Friday, October 8, 2010

Bar #18: Liberty - Capitol Hill

[Geoff Kaiser has given me the keys to Seattle Beer News for a few weeks, so I’ll be cross-posting some of my bar reviews over there. Since the focus at SBN is beer, I’ll be scrutinizing each bar’s beer selection more closely than I do here.]

A couple days ago, I paid my first visit to Liberty on 15th Avenue in Capitol Hill. I’ve lived close by for the last five years and I’ve never set foot inside until now. The reasons? First, Liberty is known for its cocktails and I’m primarily a beer drinker. But the main reason is that every time I walk by, the place is crowded with the kind of people who… well, let’s just say they don’t seem like my kind of people.

It was a good decision to go to Liberty during happy hour early in the week. It wasn’t packed and my special lady friend Francesca and I were able to snag two seats at the end of the bar. It took several minutes for me to page through the thick drink menu, which lists a crapload of cocktails by spirit (whiskey, vodka, gin, tequila), as well as house infusions (some in cool skull jars on the bar) and flights where you get four half-ounce pours of different liquors. I decided on the Holy Grail, a house-created cocktail with Maker’s Mark 46, Peychaud’s bitters and lemon verbena. It was tasty. My lady had a well gin and tonic and the gin was higher quality than most well gins.

After the cocktail, I turned my attention to the beer selection and found it left something to be desired. They have seven taps, five of which–Guinness, Stella Artois, Hoegaarden, Manny’s Pale Ale and PBR–can be found at almost any Seattle bar. The other two were the 3 Skulls IPA and Odin’s Gift Ruby Ale. I’ll give Liberty points for offering local beers, but feel like they could be a bit more adventurous with their choices. The bottle list was similar, with a few things I’d drink, but nothing out of the ordinary. I ended up having a couple pints of Manny’s and also sampled a few bourbons. For food, Liberty has fresh sushi, and after watching the sushi guy preparing orders, we couldn’t resist trying some. It was good, but not enough to make it a sushi destination for me.

Overall, I liked Liberty more than I thought I would. If you’re into inventive cocktails or want to sample and learn about high-quality liquor, it’s a place worth seeking out. Unfortunately, if it’s good beer you’re after, you should probably go down the block to Hopvine or Smith.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bar #17: The Grizzled Wizard - Wallingford

When The Grizzled Wizard opened several months ago, the word was that a metal bar had opened in Wallingford. That might've been an exaggeration. The owners are metal fans, but more than anything it's a simple, neighborhood bar.

The Wizard consists of two rooms. The main room has a long bar, television, jukebox (the good kind, not one of the shitty internet ones that cost $1 a tune) and a multi-arcade game machine. The lighting is dim, with the only illumination coming from paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling. The other room has a pinball machine and a bunch of cool movie posters.

Drinkwise, they have a few beers on tap (including a couple local selections), canned and bottled beers and a small selection of spirits. They've also developed some house cocktails and infused vodkas with questionable stuff like Sweden Fish. The two times I've been to the bar, I stuck with tap beer like an IPA from Elliott Bay or cans of Hamm's.
Foodwise, they were only offering frozen dinners when I was there, but I hear they've since added pulled pork sandwiches and a few other real food items. The co-owners cooked at Swingside Cafe and other places, so the food is probably worth checking out.

On its website, the Wizard claims to be a "clean dive." As I've said before, I think people in Seattle are too quick to call places dives. I guess calling a bar a dive gives it some kind of cache with hipsters who want to drink PBRs and pretend they're in a seedy and dangerous place. There's nothing seedy or dangerous about this bar. That's not to say that I don't like the Wizard. The place feels comfortable and there is metal on the jukebox. It's a place I'd drink at regularly if I were still working in Wallingford.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Bar #16: Clever Bottle - Belltown

A group of us headed into Belltown to check out Clever Bottle, a place that focuses on on cocktails featuring wine and/or beer. We were there on a Friday during happy hour, and it was pretty dead. The feel of the place has more in common with the area's upscale eateries than it does with bars like Shorty's and Lava Lounge.

