The luminous block letters advertising “Merchants Cafe” nearly overshadow the intriguing tidbit beneath: a sign reading "Established 1890, Seattle’s Oldest Restaurant." Once guests pass through the double-door entrance, though, its historic charms become undeniably clear. Rustic wood floors covered with ornate rugs complement wooden and exposed brick walls, and the stained-glass chandeliers hanging overhead cast a warm glow. Despite the homey 1800s feel, a few modern touches accent the restaurant, including flat-screen TVs around the cherry-wood bar and a menu of contemporary eats. Hearty American entrees, such as hot turkey sandwiches and Angus burgers, are crafted from local, organic ingredients sourced from the likes of Pike Place Market and Bob’s Fruit Stand.
Over the past 120-some years, Merchant’s has accrued quite a colorful history, but most notably operated as a hotel, saloon, and card room in the late 19th century. Today, barkeeps continue the tradition, sans the fist-fights over whose horse is more attractive, by pouring libations including Georgetown and Mac and Jack’s craft beers and wines and spirits from local wineries and distilleries.
Named one of the "most storied bars in America" by Thrillist, Central Saloon boasts a century-long history that’s entangled with local beers, rock royalty, and the Washington legislature. Read on to see what this bar's been up to in the past 100 years:
Aromas from 88 Keys' menu of American and Italian fare waft across floors crowded with jovial dancers shimmying beneath exposed-brick walls. 88 Keys' calendar orbits around the Piano Man's Friday- and Saturday-night dueling-piano shows, which exhibit the impressive nature of musical competition without the expense of shot-putting a cello. Blues showcases, open-mic jams, and a rotating cast of visiting bands round out the schedule.
If folks didn't strike it rich during the Klondike Gold Rush, they could have flocked to the J&M in Pioneer Square to try their luck gambling. But once the droves of prospectors dwindled and the chatter around the card tables quieted, the establishment, established 1889, the oldest bar in Seattle wild salmon hand cut fries and hand formed burgers, had to adapt. It became the J&H Hotel for a stretch and then the J&M Saloon for a period.
But today, two doors north of its original address, one of Seattle's oldest bars lives on as J&M Cafe. If you compare the old black-and-white photos with the modern Instragramed ones, you'll see similarities?notably the pressed tin ceiling, the back bar made from Austrian mahogany, and Jimmy, a ghost still searching for his misplaced sack of gold. New are the flat-screen TVs, the more than 25 types of beer?including eight on tap?and the burgers, which are made from locally sourced ingredients such as ground beef, wild salmon, and Alaskan cod, and served alongside hand-cut fries. The spot has even become known as a reliable music venue, hosting acts on a near nightly basis.