Now Open: The Beautiful Elysian Bar in Downtown Seattle

By Leslie Kelly  |  May 8, 2014
Credit: Leslie Kelly

The highly anticipated Elysian Bar launched late last week, with an ambitious, elevated gastropub menu created by chef Andrew Gribas, last seen at Volterra in Kirkland. Bartending legend Murray Stenson - formerly of Zig Zag, Canon and, most recently, Il Bistro - helms the bar. The space is absolutely gorgeous, a two-level venue with a cool brick wall that dates way back and a dramatic drop-down chandelier casting a warm glow on the ground floor. Cozy two-and-four tops give the mezzanine an intimate feel. It's smack in the heart of Downtown Seattle, just a block from Pike Place Market, in a space that used to be home to a dance club.

On our first visit, the wooden barstools at the 12-ft. long, well-stocked bar were almost all filled up. But we squeezed in, and the legendary cocktails from Murray were spot-on. We asked for a custom-crafted cocktail - which many drinkers do here - and he asked us a few questions about our preferred spirit and style. Yes, we like Aquavit. Of course, we drink gin. Minutes later, we had the pretty drink you see above, served up and crafted with a smashing caraway Aquavit from Old Ballard Liquor Company. If you don't want to go rogue, there's also an extensive list of craft cocktails - like a sparkling wine Parisian, and The Turf, a variation on the martini with a splash of orange bitters that's named for the former dive bar next door. Still, Murray and the rest of the bar staff love a challenge. We are crushing on the spot's congenial vibe: on either side of us were fans of Murray's, ladies and gents he greeted by name. We'll be back for more exploration.

Lunch and dinner are served daily, featuring Gribas' signature preparations like the paprika-charred veal tenderloin, charred chile-buttermilk fried chicken, harissa-roasted lamb neck, crispy black cod with shiitake broth and a half-pound Painted Hills burger with organic aged sharp cheddar, ranging in price from $12 for starters and mains in the $30 ballpark. The bar menu is sorted by raw, small and shared plates, which includes a truffle beef poutine. This place is large, at more than 100 seats, but it's going to be packed, so definitely make a reservation, especially on weekends. 1516 Second Ave.; 206-467-4458