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Originally published Wednesday, September 11, 2013 at 3:06 PM

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Cocktails? Next to women’s jeans at Bellevue Nordstrom

Nordstrom opens a cocktail bar in the women’s department of its Bellevue Square store.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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With its new bar, Nordstrom went all in on this craft cocktail craze, down to the muddled fresh fruits, fancy ice cubes and a dude in a vest with a Brooklyn beard who seems to take his trade very seriously.

Located on the second floor of Nordstrom in Bellevue Square, the Habitant looks like a swanky hotel bar that’s been uprooted and plopped down in the middle of the women’s department, adjacent to the $198 low-rise jeans.

There are bartenders muddling blueberries and making egg-white foam drinks for shoppers, including, on a recent visit, a tequila drink with watermelon, jalapeño, lime juice and elderflower, a balance of sweet and heat — its most interesting drink.

But mostly, the cocktails aren’t as ambitious or as nuanced as those served at the better cocktail dens on Capitol Hill. But they’re balanced drinks and still a notch better than the candy-cocktail lounges around downtown Bellevue.

Its food menu ranges from salads to bar bites. The meaty shrimp sliders and prosciutto-wrapped chicken skewers were serviceable, though both tasted like they were dipped in a bowl of butter.

When it comes to food, Habitant has some logistical challenges. It’s on an island amid a sea of designer jeans and mannequins, and it doesn’t have a kitchen.

The snacks are made at the department store’s cafe on the top floor. A server picks up the food there and weaves through shoppers around the swimsuit area to take the escalator one floor down and then put on latex gloves to plate the dishes before serving.

My food order took almost 30 minutes.

Profit margin doesn’t seem to be a priority. Its drinks (many $8 and $9 cocktails) are underpriced. Habitant is content to just be a waiting area to keep you (or your spouse) shopping a little longer.

Near me were a few bored husbands nursing beers while their wives browsed. Another shopper asked her girlfriend whether an on-sale, bamboo-colored blouse went with her wedge sandals. (It did.)

The Habitant cocktail lounge, at Nordstrom, 100 Bellevue Square, in Bellevue opens 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 11:30 a.m. -5 p.m. Sunday. Food ranges from $6.50-$10.50, cocktails $8-$11, wine $9.50-$14.50 and beer $4.50; 425-455-5800.

Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or tvinh@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @tanvinhseattle

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