In addition to the non-spirits cocktail angle, there are wines by the glass, a few taps of typical local beers and a menu of small plates using high quality, local ingredients from Pike Place Market. I had a Black Velvet made with lemon, sparkling wine and Deschutes Black Butte Porter. It was decent, but nothing that'll have me rushing to mix wine and beer again in the near future.

We wondered if Clever Bottle will survive if it's so dead on a Friday late afternoon. I talked with the owner Kristen, and she said business has been good overall and usually picks up later in the evening. While it may not the best choice for a pub crawl, Clever Bottle could be a good call for a date. I could see it being a pre- or post-dinner option for people eating nearby. Despite its cute name and the limited options for beer drinkers, I could see coming back with my lady for a drink and some eats.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Bar #15: Virginia Inn - Downtown

I said I wasn't going to write up places that are more restaurant than bar, but that idea's gone out the window. From now on, I'm just going to report on every establishment that'll serve me. Recently, I visited Virginia Inn, a place that's definitely more dining spot than drinking destination. Located a block away from Pike Place Market in the area where downtown meets Belltown, the Virginia has cocktails, wine and ten or so beers on tap.

The bar area is a small percentage of the room, with table seating taking up most of the space. There are also several small outdoor tables, which tourists covet when the weather's nice. Most of the beer selections are local, which is good since it forces the tourists to drink something that isn't advertised on television. I had a couple Boundary Bay IPAs and they tasted fine.

I visited during happy hour and, oddly, there were no discounts on drinks—only on food. To encourage both eating and drinking, they offer half-price small plates if you order a beverage. For $4, I had a hummus plate that was a decent snack. They also had plates with smoked salmon, deviled eggs and pâté.

Even though I work downtown, I don't see Virginia Inn becoming a regular drinking spot. There's nothing about the bar that stands out and during the good weather months it's lousy with tourists. For me, it'll only be an occasional option for a few pints and a snack during happy hour.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bar #14: Pony - Capitol Hill

When I started the whole EBiS thing, I was a little worried about how I was gonna handle visits to Capitol Hill's gay bars. I'm no homophobe, but I'd be lying if I said I was comfortable walking solo into a leather daddy bar or hardcore lesbian hangout. Most of my guy friends aren't eager to hit spots like these either (unless they're shithoused), so I jumped at the chance when I ran into Cavy, Pickles and Spilly at Elysian one afternoon and they suggested hitting Pony.

We went to the bar at their usual opening time of 5 pm, but we forgot that it was the day after Pride Weekend, and they had a sign saying they wouldn't be open until 7. After killing a few hours with drinks and corndogs at Unicorn, we headed back and had the bar to ourselves.

I didn't bother looking at the taps or liquor with a critical eye. Spilly told me earlier that they serve $2 tallboys of Colt 45 in paper bags and that was good enough for me. I couldn’t remember the last time I had a Colt 45.

We didn't stay for long, but we did play air hockey and enjoyed some drinks on their outdoor deck. I also acted like Beavis and/or Butthead, pointing and laughing while checking out all the porntastically gay pictures on the walls and the ‘80s gay porn mags on the tables. I know, I need to grow up. Since then, I heard about the wonders that awaited in the bathroom, but my bladder didn't need emptying.

Needless to say, going to Pony the day after Pride Weekend, you’re not going to have the true Pony experience. There were no other people there, so I got no real sense of what the bar's like. Is it one of those gay bars where there's a mix of straight and gay drinkers, or is it more of a same-sex pickup scene?

Luckily, a week or so later, I drunkenly came back with a larger group when the place was more lively. There seemed to be a mix of straight and gay drinkers. We nearly got 86ed when the bouncer caught a couple of us smoking on the deck. We tried to huddle around the fire pit to keep warm, but it really was just too cold to stay out there, so we had one drink and took off.

