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Bars where Pete has had a drink

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

#4141 #S1688 - Octopus Bar (corner), Seattle - 3/15/2021

The Octopus Bar, Seattle, WA

Judging from the crowd waiting for the new location of the Octopus Bar to open up today, I think they'll have a hit on their hands.

This spot on the corner of 45th and Bagley in Wallingford has hosted bars since shortly after prohibition. By 1935 it was the Picture Palace Tavern, then the Checkerboard in the early 40s to the mid 60s. In either 1964 or 1965 to became the Iron Bull, then very briefly the "Jolley Trolley in the mid 70s, and finally Goldies from the mid 70s until 2010. Later that year it became even more sport bar focused, and reinstituted the Iron Bull name until closing in November 2016.

However their loss became our gain when the frisky Octopus Bar, forced to move out of their location just around the old Guild 45th Theater, moved and greatly expanded into the space. The Octopus has 8 or 9 booths outside (which one hopes they'll be able to keep post-COVID), and a few inside spots along the front wall with big open windows that are probably just as COVID-safe. They also have a lot more indoor space right now, which I'm personally not ready to use, but their precautions seem relatively strong.

The food menu leans toward familiar comfort foods, and while the cocktail menu leans toward sugary sweet concoctions that are not going to impress more serious drinkers, but you can definitely find some satisfactory options. The big draw, of course, is the vibe and decor. From the pier pilings outside to the almost steampunk nautical decorations inside to the bathroom with sea life decor looking in and Bettie Page images looking out from the inside, it's an adult fun fest. 

2121 N 45th St, Seattle, WA 98103 - (206) 397-4557
Est. March 15, 2021 (this location); Jan 25, 2014 up the road - Building constructed: 1925
Previous bars in this location: Picture Palace Tavern, The Checkerboard, Iron Bull, Jolley Trolley, Goldies
Web site: - facebook 
Articles ranked: seattlepi - do206 - wallyhoodyelp - tripadvisor  

Thursday, March 11, 2021

The Eastlake Zoo

(Note: This is a post on one of the more interesting bars that I first went to long ago and was on my starting list, and hence hasn't had its own blog entry at the time.)

Eastlake Zoo Tavern, Seattle, WA
Est. 1974
The University of Washington campus is framed by two epic neighborhood dive bars, the Blue Moon and the Eastlake Zoo.
The former is the older establishment, and has attracted more attention from the local literati. But both locations have hosted bars since shortly after prohibition, and both are living time capsules, that have preserved their considerable character for decades as the neighborhoods around them changed.

The Eastlake Zoo building, constructed in 1902, has hosted since at least early 1935, when the city directory lists a bar of unknown name owned by Max Hurwitz. (Hurwitz also owned the "Put & Take Tavern," before new owners renamed it the Latona Pub in the late 40s.) From the mid 30s to the mid 60s it hosted a string of eponymously named bars including "Joe's Place" (Joe Carroll) by 1936, "Tommie Wood's Tavern" (owned by, yes, Thomas Woods) by 1941, "Jack's Tavern" by 1945, "Mack's Tavern" (Ivan "Mack" McKinnon) from 1948 to 1959, and "Hank's Tavern" owned by Henry Kourad by 1960 and preserving that name for a few years when it was owned by Thelma Brown and Maxine Hart, until Hart renamed it the "It'll Do Tavern" in either late 1965 or early 1966.

Howard Brown, owner, Eastlake Zoo Tavern
March 2021

Hart appears to have sold the It'll Do to Alf and Donna Schroeder, and in a couple years it exchanged hands to a group calling itself "Blue Moon Inc." I have not found any connections of this group to the Blue Moon Tavern, which at that time was owned by Gerry Kingen (along with a ramshackle tavern the edge of Portage Bay called the "Red Robin"). But Howard Brown says that the Blue Moon Inc. group included Clinton Worthington and Stan Paul at the time the "Eastlake Zoo" group purchased the place in 1974. The Zoo team (or "Ooz Bros" as they were known via their softball team and other extracurricular activities) was formed as a co-op, with a percentage ownership determined by how much one worked the place, and rotating roles like chief executive. They assumed the name of "ITC," the Intergalactic Tavern Co-op -- though the co-op part is less relevant now, with all the main members having passed away with the exception of Howard Brown.

