Around 10pm on a Wednesday night, Joe and I head into Al’s Tavern in Wallingford with our dogs Bondi and Homie in tow. (I had called ahead to confirm they were indeed dog-friendly.)
Even though Al’s is right on NE 45th, it’s easy to miss. The only sign is a sidewalk easel board:
The regulars undoubtedly like it that way: I had seen on Yelp that some go so far as to give their favorite neighborhood dive bar 1-star reviews so as not to attract new clientele. See, for example, what Brad F had to say:
Let me be clear on this. I love this place. Might be my favorite bar in the neighborhood. The one star rating is for the good of the bar and it’s regulars. How do you think the pain in the ass UW kids find out about places like this? yelp. Al’s is about 10 more 5-star ratings from being a bar right off Fremont ave. Do you want that? [...]
It’s easy to see why the regulars are so fond of Al’s Tavern. Established in 1940, the tavern is cozy and kooky: Retro art and kitschy Halloween decorations line the walls, the Beatles are playing on an old-school jukebox, The Office is playing on two flat screen TVs, and there’s an actual PacMan game in the back.
The place is not crowded so we easily snag a spot on the retro vinyl bench that lines the tavern and settle the dogs in by our feet, where they preoccupy themselves with shadows on the floor.
A chick sitting a few feet away says loudly to no one in particular, “It smells like dogs in here,” and then when I look over at her, she adds, “in a good way.” I’m not sure how to respond to her comment, because (a) it wasn’t directed at me, and (b) our dogs don’t smell funny, so I just laugh awkwardly. I gather that she must be a regular.
I don’t worry about it too much. Maybe she just wishes she had a “Homie” to keep her company
Al’s definitely attracts a hipster crowd: dark-rimmed glasses abound. A few dusty softball trophies displayed toward the back of the bar catch me by surprise, because I have a hard time imaging a softball team drinking here, unless they’re the kind of players who wear jeans and Converse sneakers.
The bar menu overhead reads like a 1970′s skating rink concession stand. The food options, including “Bob’s Salty Nut Sack” for $1.25, are pretty limited. But, they have pizza, and nobody minds if you bring in your own food either.
There is a double tap of Rainier, the obvious beer of choice. On draft, they also have Bud Light, Odin’s Gift Ruby Ale, Ninkasi IPA, Fremont’s University Pale Ale and Roger’s Pilsner. We order a micro brew pint, which is lovingly served in a County Fair Mason Jar. Amazing!
The beer is very cheap – A “schooner” of Budlight or Rainier will only run you $2. (Just don’t try to pay with a credit card, or you may elicit funny looks. Al’s Tavern is strictly CASH ONLY.) They also have $0.75 schooners of Budlight or Rainier after every Mariners home run or Seahawks or Huskies touchdown. Dean, the bartender, says they used to be $0.25, but just this fall the owner raised the prices; apparently some of the regulars weren’t too happy about it.
We get to chatting, and Dean tells me about Tuesday night “Boozy Doodle” when they drape butcher paper over the tables and let the patrons go to town drawing with pens and crayons. Sometimes they have cash or prizes for the best creation.
I tell Dean about my blog and he shows me to the dog treats. Bondi and Homie know the drill, and “sit pretty” waiting for their biscuits. Dean says dogs are always welcome, no matter how busy it is.
While Al’s Tavern is certainly dog-friendly, it doesn’t really seem (dog?) friendly. Unlike at Sully’s, nobody is particularly interested in the dogs. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect everyone to swoon over Bondi and Homie; but they’re pretty awesome dogs, so I find it a tad bizarre when they’re completely ignored, too.
Overall, Al’s is a great dive bar with cheap drinks and a lot of character. Would I go back with my dogs? Absolutely! But Brad F. doesn’t have to worry about this “UW kid” becoming a regular.
2303 N 45th St, Seattle
Official Dog Policy: Well-behaved leashed dogs welcome at any time.
Dog Gone Rating:
- Great location in the heart of Wallingford
- Very cheap beer and great drink specials
- Cozy and kooky dive-bar character
- Very limited food selection
- Regulars can be curmudgeonly