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Where to Smoke

Tini Bigs Lounge, Seattle

Sep 17, 1999 | By Alejandro Benes
Tini Bigs Lounge, Seattle

You're on the road, again, and you're sick of sitting at the hotel bar, again, so you can smoke a cigar. But you're not all that enthusiastic about getting dressed up to visit some fancy smokery where you feel underdressed without a tie. Lucky for you, you're in Seattle, home of Tini Bigs Lounge.

The lounge is located in Seattle's Lower Queen Anne area, on the border of the more commercial Belltown section, where a wide variety of culinary and fumatory experiences can be had. The difference between Tini Bigs and the chic bistros of Belltown is that at Tini's, you feel like you're in a real neighborhood--and a real neighborhood bar--not unlike the older parts of Chicago's north side.

Not that Tini's is a beer-and-pretzels joint. Pronounced "teeny," as in Martini, the bar has won the Seattle Martini competition two years in a row with such specialties as the "Smore," a Godiva, Stoli Vanilla and White Cacao concoction with crushed graham cracker on the rim of the glass and a marshmallow garnish.

"A lot of Martinis and single-malt Scotches," summarizes owner Keith Robbins with the kind of grin you'd expect from a man who's just returned from a single-malt pilgrimage to Scotland. On any given night, the drink menu lists 60 to 70 Scotches alphabetically, from Aberlour to Talisker to whatever exotic goodies Robbins has been able to wrangle from his distributor.

With that selection, you should have no trouble finding a match for your cigar, whether you brought you own or purchased one from Tini's humidor. The limited selection changes frequently, but when I was there a Montecristo Le Cigare des Arts Belicoso Larga was selling for $24.50 and a Bolivar Belicoso for $13. More and more, Robbins said, his customers are bringing their own cigars, so he doesn't plan on expanding the humidor.

When Robbins opened the lounge in 1997, it immediately caught on with the cigar crowd, even though the place wasn't advertised as a cigar bar, per se.

"The grapevine moves pretty quickly in cigar circles," Robbins explained over the blaring music and hum of conversation on a recent Friday night. The weekends tend to be extremely crowded, he said, because of the influx of young suburbanites.

Sunday through Thursday, Tini Bigs is more of a happy-hour decompression center for Seattle's high-tech workforce; it also draws a late-night crowd of restaurant workers winding down after their shifts. To assist in these efforts, Tini Bigs offers contemporary decor--black leather booths, black melamine walls and Art Deco mirrors of different shapes.

The food is inexpensive, attractive and designed to be shared. Starters include a Szechuan chili-marinated, grilled jumbo prawn cocktail as well as a baked artichoke heart and roasted garlic spread served with grilled Italian bread. A selection of pizzas is also available.

But perhaps what most distinguishes Tini Bigs from its peers on the Seattle nightlife scene is something it doesn't serve: espresso!

Tini Bigs
100 Denny Way (corner of First and Denny)
Seattle, Washington
(206) 284-0931

Hours: daily, 4 p.m. till 2 a.m.
No cover charge.

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