Eastlake Zoo Tavern, Seattle, WA

Much of the group lived just down the hill from the bar, in the "hippie houseboat community," before the floating houses had plumbing and million dollar price tags. Howard didn't work there at the very start, but his roommate in a house across the street from the houseboats did, and Howard joined in 1978. In 1992 Howard and his wife, now with a child, moved, and Howard worked in construction while his wife worked for UPS. But after partner Mike "Seemore" Bennett passed away, the people left running the place gradually let the place slide, and handled the cash-only till with something less than total integrity. In 2007 Mike's brother Pat Bennett called Howard to help rescue the place, the two had a meeting with the landlord, and Howard was back on the job, firing undependable staff and cleaning up the business. He's been there most days ever since, even after Pat passed away.

Throughout all this, the Zoo has maintained its hippie-like, laid back but fun vibe and decor. It is one of a very few remaining true taverns -- no liquor, just beer and wine -- and only accepts an ancient form of payment known as "cash." The bar was expanded well beyond the confines of the It'll Do Tavern, with the added back section holding billiard tables, an official-sized snooker table (lit by a billiards lamp from the old 211 Club in downtown Seattle), Skee-Ball, ping pong table, shuffleboard and pinball machines, along with an elevated back portion looking down on the alley below. There's a dance floor and room for a band -- less common now, but one wall is covered with a sample of the the fliers for the regular schedule of years of the mostly blues and rock bands, and occasionally funk or metal, that got the place jumping. "Duffy Bishop & the Rhythm Dogs were repeating performers, and I remember a night when a friend of mine didn't allow the exuberant Duffy quite enough space on the dance floor, and as she popped her head up she accidentally broke his nose. It was the sort of bar where those things happened. (The same friend's injury was re-aggravated at the Zoo one night when I convinced him to climb head first into an antique Coke cooler.)

King Zoosaga, AKA Seemore, AKA Mike Bennett
owner, Eastlake Zoo Tavern, Seattle, WA

Things appear mysteriously at the Zoo.
Any great old dive is lined with layers of bric-a-brac accreted in an undirected manner over many years, and the Zoo has these memories in spades. Sometimes they are carefully planned like the mural on a back wall, and sometimes they are only discovered the next morning, like the squirrel hide Howard found mounted on the wall, or the framed, hastily scrawled note observing "H.B. says it's not his fault." ("H.B." would be Howard.) There are memories of past owners, past patrons, and various past events -- like the Seattle Times article about Howard wining his 4th straight Pub Run, a once annual event that required racing between eight to thirteen bars (varying with the year) and pounding a 7-oz beer at every one of them. There are photos of the softball team, of an annual event in Marysville, of people dancing, singing, fighting, and just sitting. And then there are the "after-hours" photos where things really get weird. 

There are animal heads and horns and hides (tending to the more exotic than the aforementioned squirrel contribution). There's a giant photo of Basil Rathbone for some reason, and a red paper mache dragon with glowing eyes (sometimes you don't ask). There are dartboards surrounded by rope and wooden frames with the dart holes of thousands of errant throws over the decades. There are posters from past events, many of them done for the benefit of Northwest Harvest or other charities, including the annual events of  the "Guitar Outlaws" ensembles, chili cookoff, and mac-n-cheese smackdown. The Guitar Outlaws in particular is a venerated tradition, though tragically due to COVID, the December 2020 performance was canceled for this first time since 1991. The authors of its opus "The String Cycle" have compared it favorably to Wagner's Ring Cycle, and described it modestly as "the most important event of the 20th century." (Seattle Times, Oct 16, 1992).

In summary, the Eastlake Zoo, while casual, is so deep in character and characters, that if the phrase "great old dive" has any appeal to you, you must not live in or visit Seattle without at least occasionally dropping in.

For more photos please see Pete's Eastlake Zoo Flickr pics 

2301 Eastlake Ave E, Seattle, WA 98102
Est. 1974 - Building constructed: 1924 - Co-op founded in 1974
Previous bars in this location: Tommie Wood's Tavern, Jack's Tavern, Mack's Tavern, Hank's Tavern, Joe's Place, It'll Do Tavern
Web site: facebook - (2010 via wayback machine)
Articles Ranked: atlasobscuraseattlepi - seattlepi - seattleweekly - artzone (video) - seattle times re. guitar outlaws (Seattle library card required) - yelp - tripadvisor - thrillist 

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

#3832 - Oxbow Restaurant and Tavern, Prairie City, OR - 7/27/2019

Oxbow Saloon, Prairie City, OR

A glance at these photos will tell you what brought me to Prairie City in central Oregon, first settled by Europeans in 1862, when a group of Confederate sympathizers discovered gold nearby, and originally named "Dixie." There in the shadow of Strawberry Mountain, the Oxbow lies inside an old stone building, said to be constructed in 1902, in the middle of a block of old west style buildings on Front street. Referred to both as the Oxbow Tavern and the Oxbow Saloon, the owners appear to have embraced the "OXBOW Dinner House and Pizza Company." (I tend tend to use the "Saloon" name, as it is the old saloon elements that I cherish.)

