This nonprofit tea bar lives up to its name. Its atmosphere is more relaxed than you're likely to find at any other bar, lounge, performance space, or club in town. And with good reason: It's a self-proclaimed "third place," a term coined by sociologist Ray Oldenburg to identify venues that "host the regular, voluntary, informal, and happily anticipated gatherings of individuals beyond the realms of home and work." During a recent visit, living:room was hosting a farewell party for a Chicago-bound local band, yet there wasn't a members-only feel about the festivities. Anyone could wander in, choose from the massive tea menu, and settle into a couch to chat about this or that. Someone's sort-of-abstract film was being projected on a screen at the back of the place, while sleek drum-and-bass music thrummed beneath all the small talk. Though your personal night-on-the-town philosophy may involve not talking to strangers, the mood of this place could cause you to reconsider.
When it came time to pick a tea, we opted for "Moroccan mint," a roughly 50-50 blend of mint leaves and green tea. living:room serves the stuff in a decorative teapot; per Moroccan tradition, we dropped sugar cubes into our colorful glass tumblers before pouring. (The sugar is almost a must, since the blend is powerful, verging on bitterness.) Besides stocking an impressive assortment of teas—from comfy chamomile to exotic Kashmiri chai, orchid oolong, white Persian melon, and strong, smoky yerba maté—living:room also keeps a number of delightfully obscure sodas in the fridge, including the German-made Africola, sweetened with cane sugar rather than corn syrup, and Buckin' Root Beer, a product of Jackson Hole, Wyo., that will make any root beer you're previously quaffed seem utterly irrelevant. 4301 Fremont Ave. N., www.livingroomseattle.org. FREMONT