It may not be the kinda place I'll drink at often, but I'm glad I was able to check Pony out. I'll have to recruit more friends to visit other similar spots around Capitol Hill.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Bar #13: Roanoke Park Place - Capitol Hill

Roanoke Park Place is one of those bars that Seattleites call a dive that doesn't really live up to that tag. I think a lot of locals are too quick to label a place as a dive bar. To me, the Roanoke is simply a neighborhood bar. It's been around awhile and has some character, but it's not a dive. In some ways, it seems more like a sports bar than anything else. On the Sunday that Trevor and I stopped in, the final round of the U.S. Open golf tournament was on, and most of the bar patrons were intently watching. And you don't run across too many golf fans in a shithole dive bar.

I didn't pay much attention to the taps, but I'm pretty sure it was the usual mix of locals and macros. We saw the Sunday special of $1.50 Miller High Life bottles and went with that for a couple rounds. They have hot food, but we stuck with the free bowls of peanuts. They also have a ping-pong table on the patio out back. I would've enjoyed beating the living crap out of Trevor in ping-pong, but it was cold and drizzly.

I'm glad I made it to the Roanoke because there's a good chance it may not be around much longer. The bar owners' lease on the building is expiring at the end of July and their offer to buy the building was rejected by the property's owner. I haven't heard or seen anything in the last few weeks to indicate the situation has changed. There's a Save the Roanoke Facebook page, but it hasn't been updated recently. Hopefully, they'll find a way to keep the bar open. I'd like the chance to drop by again, drink some cheap beer and make use of that ping-pong table.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Coming Soon

It's been almost three weeks since my last post. I've been doing things that are bad for me and then recovering from doing these bad things. I've also been procrastinating the completion of anything constructive. Fear not, though. I'll be returning strong with stories of visits to Roanoke Park Place, Pony, Virginia Inn, Clever Bottle and Tavern Law.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Bar #12: Eastlake Zoo Tavern - Eastlake

On a rainy Sunday, my friend Trevor suggested we head over to Eastlake for a neighborhood bar crawl. The thing is, there aren’t many bars to crawl to in those parts. There's the Eastlake Bar & Grill (a place neither of us wanted to visit) and Pazzo's (a pizza place with a bar that I felt didn't qualify), but the only pure drinking spot is the Eastlake Zoo Tavern.

I'd heard about the Zoo since I moved to Seattle almost five years ago, but this was my first time. I don't get to Eastlake much. The only things I'd heard were that it was a legendary dive bar run by hippies and that they have some of the filthiest draft lines in town. For more on the history of the Zoo, check out a piece from the Seattle P-I in 2007.

The bar is big, dark and full of character from all the years it's been around. There’s a long, L-shaped bar, several pool tables, a snooker table, shuffleboard and darts. The walls are lined with pictures from back in the day and posters with Johnny Cash telling you how to pay the bartender.

The Zoo was pretty dead. Trevor and I heeded the advice to avoid tap beer and stuck with Rainier in bottles. We shot a few games of pool, which I shot with the bartender's special Miller Lite stick, since the dude took a liking to us. Maybe it was because we were two of only five customers. Or maybe it was because we started drinking the tavern's equivalent of shots--$5 blasts of Viking Blod mead (they also have sake bombs). Having drinks like that is a clever way for a tavern to keep the attention of liquor-drinkers who are disappointed when faced with the prospects of only beer, cider and wine.

Even though we didn't get a feel for what the bar's like when it's full of regulars, I liked the Zoo enough to want to come back. It may not be what it once was, but the place has character, even on a cold and rainy Sunday afternoon in June.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Bar #11: Sidetrack Room (in Orient Express) - SODO

Driving through SODO after our visits to Loretta's and Marco Polo, we couldn't help but stop at the collection of railroad cars that made up an Asian restaurant called Orient Express. We weren't sure if there was a bar inside, but we had to find out. Sure enough, one of the cars houses a bar called the Sidetrack Room.

The restaurant was empty except for a lone couple sharing some food at one of the tables. The Sidetrack Room was dark and the lighting had a red tint to it that reminded me of David Lynch's Twin Peaks. Unfortunately, there was no little man talking backwards and dancing.