I wish I could tell you the history of this building (is the stone steer head above the entry a clue?), how long there has been a bar here, and how long it has been known as the Oxbow, but alas I have discovered very little here. But in any case the current incarnation looks both antique and splendid, with taxidermy heads lining the stone walls and one of the most beautiful back bars you will ever see. The menus in the restaurant contain some info on the bar:

Beautiful Brunswick "Los Angeles" model bar
in Oxbow Saloon, Prairie City, Oregon

"The Rosewood and Mahogany "Twin Virgin" back bar is in its original condition. The Ladies were hand carved in Milan, Italy in 1879. They were transported by sailing ship across the Atlantic ocean and up the Mississippi River to St. Louis, Missouri where the W.L. Lewis Company completed the cabinetry for this magnificent back bar. The bar was again loaded onto a sailing ship, traveling around South America's Cape Horn on a 21,000 mile, 9 month journey through treacherous seas to the mouth of the Columbia river. After being transferred onto a sternwheeler, the bar was ferried up to [the] city of The Dalles. It then traveled by train to Baker City. Pulled by horse drawn wagons the bar made it to its final destination, the Heinenkraft Saloon in Prairie City, where the Ladies welcome you now..."

There is no source listed for this history, but it's great to have the story available to patrons. I'd only add that the bar is pretty much identical to the "Los Angeles" model in the Brunswick-Balke-Collender catalog -- and could have had a fairly similar history were it produced by Brunswick. (The catalog describes it as "Golden Oak and Birch, Mahogany Color.") This is probably my favorite Brunswick model, and this is the only one I've actually seen in person.

Today the Oxford serves wide range of contemporary pub food and weekly specials, including pizzas, burgers, wings, taco salad, fish tacos, ribeye steak and a fine assortment of homemade pies. It features a full bar with fair standard choices in spirits and a good selection of draft beers. If you like history, beautiful woodwork, old buildings with unique character, or you're just in Grant County and could use a bite or drink, I recommend a visit.

The "Los Angeles" model from a 
Brunswick-Balke-Collender catalog

Established date: Unknown - Building constructed: 1902 
Previous bars in this location: Unknown
Web site: facebook  
Articles: 1859oregonmagazinebluemountaineagle - yelp - tripadvisor - traveloregon - roadtrippers  

Friday, December 04, 2020

#3184 #S1464 - Bar House, Seattle - 2/26/2017

Bar House, Seattle, WA
Some consider Seattle's Fremont neighborhood ruined by gentrification, and of course it is has seen it's share of small places with character replaced by large condo buildings without. But I don't think there have really ever been a much more quintessentially Fremont funky bar than Ben Verellen's "Bar House." For starters, rather than a space at the base of large concrete and steel development, with reclaimed wood and edison bulbs attempting desperately to dig some sense of humanity out of the bleak surroundings, Bar House is located in a 120-year-old bungalow behind a white picket fence, with what seems like they could be all the original interior walls and rooms intact. The space happens to above the shop where Verellen has been crafting handmade, boutique tube guitar and bass amplifiers, when he is not playing guitar for his metal band Helms Alee.

Verellen told the Seattle Weekly that "I’m kind of a Disneyland fanatic," and this becomes abundantly clear as one walks from room to room of the bar. My clumsy photos will by no means do justice to these, but as you approach the bar you first pass a darkened, forest room, which includes a small, eletronic campfire surrounded by ersatz trees, complete with fog and cricket sounds. Continuing to the back room you find you have stumbled into a 70s blacklight post version of the cosmos. But my favorite is the bathroom, where you find find yourself in the appropriately tight quarters of the head in a submarine, complete with sonar pings, bubble sounds, and a porthole to the depths beyond. At any moment you may see a flash of lightning, hear a crack of thunder, and suddenly have the bar thrust into dark.

