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.