Ben and I sat at the bar and were greeted by the familiar sight of pull-tabs and liquor bottles. There were also a few taps (Manny's and Stella, I think). We decided on shots of Wild Turkey and several dollars of pull-tabs. The bartender was arguing with a friend of hers about the types of liquor in a B-52. They both thought they were right and the conversation was settled with each side declaring the other full of shit.

For those historically inclined, there's an interesting story behind the connected railroad car restaurant/lounge. It originally opened in 1949 as Andy's Diner and closed in early 2008 before re-opening later that year as Orient Express. One of the cars is evidently a presidential car that FDR used, perhaps during his 1944 re-election campaign. Supposedly, the presidential car isn't open to the general public. If we'd known about it, we probably would've tried to weasel our way inside. Maybe next time....

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Bar #10: Marco Polo Bar & Grill - Georgetown

On the way to Loretta's, we saw Marco Polo before we drove over the South Park bridge. It looked like it might have dive bar potential, so we gave it a shot. I think Ben and I both felt like it was a one-and-done place before we even sat down.

The bar kinda straddles the line between sports bar and dive. It's got pool tables, pull-tabs and some TVs. In case you want to spend even more money, there's also one of those crappy internet jukeboxes and a lottery
scratch ticket machine. They have food (good fried chicken if you believe what you read online) and a typical beer and liquor selection.

Being a Tuesday night, the bar was pretty dead. There were a few groups of dirtbaggy dudes drinking beer and talking shit. One group was shooting pool, which bummed me out because they were hanging out right next to the one thing in the bar that was photo-worthy: jutting out from the wall, Marco Polo has a fucking NASCAR car. I shit you not. I probably should've risked the pool players ridicule and taken a picture of the car, but it felt like a dumb thing to do. We finished our Rainiers and headed out.

From stuff I've read since, some people think it's a great dive bar. To be fair, we were there on a Tuesday night, so maybe I didn't see the place at its best (although on the same Tuesday night Loretta's had a great feel to it). Under the right circumstances, I might like the place. For some reason, I'm not in a hurry to come back and find out.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Bar #9: Loretta's Northwesterner - South Park

Last Tuesday night, my friend Ben calls me and says, "Dude, I stole a car. Let's go hit some places for EBIS. Been to Loretta's in South Park?" The chance to go to a bar I'd never heard of and ride in a stolen car (okay, he actually borrowed it from a lady friend) was too good to pass up.

Loretta's is the first bar I've been to in awhile that I took an instant liking to. It's just one of those feelings--the minute I walked in, I was comfortable. It didn't hurt that the bartender was playing Nomeansno, which you don't hear played in bars that often.

The inside of the bar is dark and cozy and outside there's a big, partially-covered patio area with a ping pong table and an Airstream trailer. They don't have a lot to drink--a handful of taps, bottles and cans and well liquor (Jim Beam, Jose Cuervo, Gilbey's and Seagram's)--but the stuff they do have is cheap. There were a few decent beers on tap, but it felt right to drink cans of Hamm's, so that's what I did. They also have a food menu with $3 burgers (including a homemade veggie burger) and other inexpensive eats.

After having one drink in the bar, Ben and I headed to the patio to have our second in the Airstream. There was a group of ladies there having a girl's night out and they were making the most of it, throwing down shots and beers. One of them was eating fries, and ketchup-ing each one individually. At one point she spilled ketchup on her toe, pulled her foot up to her mouth and licked it off. This impressed us, so Ben asked if she'd eat a fry with her toes. She let me snap a photo.

Loretta's is a fun, welcoming bar that has that lived-in feeling that makes you wanna stay awhile and come back often. I wish there were a place like this closer to where I live… I'd be there a lot.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Bar #8: The Spectator - Queen Anne

After Jabu's, four of us (Nat, Nolley, Dean and I) decided we had one more Lower Queen Anne bar in us and chose The Spectator. I've waited at the bus stop outside it many times, and my gut always told me I didn't need to go in. You know what they say about always listening to your gut.

