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 d├ęcor, 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.