restarants, shops, and bars has been in the neighborhood for a few years. It is both a wine bar and wine shop, has a great ambiance & helpful staff. They serve maybe 20 different wines by the glass, and have a menu of mostly small plates and a few deserts. I've had some really tasty treats here, including a chocolate raspberry torte. The menu changes fairly frequently.
They have paid tastings (with a discount if you purchase) on the weekends, but usually do a free tasting on Sundays during the Ballard Sunday Market (Farmer's Market). There is nothing like tasting wine at 11 AM :)
Dress Code: none
I heard of this place from several people before even coming to the Seattle area. The bar is relatively small, but it's laid out well. There is good dance instruction, although it is not free like most bars.
I had fun here learning a line dance with a little Irish Jig in it. The instructor was very friendly (I later taught him Kick-n-Rock). I've had fun here on two consecutive visits.
Well, OK. It wasn't always called Conor Byrne, but I've been told this facility has always operated as a bar (since the 1880's).
They have live Irish music at least 2 nights a week - sometimes more - and have folk/americana//rock music some nights. On Tuesday nights, however, Conor Byrne used to host a variety show, complete with a mistress of ceremonies and people who sign up to do thier thing on stage. Most sign/play music or recite poetry. And the last time I was there there were all these huge hula hoops.... who knows why. It's not on the calendar right now, but I don't know if that's becasue they quit having it, or its just on a break.
They pour a good Guinness, too.
Dress Code: none
Food: Full menu of standard bar fare available until about an hour before they close
Smoking: Please do
Packed? Depends on what fishing season it is
Meat Market? Depends on what fishing season it is
Age? Young fishermen, old drunks, late 20s to late 30s locals who like good deals on beer
Beer Price: $2.00-$3.75, cider $3.00, pitcher specials (Beer glasses the size of three from normal places)
How stiff are the drinks? Beer only, so keep those pitchers flowing. And they do.
What's the conversation you'll most likely overhear?
"Do you have a boyfriend? I leave for Alaska tomorrow. Will you come home with me tonight?"
What does it take to get thrown out? Open brawling, breaking pool cues over heads.
Dress Code: What's the dress code? Jeans. Period.
The decor in this bar is red. Everything is red. It creates this wonderful vibe when chillin' with some friends, drinking a beer, and on occassion, getting your ears boxed in by the live music. It's in Ballard, which is VERY Seattle, which means it's pretty laid back. This bar is also currently a hot spot for local bands to play, which means a lot of GOOD local bands play there.
Dress Code: Very Casual
If you're looking for intimate cozy seating and drinks with fancy names in even fancier glassware, then this is not your spot. If, on the other hand, you want to listen to Seattle's up-and-coming musicians and some of the Northwest's best travelling shows, than you are in the right place. The line-up ranges from traditional Irish to twangy country to just about anything else you can imagine.
Dress Code: Wear comfortable shoes as this is a plastic cup drinking, all-night-standing kind of place.
Indoor/outdoor restaurant and pub that takes full advantage of a lovely patio and attractive "wood-y" design. Reasonable drink prices and a welcoming staff.
Dress Code: casual
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