The Spectator is a sports bar. There are a lot of TVs. There are video games, pool and ping pong. They have food. There's nothing to drink that would excite anyone (unless you're a bargain hunter who comes in on $5 Bacardi-You-Call-It night). I didn't even pay attention to what beers they had on tap, I just drank PBR from the can. I would've had a shot of whiskey to liven things up a bit, but I could tell that no liquor was gonna prevent this place from sucking all the energy out of us.

This is one of those bars that you can size up in five minutes. Being a sports bar, it's a dire place when there are no big games on. When we rolled in, there were 8-10 other dudes sitting around and the bar just had a pathetic feel to it. I'm sure it's plenty lively during World Cup matches or the NCAA tournament or something, but as a place to drink on an average Thursday night? Not so much.

Before we left, I saw one of those Superpretzel warmer/display things on the bar and it had one sad-looking pretzel spinning around and around. I thought, yeah little pretzel, I know how you feel. It's the same way I'd feel if I'd come in to a bar like this by myself tonight.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bar #7: Jabu's Pub - Queen Anne

The Seattle Center/Lower Queen Anne area is not a neighborhood where I spend a lot of time. Nothing against it, but I rarely head there unless it's to go to a movie or Easy Street Records. So when a group of us happened to be seeing a film fest movie nearby, it was a good opportunity to hit a few bars, starting with Jabu's Pub.

There are two sections to the bar. The main area has a pool table, Big Buck Hunter and Ms. Pac Man games, and some booths and tables. There's also a metal wall where you can have fun with magnets. The other section of the bar is a darker, smaller area with a small bar and a TV. The customers were people from the neighborhood watching the NBA playoffs and having a few drinks.

Liquor-wise, the selection is pretty typical. No fancy-pants $12 cocktails here, but they do have some flavored vodkas and such. The draft beer options are pretty good and lean toward the local. There were beers from Fremont, Iron Horse, Diamond Knot and Maritime. They also have a pub grub food menu.

You can tell a lot about a bar by the things they do or don't have. The presence of a Jagermeister cold shot machine is usually a surefire sign that a bar sucks. In the case of Jabu's, I'll give them a pass since the place is a perfectly fine neighborhood joint, despite this douche magnet.

Places like Jabu's serve a purpose for people who live within walking distance and like to go out for a few nearby drinks. For a thirsty wanderer like me, it's fine too. While it doesn't have a ton of character, it works well as a drinking stop along the way to wherever the night leads me.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Bar #6: Nickerson Street Saloon & Grill - Fremont

I probably shouldn't be writing about Nickerson Street Saloon & Grill because it's more of a family-friendly eatery than a bar, but I didn't know that beforehand. I'd met up with Urban Beer Hike Dave in the midst of a 12+ mile beer hike and it was close to his planned route.

We wandered in on a sunny Saturday afternoon and the inside was dead, with only a few people at the bar and tables. The bulk of Nickerson is table seating; there's also an area with a big screen TV for sports. The full bar is a narrow slice of the interior with mirror seating areas on each side. Most people were out on the patio improving their chances of skin cancer.

The beer selection is pretty good: 14 taps that included Deschutes Hop in the Dark, Lagunitas Hop Stoopid, Fremont IPA, two Georgetown beers and Sierra Summerfest. I had a Hop in the Dark and Dave had a Snoqualmie Hefeweizen served with a lemon wedge, which I was glad to see him toss aside.

Not much to say about Nickerson, really. Nice beer selection, but more of a restaurant than a bar. Also, maybe I didn't give the place its due since we went in the midst of a pub crawl. I might end up here again, but probably won't make a special visit.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bar #5: The Noble Fir - Ballard

After trying three Capitol Hill cocktail bars, I decided to take EBIS back into my beer comfort zone. So I headed to Ballard to check out The Noble Fir, a brand new tavern featuring beer, wine, cider and a love of the outdoors.

The bar's small interior feels spacious, due to high ceilings and huge floor-to-ceiling windows. Nice as it looks, the airiness and the bright lighting, even at night, kept it from having the warm, comfortable feeling I look for in a bar. The bartop, tables and booths are wood and there's a cool reading nook with bookcases full of outdoor books.

