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Originally published March 24, 2010 at 7:01 PM | Page modified March 25, 2010 at 10:45 AM

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Seeking the good ol' grunge of Belltown

Not much of the old Belltown left is in Belltown. It's overrun by happy hour and the stilettos-type who sip candy cocktails with names ending...

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Not much of the old Belltown is left in Belltown. It's overrun by happy hour and the stilettos-type who sip candy cocktails with names ending in "tini."

Belltown is polished now for the pretty people to bar hop on Fridays and Saturdays. Used to be grungier and edgier. Used to be more casual — in dress code and in attitude. Used to be more graffiti on them walls, too. No one's got time for that now.

As one panhandler said, "it got money" now.

But remnants of the old Belltown remain. You have to look hard. Like on Second Avenue, between Bell Street and Blanchard Street. There's still cheap beer here. Credit cards are still frowned upon here. Look there, corner of Bell Street and Second Avenue: artists and skateboarders, some scruffy, some with dreadlocks, smoking cigarettes along the sidewalk, chilling like their old Belltown never faded away.

Numbers correspond to map

1 Mama's Mexican Kitchen, 2234 Second Ave. Bills itself as Seattle's oldest Mexican restaurant. Opened since 1974, Mama's survived this long by knowing how to change with the times. Owners recently knocked out its storage room and put in a bar and TV. But the Elvis room hasn't left the building. Patrons still draw pictures and caricatures of Elvis, the fat and young version, on napkins to post in this room of Elvis memorabilia. www.mamas.com.

2 Lava Lounge, 2226 Second Ave. You know you're in the old Belltown when a ... guy skateboards in and no one even blinks. A couple in the back plays shuffleboard as their dog lies around. Signs read "$5 minimum on all card transactions" and "Credit cards left behind will incur a 15 percent gratuity." www.mamas.com/lavalounge.htm.

3 Juju, 2224 Second Ave. Two flat screens. Not showing ESPN, but Fuel TV, an extreme sports channel with skateboarding and motocross racing. Has an outdoor back patio that few know about. Signs read "$10 minimum on credit card transaction." And "Unclaimed cards will be subject to a 20% gratuity." www.jujulive.com.

4 Shorty's, 2222 Second Ave. A haunt for many bartenders. Those aren't slot machines you're hearing. They're pinballs from the arcade room in back. Hot dogs, popular not just for the hung-over at night but also for the hungry during the day. The bar was selling hog dogs long before they got trendy. www.shortydog.com.

5 Clever Bottle, 2222 Second Ave., Suite 100. Another swanky bar taking over Belltown. This bar currently has just a wine-and-beer license but features a cocktail menu because the clever folks behind it make cocktails out of sparkling wine, bitters and beer. www.cleverbottle.com.

6 Tula's, 2214 Second Ave. Jazz star Greta Matassa is such a fixture here that her name remains pretty much synonymous with this unpretentious jazz club. A great local talent. www.tulas.com.

7 The Crocodile, 2200 Second Ave. Legendary nightclub that has featured then-unknowns such as Nirvana and Soundgarden. Long list of who's-whos has played here, including Beastie Boys, R.E.M., Death Cab for Cutie and Modest Mouse. www.thecrocodile.com.

Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or tvinh@seattletimes.com. Follow him on Twitter @tanvinhseattle

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