it wasn’t until recently, while watching a seahawks game with friends, that i learned that yellow line in a football game wasn’t a real line after all. fast forward a couple years when my bbf (read: best boy-friend) secured tickets to the hawks/49-ers game. first thing first, i proceeded to procure the proper game attire; in this case, the evrgrn crash sack. if a sleeping bag and a snuggie had a baby, well this is it. needless to say, the hawks won (i’m fairly certain my sleeping bag coat had everything to do with it), and the next order of business was to find a suitable venue to keep us entertained while we escaped gridlock of post-game traffic. after a stint of indecisiveness, we stumbled upon then 12 day-old (coincidence??) jarrbar. built for the casual barfly and industry folk alike, it features tins of tapas and a curated cocktail list (jarrbar drinks!) the norteño, with smokey mezcal and jalapeño, was the perfect sipper to keep me cozy. and let’s face it, nothing raises the temperature like a long leg stretched out on the bar…iberian that is. the view behind the bar wasn’t too shabby either, especially in my crash sack.
believe it or not, it only took me a year and a half to finally catch up on my backlogged blog…that in itself deserves a drink. and what better note to end/begin on than new year’s eve at the pink door. tucked away in post alley, this cabaret-meets-cave is famous for their signature lasagna– something i refuse to eat anywhere else, and i’m fairly sure it’s made of angels. on saturdays, my favourite glamazon sydney devereaux produces a heck of a burlesque production in the back bar, where cocktail concoctions abound. this all reinforces the fact that there are few things more satisfying about celebrating a new year in the first world than seeing other people work hard while you’re kicking back with a belly full of angels and a drink in hand.
this marks my hundredth post, which conjures images of fireworks and champagne bottles popping (oh wait, maybe that’s just new year…), but i’m sad to report that suite 410 doesn’t really foot the bill. self-proclaimed as an “urban neighborhood bar”, a mal-alignment of expectations was presented; sure, it’s in downtown, which could be construed as “urban”, but “neighborhood bar” is far from meeting expectations. there’s no sense of cheers, but rather an ambiance fit for a hotel bar, with a brushed steel/lacquered wood bar and piston stools that convey somewhere far from home. our bartender was a young lad no older than a quarter century, with a faux hawk that would make belltown rise up in applause. after pointing out to him where the fernet was located at his own bar, i asked for a ginger back, at which point he mixed what i later found out to be “bartender’s ginger ale“, a concoction of sprite, coke, and a dash of angostura. while i’m usually a purist, i can’t say that i mind being hoodwinked in this situation, as some ginger beers can be overpowering and syrup-laden. throw in a complementary communal fruit and cheese plate during happy hour and we’ll call it even.
after a disappointing re-introduction to rn74, i was ready to make amends with my psyche and head down pike to il bistro. now, if you know me, you also know that im a big fangirl (squee!) of david nelson and all that he’s doing for bars around seattle. when i found out that il bistro had swiped him up from tavern law, i immediately sounded the alarm and gathered the troops for yet another cocktail thursday. that night, i had the first of many, many+ delightful drinks, the most notable being the blood and sand: a refreshing scotch cocktail (or as i like to call it, “scotch light”). that was then, but what now? well, to put it simply, i practically live there. what prompted the transition? a couple of months back, i received the unfortunately news that naga, my suburban schooner of spirit water, was losing its helmsman evan martin to ba bar on the hill. after having discovered the power of cocktails and wi-fi there, i needed to seek out a new safe house for my anti-social, alcohol-inspired authorship (aka “laptop at the bar“). and while il bistro may not have wi-fi, rules are made to be broken, and the power of david nelson’s barside manner along with the modern convenience of phone tethering can incite a flood of inspiration. throw in little late night happy hour nosh and the flames keep burning bright ’til closing time.
when i heard that restaurant magnate michael mina was planning to open a satellite restaurant in seattle, i was excited to say the least. after having a memorable experience at rn74 sf, i expected to be transported back to that feeling when i was a) really looking forward to the hype, and b) relieved that despite the hype, it didn’t suck after all. my first introduction to rn74 seattle was through mention when discussing murray stenson‘s retirement from zig zag. word on the street was that murray left zig zag after getting an offer he couldn’t refuse from mr. mina, but that raised the question of “why would a big shot restaurateur want to take the focus off of his food at a wine-centric restaurant and rather share the limelight with a world-class craft cocktailer??” after consulting a couple of industry cronies, we all came to the conclusion that it was “so no one else can have murray.” however, things don’t always turn out as planned. murray never made it there (everyone’s got their own conspiracy theory), but i figured the level of bartending there had to be at least half way decent to attract the likes of a local celebrity. boy was i wrong. so wrong. as i walked up to the bar to meet my asians/amies, the corner of my eye caught the sparkle of glitter eye makeup on the bartender…WHAT??? don’t get me wrong, glitter has its place in the world alongside unicorns and strip joints, but not at a reputable place of business, and definitely not the bar of a james beard candidate. immediately, my instinct was to bolt, but i resisted and calmly opened the menu. that’s when i saw the “HE AIN’T HEAVY, HE’S MY BROTHER, a shot of fernet with a cock ‘n bull ginger back: an industry staple”. now normally, i would jump for joy, but let’s think this through– WHY would you put a shot and back on a menu?? and then reveal it as an industry staple?? it’s like a kiss-and-tell, and all the sparkle in the world can’t hide that, no matter how good the offer sounds.
