If you like long lines to get a drink, don’t go to Bar Sue. If you like fussy tapas menus and cocktails made with 14 different liqueurs, served with flames tableside, you might also want to choose a different place for your nighttime adventures.
But if you like dark bars, strong drinks, easygoing bartenders, and fried food, Bar Sue is the place to go on Capitol Hill.
And while that description might make you think you’ll be entering a smelly dive bar with soggy French fries, only half of that is true. Bar Sue is definitely a dive. In fact, it’s one of the only bars on Capitol Hill I could actually still describe that way. (It’s dark and smells like booze and there’s not a single quail egg on the menu.) But here’s the somewhat shocking part: the cocktails are absolutely impeccable and the food is decadently delicious.
Located across from Skillet and next to Diesel, it’s located at 1407 14th Avenue, between Union and Madison. Owners Chris King and Bracey Rogers used their southern backgrounds to create a place that felt like home, with a Seattle twist. (King is from South Carolina and Rogers is from Arkansas.)
“We wanted to keep the old-school Capitol Hill vibe from the old Pike-Pine corridor,” Owner Chris King told me as I sipped his insanely perfect homemade Fireball that’s on tap behind the bar. “We loved all of the old dive bars in that area. We wanted to keep that feel, but with a southern base.”
Both King and Rogers have backgrounds in fine dining and used to work at La Spiga. The newest member of their management team, Ian Carey, is from Texas and is managing the bar after working at King’s Hardware and Linda’s Tavern. Rogers owned the previous restaurant in the location, Lucky 8s China House. However, that place turned out to not be very lucky, so he reached out to King last summer, looking to make the change to a bar.
“We kind of put together the idea really quickly. And we actually did the work ourselves and flipped the whole thing in two months,” King told me. “Bracey even built all of the furniture in here.”
“You mean, like with his own bare hands?” I asked.
“Yep. He built it all and I painted everything. He’s clearly the much more talented one,” King said, laughing, pointing out a few mishaps with the dark blue paint near the ceiling.
Because of their southern backgrounds, King and Rogers wanted to keep the menu simple, full of dishes from back home. They’ve taken family recipes and given them a twist. The pulled pork sandwich with Carolina BBQ sauce and apple fennel slaw is sloppy, tangy, and very satisfying. My favorite is the Double D Chicken Samich fried in Cool Ranch Doritos with an amazing pickle sauce.
But the true stars of Bar Sue are the cocktails.
“This is a bar, not a restaurant,” King said. “Yes, we have food. But that’s because people need to soak up the alcohol.”
While places like Canon and Liberty get a lot of attention for their craft cocktails, I think Bar Sue is the hidden gem of Capitol Hill when it comes to getting a delicious, well-balanced, and unique drink. As I mentioned earlier, the homemade Fireball is ridiculously good. It tastes like real cinnamon and reminds me of cinnamon sugar toast. The Earl Gray infused bourbon is one of the most dangerous drinks I’ve tried in a while because it tastes like fantastic iced tea. There’s no burn from the alcohol. I don’t even understand how that’s possible.
“I don’t even tell my bartenders all of the ingredients,” King told me. “We spent a long time getting it perfect.”
Another dangerous drink is the Uncle Jesse, made with root beer and Green Chartreuse. It goes down way too easily on a hot summer day, tasting like the best sarsaparilla you’ve ever had.
“Three of those will definitely do you in,” said King. And I believe him.
Try Bar Sue for Happy Hour and you can get Rainiers for a buck and sandwiches are half off.
Bar Sue will celebrate its one year anniversary in September and King says they plan on sticking around for the long-haul.
“You know, business is better than I thought it would be,” he said. “There’s a lot of things opening and closing right now on Capitol Hill. The neighborhood is just changing so much. But we’ve developed a good base of clientele, people that come here almost every day. We’re definitely really happy with it. Of course, it could always be busier, but we’re doing well financially for only being open a short amount of time.”
1407 14th Ave