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The Mountaineering Club brings hiker chic to new heights

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Photo courtesy of the Mountaineering Club
Photo courtesy of the Mountaineering Club

Have you ever wanted to be a part of some exclusive club, just to sound cool? Are you into camp(ing)? Or maybe just the idea of the outdoors (aka, the s'mores part)? Thanks to the Graduate Hotel's rooftop bar, you can enjoy all of these things, without embarking on that "easy" hike that your trademark PNW friend invited you on.

A brief 16-story elevator hike to the rooftop bar, fittingly called the Mountaineering Club, will satisfy your s'mores cravings in an ideal campy camping atmosphere, while also offering adventuresome cocktails and panoramic views of Seattle.

The Mountaineering Club  

Peak pleasures
On this rooftop, the best direction to face is south. Get up early to snatch a coveted sunset reservation slot for a spectacular view of the Space Needle, the Puget Sound, and the Olympic Mountain range on the horizon in the southwest corner, or bathe in the hues of pink that play above Mount Rainier to the southeast.

Of course, don't forget to check the weather, commonly cited as the culprit for our lack of rooftop bars. While light clouds can make for a more vivid sunset, a "mostly cloudy" or windy forecast might call for a rain check. Luckily, the Mountaineering Club has installed heated, covered, and indoor seating up there as well.

"Covered seating here makes me feel like I'm not going to fall off the building," I overheard one patron say. Meanwhile, couples took selfies overlooking the city lights below.

Per popular recommendation, I went with "the girlies," a small group of friends, and we ordered the s'mores. It felt like summer camp. It felt like friendship bracelets. (In fact, I recalled, the venue actually hosted a friendship bracelet party for "Galentine's Day.")

S'mores are always theoretically good, but never quite what we remember from childhood. At the Mountaineering Club, however, the cheer of watching the sunset over locally inspired cocktails evoked fond memories of the colloquial snack. Nothing says catharsis more than roasting marshmallows with warm cheeks — from the open flame or the drinks.

Other fare to pique the interest of any outdoorsperson include options like Shigoku oysters, gravlax, a couple of different cheese and charcuterie boards, panini, and a famously fancy Wagyu and Dungeness crab hot dog. This place really is a textbook "choose your own adventure," so I went on a more vegetarian route. Let us know on social media what you do, though!

Drinks from the bar's seasonally changing menu yielded a Sakura Cosmo (through last week) for the Cherry Blossom Festival, meaning a new PNW cocktail is likely on its way soon. Other offerings on the current list include "Smoke Follows Beauty," a fresh, biting sal de gusano agave adventure quietly tucked into a petite green elixir.

A safe space for all?
A surprising twist arose in researching the Mountaineering Club. Because the bar is incorporated into the Graduate Hotel, it does not have a full website of its own, including staff or story, which I usually analyze alongside social media for proof of allyship.

But I found that while the bar itself has a since-genesis story of celebrating Pride through benefits for LGBTQ+ youth and families and great relationships with local Queer DJs, a website was made in 2019 calling out former bar manager Jabriel Donohue for homophobic remarks.

The page, named for Donohue, cited a 2019 Facebook comment of his, wherein he argued with a fellow bartender by referencing Gay oral sex. The creator of the website saw this as homophobic.

Fortunately for Donohue, his very public online activity meant that I could fact-check this claim. This comment was nowhere to be found, and his records actually show years of allyship.

Donohue has been a long-time Gay rights advocate, discussing QTBIPOC issues from a progressive stance publicly throughout a nearly decade of online presence. During the pandemic, Donohue also parted ways with the Mountaineering Club and started a bar-talk podcast, which includes topics of race and equity in the restaurant and bartending industry.

After traveling down a winding road, I've returned to my first impression: the Mountaineering Club is kind of campy, and it seems like it's just waiting to be Queered. While outdoorsiness is an extremely exclusive culture among Seattleites, this bar welcomes all to indulge in smoky flavors, plaid, and "bonfires" just tame enough to avoid Smokey the Bear (who obviously led the interior design team).

Though the bar is still new, having opened in 2019, its first Pride weekend celebration included DJ MIXX America and raised funds for Camp Ten Trees, an LGBTQ+-only youth summer camp (which is currently accepting volunteer applications at camptentrees.org/volunteer.) The Graduate Hotel is also a member of World Rainbow Hotels collection of LGBTQ+-friendly hotels.

The rooftop oasis is set to bring back Pride celebrations in 2022 after the pandemic closure, and hopes to support Queer patrons and staff year-round as allies in the industry.

The Mountaineering Club is open by reservation after 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday at https://www.themountaineeringclub.com/ or by phone at (206) 634-2000, although walk-ins will be accommodated as space permits. It also offers DoorDash and take-out options.