Behind the bar, there are sixteen taps and a small selection of bottled beer, wine and cider. There's also a food menu with small plates of meat and cheese, sandwiches and a few sweet snacks (with lots of vegetarian options). The beer selection is solid but not extraordinary. Around half the beers are from Oregon and Washington and lean toward the hoppy. There are also three ciders on tap. I had a Double Mountain India Red Ale.

My friend Ian ordered tea instead of beer because of a dry-out pact with his lady that started the day after Seattle Beer Week. While I respect not wanting to lose a bet, it was painful to see him picking through a basket of teas in a bar.

The odd thing about the Fir is that they give change back in dollar coins instead of paper. They say they're doing it to be more environmentally friendly but it pissed off my friend Dean, who tried to use the coins on the bus home and was denied by Metro.

What I liked most is that the Fir uses 20-ounce imperial pints that top out at $5.50. I've seen other places serve the same beers in cheater or shaker pints for higher. Overall, The Noble Fir is a good place to get a real pint of quality beer. It doesn't have the kind of feeling that makes me want to while away the hours, but it's so new that it'll probably develop more of a personality soon.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Bar #4: Unicorn - Capitol Hill

(written by Francesca Penchant)

Unicorn is a popular new bar in Capitol Hill with a decadent circus theme. I’ve been needling Chris to escort me there, but he usually avoids hip bars that emphasize cocktails over beer. Thank you, EBIS!

The Unicorn owners went all-out decorating their bar. There are zebra-print booths, stuffed game on the bright, striped walls and a magnificent pastel churrigueresque bar. The huge windows are also painted with stripes, which makes the bar nice and dark. In the basement, they plan to finish building a pinball room this winter.

Besides the surreal décor, another draw at Unicorn is the kitschy food, which is surprisingly tasty. Corndogs are a major part of the Unicorn menu. Chris balked when I ordered a giant corndog stuffed with cream cheese and a deep-fried Twinkie, but he had to admit that they were damn good. Not the kind of food that you’d want to eat every day, but just what the doctor ordered for a night of heavy binge drinking. Another tempting dessert is the Candies “en Croute,” a selection of store-bought chocolate bars. Unicorn is open for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch.

The patrons at Unicorn are the typical black-clad Capitol Hillsters, so we fit right in. There’s a decent liquor selection and plenty of beers on tap and in bottles, although Chris said that the beer was crap. He drank a Big Al IPA and a PBR. I had a gin martini. Crazy drinks such as Jell-o shots add to the campiness.

A jukebox is always a fun diversion, and the Unicorn’s is solid. When we came in, the bartender was playing Prince, but as the bar filled up around 8pm, we heard punk, indie rock, hair metal, ‘80s pop and classic rock tunes from the jukebox. I played The Buzzcocks, Ween, The Smiths and Soundgarden.

If you like your food on sticks and your bars flamboyant, Unicorn is a welcome addition to the crowded Capitol Hill bar scene.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Bar #3: The Living Room - Capitol Hill

After a so-so time at Still Liquor, we weren't exactly fired up to go to another bar. But The Living Room was on the way home, so we figured what the hell... let's knock down another one.

The Living Room is a small, two-floor bar. The lower floor has a tiny bar area, a few tables, a couch and a cozy chess nook. The upstairs was closed off for a private party.

I usually prefer sitting at the bar, so a place that only has four barstools isn’t much of a bar to me. Maybe that's where the whole “Living Room” thing comes in, but the effect isn’t quite convincing in the downstairs section. Evidently, there's a fireplace upstairs…so the private party prevented us from getting the full experience.

Drinkwise, there's a small, specialty cocktail menu similar to Still, four taps (Stella, Manny's Georgetown 9 lb. Porter and Elysian Immortal IPA) and not much in bottles or cans. One cool thing that caught my attention was the shot of Evan Williams and PBR for $5. If I'd acted like a professional drinker, I would've gotten that instead of spending $4 on a pint of the Immortal. There's also a limited food menu with small plates of nuts, olives, meat and cheese.

