just like any other skilled service professional, a good bartender can be considered a pied piper; where they go, i will follow. it takes time to build a rapport, and when you throw in a specialized skill on top of that, the choice was clear when evan announced that he was going west side to manage bar at a new vietnamese venture. the latest addition by the owners of monsoon and baguette box, ba bar follows suit with a contemporary take on vietnamese cuisine, but with a street food twist. bourdain may have summarized street food best as, “the biggest empty space, the biggest gap in what should be a premiere and always vibrant food scene in america is that we don’t have […] food courts where mom and pop specialists can set up shop […] making one dish they’ve been doing forever and ever.” while ba bar tries to answer the call, their menu is diverse (and nowhere near street prices); thus quality and authenticity suffer. street staples like pho and vermicelli bowls lack luster, and one would be better served biking down 12th to the ID (though do try their clams steamed in dry shrimp, củ kiệu, jalapeno, and saigon beer). but hey, at least i know the drinks are good enough for which to brave the bridge; evan’s got the tiki game on lock, exactly what i’d want to sip on while floating down the mekong.
i know that at least one person on earth has been anticipating this post, and i hope it was well worth the wait. so here goes…
vito’s is the type of place that, were my grandfather still alive, i’d proudly take him here. never mind that our communication level was always questionable, but i do remember that every christmas, there was always a bottle of canadian club under the tree for him…and that’s the type of patron this bar was built for. not to say that the rest of us can’t enjoy ourselves just as much here, but you’ll just never be as cool as my gramps. justin and nabil, the barkeeps of note at this establishment, know what’s up and are as obliging as any, but with the skills (shaken baby jesus #7 was born here) to back up a great experience every time (well, at least the parts of the “magical evenings” that i remember…) and another thing: when’s the last time you were offered an amaro tasting? exactly. but beyond all else, vito’s postcard says it all, which is absolutely nothing, because what happens at vito’s stays at vito’s.
trust me on this: nothing good happens after 2am. after somewhat of a tumultuous start to the weekend (involving 3am panic attacks, 4am drives across the 520, and 5am RDTs), it was time for a stay-cay of sorts. my first stop of the day was olympus spa, a lynnhood haven of hydrotherapy pools, energy rooms, and most importantly, chapchae. not only was it a much needed opportunity to decompress, but the nude women’s spa also doubled as an ego-booster. upon detoxification, the next logical thing to do was to restore karmic balance with an evening of re-toxification with my posse. being that i don’t believe in changing plans despite awkward situations, we stopped in at tavern law for a pre-dinner drink, which shortly morphed into liquid therapy. the hours and venues started to blur (as well as my “two drink limit”), and soon i was at the doorstep of the hideout, an art bar on first hill. staying true to it’s name, the obscure ‘h’ logo on the awning is easily dismissed by the unknowing eye, but the minimal exterior is zeroed-out by the dimly-lit barrage of art coating the loft-high interior. the couches and stools were occupied by an underground artist scene who appeared to take refuge from the commercialism of surrounding neighborhoods. a vending machine in the back served up snack-sized treats of art and literature, and underground punk blared on the speakers. after a fernet (and some siphoning of another), the night left me feeling numb – just what the doctor ordered.