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.