The crowd at The Living Room was alright. There were more hoodies than at Still, which means more hipsters. Nothing horrible about the place, but my feeling is, not my kind of crowd, not my kind of bar. I might bring someone in for a quiet drink, but I doubt I'll be back solo unless I walk by and feel the need for a quick $5 buzz.  

Monday, May 31, 2010

Bar #2: Still Liquor - Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill, the neighborhood I call home, has a crapload of bars but I only drink at a few. Thanks to EBIS, that's all going to change. My lady Francesca and I decided to start with a bar near Melrose Market called Still Liquor.

Still follows the blueprint of a lot of new bars in hip, gentrified areas: the interior is modern with a lot of wood and stone and pipes running along the ceiling. There are seats at the bar and booths along the outside of the room. Some say the interior reminds them of a sauna or Russian bathhouse. We speculated that Still may become kind of a meat market when it gets crowded, but it could just be a place where couples and small groups stop in for a drink and conversation.

The drinks are pretty standard--a small fancy cocktail menu, top shelf liquor, wine, two taps (Stella Artois and Big Al IPA) and 15 bottled beers (a bunch of macros plus Anchor Steam, Full Sail Session and Deschutes Black Butte Porter). I stepped out of my comfort zone and ordered a Dragon's Toe cocktail, made with Maker's Mark, muddled cucumber and fresh ginger. It was pretty tasty and a relative bargain at $7 (most of the cocktails ran $9-12). For my second drink, I had a Session Black, which you can get for the same price as a Bud. From what we could gather, Still Liquor doesn't serve food.

We were there on a Saturday at 8 pm and things were still pretty slow. The drinkers were more on the yuppie side than the usual dissheveled Capitol Hill hipsters. Sadly, the most exciting moment of the evening was when I reached to taste Francesca's drink as she reached for mine and her martini went splashing all over the bar. And I wasn't even drunk. The bartender was cool about it and gave her a new drink without charge.

I can't see coming back to Still on my own because I didn't feel completely comfortable there, but it's not a bad place to take someone for a couple drinks. My search for a new Capitol Hill go-to spot continues....

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Bar #1: The White Horse Trading Company - Downtown

I've heard good things about The White Horse, so I've been wanting to visit it for awhile, but don't do a lot of drinking in the touristy hell of Pike Place Market. This project was the perfect excuse to get there.

I liked the place from the moment I walked in. It's small, dark, cozy and feels more like a bookshop or some Englishman's parlor than a bar. There's a lot of English memorabilia on the walls, comfortable chairs and couches and a few seats at the bar.

There's a very limited drink selection--three Samuel Smith bottled beers, a cask ale, a couple wines, an English mead and a Pimm's Cup cocktail. I'd never had a Pimm's before, so I started with that. Made with brandy-based Pimm's #3, red wine, bitters and lemon, it was interesting but too sweet to be something I'd drink often. I also had a cask ale, which Joe, the owner/bartender, said was a Sam Smith brown ale aged in a wooden cask for two years.

I visited The White Horse with seven other people. Three weren't drinking and looked uncomfortable. I asked my friend what their problem was and he said that they're usually big drinkers, but they only drink stuff like Bud Light. They didn't know what to do with the limited drink menu. Sorry, people... professional drinkers find something to drink at any bar.

One cool thing about The White Horse that I hadn't seen--if you wanna leave your drink to have a smoke or hit the head, they have double-sided wooden blocks for you to display drinkside that say "Out Smoking" or "In the W/C." Speaking of the bathroom, the one at White Horse is odd. It's a semi-open space with a swinging door that latches. People can't actually see you doing your business, but it's pretty exposed. You wouldn't want to drop a deuce here unless you were desperate.

Overall, this is a laid-back place to grab a few drinks. Joe can be a little standoffish but is mostly friendly and engaging. He used to own the Black Horse in SF (also a great bar and one of the smallest I've ever seen). But, as much as I liked it, because of the location I'll probably only drink at The White Horse again if I'm in the area or taking a first-timer.