Raising the Bar

Pretty people, pretty good food at Belltown's latest watering hole.

In a fit of inspiration, Belltown unveiled its latest enterprise to the city of Seattle in the beginning of April . . . and we discovered yet another trendy downtown lounge. I'm not really a chic bar kind of girl by nature. My hair sticks up in inappropriate places, my fingernails cling to those last chipped pieces of color, and skirts rarely hang higher than my knees. Regardless, one evening my friends and I found ourselves venturing downtown in search of Del Rey—the latest swanky thing in Belltown wining and dining. Settling into the corner booth closest to a bar bedecked with innumerable bottles of colorful liquor, we took in the surroundings: a giant dome of glowing red light in the middle of the bar's ceiling, hanging rectangular-shaped lights, dark walls lined with booths, and tall black tables and chairs scattered throughout the middle of the space. An attractive waitress immediately popped over to our table and in confusion we all frantically pointed to various unusual drinks on the menu, like the pineapple mojito ($8). While waiting for our drinks we were slightly alarmed by the apparel of those walking in. Everyone was wearing dresses and sharp-looking suits, carefully groomed coifs, and posh shoes. The waitress promptly brought our drinks over from the equally hot bartenders, and among my blood orange crush ($8) and my friend's $3 glass of PBR (yes . . . you read that right), my brilliant pineapple-mojito-ordering friend was the clear winner. It was sweet and minty with a powerful punch of Bacardi rum, and she had to slap our hands away from her drink the rest of the evening. Fortunately, our food came in time to save her from further assault, with the waitress placing before us a heavenly-smelling pile of crispy onion rings ($5), a steaming bowl of macaroni and cheese ($6), a plate of chicken and vegetables speared with kabob sticks ($9), and a plate of calamari ($7). The chunks of speared chicken that were placed before me (although we essentially shared all the food) were grilled to perfection, as were the baby peppers, tomatoes and red onions, and the tangy cucumber yogurt sauce was the perfect complement for the meal. One friend decided to be daring by ordering mac and cheese at such an upscale place. Happily, this staple of American culture (or at least a staple in my personal dining life) was spruced up for the occasion, boasting a creamy sharp cheddar sauce covering elbow macaroni, making even mac and cheese an elegant endeavor. Of course, the onion rings and calamari resting in the middle of the table were properly plundered, especially the perfectly beer battered and crunchy onion rings whose sweet onions managed to stay inside the breading where they belonged. The calamari was also deliciously breaded (no worries about viewing tentacles or creepy little heads) and served with a light lemon sauce. We leaned back in our booth, stomachs full and minds fuzzy from strong cocktails, and it became evident that Del Rey was not just another classy Belltown lounge. So, what have I learned from the latest addition to Belltown's drinking and schmoozing scene? I guess there's a little bit of that refined bar lover in all of us. Del Rey, 2332 First Ave., 206-770-3228, BELLTOWN. Open 4 p.m.–2 a.m. daily. hlogue@seattleweekly.com

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