In the works for more than a year, Inside Passage — sibling bar to next door Rumba and the Portage Bay waterfront’s Agua Verde Cafe — officially debuts Friday, June 25. There’s certainly an over-the-top oceanic fantasy mood inside, with a giant tentacled sea creature hanging from the ceiling, thatched booths, salty snacks, and a variety of cocktails in elaborate mugs.
When the project was announced in 2020, the owners originally used “tiki” to describe the theme, but reconsidered the problematic associations with that term, which evokes colonialism and cultural appropriation. “We have done a lot of learning in the last year,” says manager Jen Akin, who notes that the space — conceived by acclaimed interior designer Notch Gonzalez — aims to be more nautical in nature, and mixes tropical “immersion” aesthetics with Pacific Northwest seafaring history (including the name). That’s reflected in the rubber-and-foam octopus (which the bar nicknamed Kiki), as well as rustic wood accents throughout that recall an old ship.
The kitsch factor is still high, though, with thatched booths and vintage memorabilia scattered throughout the cozy space (formerly a Stussy shop). And that’s especially true of the mugs the drinks are served in, ranging from fish sculptures to 80s movie references to cheeky PNW cryptozoology nods. Here, we rank some of the best ones, in order of Instagramability.
I See a Light
This Japanese rum concoction, made with yuzu, lemongrass, mango, and kelp, is served in a mug that resembles an angler fish, complete with curved headlamp. There’s even a pulsating colored lightbulb tucked into the bottom to add to the moody deep sea effect.
What would a PNW bar be without a Bigfoot reference? With a nod to cryptozoology and the “X Files,” the scotch blend with pineapple rum and coconut cream is served in a canteen, ideal for campers on the hunt for elusive beasts.
‘62 Panorama Punch
Inside Passage managed to collect vintage glasses from the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair for its Copperworks gin and aged rhum agricole drink, topped with mandarin and almond milk sorbet.
Fans of 80s classic “The Goonies” will likely get a kick out of the gothic pirate-themed drink, with some dry ice flair. Inside is a tropical spin on an old fashioned, with rum, vanilla, and banana.
The Amazombie 2.0
Gotta admit, this Seattle tech giant spin on a cocktail classic (the Zombie) elicited a chuckle at first sight. There’s Novo Fogo silver rum, acai, passion fruit, and allspice, plus “free same day shipping.”
Inside Passage is open for walk-ins only from 5 p.m. to midnight, Wednesday through Sunday. In addition to indoor dining (with a menu of bar snacks that include smoked mushroom bao and spam sliders), there are also canned cocktails to go.
Corrections: Agua Verde Cafe (not “Aqua”) is located on the Portage Bay waterfront, near the University of Washington, not South Lake Union as previously stated.
- Inside Passage [Official]