Updated: Jul 26, 2022
Even though Seattle is one of the "newer" port cities in the US comparatively speaking, it is a city rich with history. Whether it’s Seattle’s oldest Chinese restaurant, or a beloved meal from the movie spot in “Sleepless in Seattle,” visitors can relive iconic scenes from the city’s food culture by visiting these famed stops. Take a look at them then and now.
Here are 6 Historic Seattle Restaurants that are still open today!
1. Virginia Inn
The historic Belltown Inn established in 1903 (believed to have been the favorite bar of Oscar-winning actress, Goldie Hawn) was the site for filming the 1993 romantic comedy, “Sleepless in Seattle.” The restaurant later made an appearance in the 1992 film "Singles."
Ivar Haglund (1905-1985), a beloved local showman, founded Seattle's first aquarium at Pier 54 and opened a fish-and-chips stand in 1938 that grew into a restaurant empire. Mr. Haglund established the renowned "Acres of Clams" restaurant in 1946, one of 31 fish bars in the region. Clem, a dancing clam, was also featured in the restaurant's advertisements.
3. Jules Maes Saloon
Jules Maes began as "The Brick Store," a grocery and hardware store that later evolved into a saloon, in 1888. Jules Gustaf Maes, the "Mayor of Georgetown," a Belgian immigrant, bought it in 1912. The majority of customers were lumberjacks and fishermen because Georgetown was the city's industrial district. The bar was closed during prohibition, but it reopened several doors down on Airport Way South in 1939.
(Image Source: Seattle PI)
The 133-year-old wateringhole temporarily shuttered in July 2020 amid COVID-19 dining restrictions before longtime patrons stepped in to keep its legacy alive. EDIT: Due to unfortunate circumstances, Jules Maes announced on July 18, 2020 that they were permanently closing. They will be missed!
4. Tai Tung
The oldest Chinese restaurant in the city is the famed Chinatown International, which first opened its doors in 1935. When Bruce Lee dined there, he frequently ordered fried rice and chow mein. Harry Chan, the third-generation owner, has worked at Tai Tung since 1968 and can confidently point out Lee's preferred table.
5. Merchant's Cafe
Merchant's Cafe, which has stood on the corner of James and Yesler since 1890, claims the contentious title of "Seattle's Oldest Restaurant." Originally known as "Merchants Exchange Saloon," the owners changed the name to cafe and also ran a cigar shop during prohibition. A fire at the nearby Mt. Fuji Hotel nearly destroyed the structure in 1938, but the cafe has survived.
6. Mecca Cafe
C. Preston Smith and his wife Frances opened this Lower Queen Anne institution in 1930, one year after opening 5 Point Cafe in Belltown. When Prohibition ended in 1933, the two historic establishments became Seattle's first legal bars.
Since its inception, the Mecca remained in the Smith family until 2001, when it was sold. The late-night establishment still exists today, serving reasonably priced burgers, benedicts, and sandwiches.