sometimes things are where you least expect them. take a pizza mart for example, it’s around the corner from my office, sandwiched between a taco del mar and children’s hospital. i’ve walked by there a million times and never thought twice about going. in fact, my exact thoughts were “who the hell goes in there??” the tinted windows, tacky neon *cocktails* sign…all signs point to NO. then one faithful day when all hell was breaking loose at work, i looked up at the clock and realized it was already 1:51 pm and i had meetings from 2 to eternity. i had a choice: pledge an oath of hunger or haul ass around the corner. the safe pick would have been a taco of the sea, but having partaken the day before, it was time to diversify my lunchtime portfolio. as my eyes adjusted to the dim lighting of a pizza mart, i was surprised to see that this pizza joint would only have one warming case with some sad orphan slices. but who gives a fuck because my eyes automatically drawn to the fernet branca sitting on the shelf. REALLY??? mental note taken. fast forward to a few weeks later when a co-worker needed to discuss the recent re-org but the only time he had available was after 5. so…working after 5 translates to cocktail o’clock in my world. between talks of story cards and sips of spirits, barkeep steven picked up on my recent trip south of the border and offered up a surprisingly substantial array of tequila. did i mention that this girl <3’s impromptu tastings? i’ll keep a pizza mart in my back pocket and my heart, somewhere you’d least expect it.
when anthony bourdain was asked about which food he obsessed, he recalled a time when he was given the choice of forsaking pork or acknowledging mortality and decrepitude with a lifetime of heart medication. we all know which side of the argument he came down on, so how appropriate for seattle’s newest gastropub to be named after the chinook word for piggy. happy hour was about to end in ten minutes as i ran downhill four blocks in four-inch heels to the depths of harbor steps. i burst through the doors with mere minutes to spare and quickly proceeded to order two of everything on the happy hour menu, from spiced olives and marcona almonds to housemade sausage with spaetzle to the special cocktail of the day, the moscow mule. as my cocktail thursday guests trickled in (ever the fashionably late), a veritable small plates feast awaited them. like the stills of a time-lapse camera, the food slowly disappeared, but the night was young and we ordered a round of bartenders choice. the waitress returned with a martinez, a truth-telling serum of gin, antica, fernet, and maraschino. this ancestor of the martini had me glowing within mere sips, and might have been the turning point for my own growing obsession with gin.
how often do you get the chance to order your drink by rolling the dice? i’m not talking watered-down vegas cocktails, but rather well thought-out concoctions crafted to enhance your evening, not drown out the sorrow of a resulting second mortgage. mistral kitchen has crafted such an experience: the 4 d 6. with a tagline of “no saving throws, all booze, all chance, always stirred, stiff and served up”, the choice was clear. after some satisfying selections resulting from the throws of our bartender (gin and citrus come to mind), the balance of power soon shifted and we gained control our own fate. a velvet bag revealed four large wooden blocks, each emblazoned with pyrography depicting various base spirits and flavour profiles. maybe it was the weight of the dice, the clanging sound they made as they landed onto the glass table, or the feeling of contributing to the creative process, but luck was a lady that night. as the bartender did the shake, i was getting baked…but the best part was that i helped.
in continuing with the tradition of hijacking friends’ christmases, i jumped on a bandwagon headed due north to vancouver. unfortunately, my audi-owner friend forbade in-car consumption, and thus i required sustenance to endure a snack-free three hour ride. this presented the perfect opportunity to stop in at seattle restaurateur tom douglas’s latest venture, seatown seabar & rotisserie (commonly referred to as seatown snackbar). it was breakfast time at seatown, but i figure, if a place can get breakfast right, then dinner service can’t be that far behind. they exceeded expectations with super simple but tasty morning munchies like my porchetta, red pepper and arugula fried egg sandwich and my accomplice’s chorizo, fennel aioli, and avocado doppelgänger. wash it all down with an a.m. fernet and we were on the road again.
this time around, cocktail wednesday brought my motley crew to vessel, seattle’s imbibed interpretation of an ian schrager hot spot. located next to the 5th avenue theatre in the heart of downtown rush-hour traffic, vessel has received rave reviews, the most notable being a coveted seat at esquire’s compendium of the best bars in america. but we didn’t come here on reputation alone–of course there’s always a backstory, a method to our mixology madness. they say hindsight is 20/20, but chalk it up to a cancelled first date to one day lead me to a cocktail goldmine. redemption is sweet, for vessel houses bartenders that have seemingly perfected the formula of spirited savvy, aloofness, and hospitality, enough to make me want to be their student, favourite ex-girlfriend, and childhood neighbor all in one fell swoop. and oh the drinks! perusing their cocktail menu was like uncovering a stash of porn in your daddy’s closet (flip through as fast as you can, remember as much as possible, and pick one to take with you before you get caught). i ended up going on my second date with a fernet flip that definitely held its own against murray’s, and the truffle chips added just enough sparkle to keep things exciting. they say “fools rush in“, but i think i’ll be seeing vessel again very soon.