Outside of special events, the food offerings don't usually extend beyond hot dogs and nachos, and the cocktails hew to dive bar classics, with a mix of craft brews and classic, crappy American beers. You might come for the diverting decor, but if you stay it will be for the chill people and casual, dive bar vibe. In any case, Fremont is manifestly not dead.

Est. 2017 - Building constructed: 1900 or earlier
Previous bars in this location: None known
Web site: facebook
Reviews: seattleweeklyseattlemet - yelp - zagat - untappd - cityseeker 

Thursday, December 03, 2020

#2713 #S1316 - The Pharmacy, Seattle - 3/5/2015

Pharmacy, Seattle, WA
The speakeasy-themed "Pharmacy" is a little less coy now -- there's actually a sign outside the entrance, and you can walk in without locating the doorbell and waiting for the bartender to allow you in. Once inside you amble down down a narrow set of stairs to a bricked basement, glowing with sleek, mid-century decor. The cocktail menu offers a nice selection of craft cocktails including, of course, a Painkiller.

Est. July 2014 - Building constructed: 1900 or earlier
Previous bars in this location: Deep Down Lounge
Web site: - facebook
Articles: seattlemet - yelp - theinfatuation - - eater - 

#3705 - Ark Craft Brewery, Seoul, South Korea - 2/9/2019

Ark Brewery, Seoul, South Korea

In February 2019, Trista and I were making our way back in our last leg around the globe in a half-work/half-vacation trip to London, Gurgaon and back, and we had a long layover in the Incheon Airport, near Seoul. Long layovers are common in Incheon, and thus they have a nifty selection of tours, available without a Visa, and essentially free (basically you just pay the cost of your meal in a local restaurant). It was thanks to this, and a local craft beer movement that had been booming for five years, that I was able to make my one visit to a bar in South Korea.

Gyeongbokgung Palace, Seoul, South Korea

We chose the tour of Gyeongbokgung Palace (originally constructed in 1395, and restored in the 19th century after being burnt down in a 1592 Japanese invasion) and the Insa-dong art district ("Small alleyways form labyrinths in between the main streets. The labyrinths are filled with galleries, antique shops, traditional craft shops and traditional teahouses and restaurants"). After our charming tour guide, Jennie, set us free to stroll the grounds and palaces of Gyeongbokgung in the piercing Febuary cold, and watching their dramatic changing-of-the-guard ceremony, we loaded back onto the bus and headed for Insa-Dong. We wound through an alley of shops and ducked below the low ceilings of a local restaurant, Kimchi Village, for a nice lunch, then were again set free for just enough time for a bit of wandering and locating Ark Craft Brewery, up the stairs over some other shops, with just enough time for one relaxing beer.

Winding down an Insa-dong alley
toward our lunch location

As I would learn later, until a few years ago, South Korean beer had a reputation for bland, low quality lagers. At one point, 'The Economist caused an uproar in South Korea when it declared in 2012 that "brewing remains just about the only useful activity at which North Korea beats the South." The article and the success of North Korean microbreweries prompted the South Korean beer industry to reform, including changing the alcohol law to allow microbrewing, in 2014.' (Wikipedia)  Beer had first appeared in Korea with Japanese immigrants in the wake of the 1876 Japan-Korea Treaty of Amity and Japanese dominance for three quarters of century. When Korea was liberated in WWII, the two Japanese breweries were taken over by the U.S. and then the locals, but like the U.S. in the wake of the war, tended to provide only bland, corporate brews.

It wasn't until 1984 that imported beer was legalized, and not until 2002, in advance of World Cup and Busan Asia Games, that brewpubs were legalized. Finally, in April 2014, in the wake of the Economist article and other critiques, the government dropped the mandated minimum volumes for breweries, and the microbrewery and craft beer industry took off. (

Jennie, our friendly tour guide

The Ark Craft Brewery bar is a pleasantly cluttered like most the shops in Insa-dong, but also features some nice, old wood, stacks of root tiles, and a big window looking out across the rooftops of the dong. It seemed like a place that is largely defined by its clientele, but unfortunately we were the only customers at the time. I can't recall the beer I ordered, but I do remember enjoying it, and as usual it is difficult for me to compare with other quality microbrew locations, as the ambiance generally seems similar and my taste varies much more between the individual beers of the place than between the different places. In any case, I am confident that beer lovers would not be disappointed, and I'd love to have an opportunity to try out more of the city's offerings some day.

Reviews: eatdrinkkl 

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

#4049 - Jersey Lilly, Ingomar, MT - 7/18/2020

Jersey Lilly, Ingomar, MT
The unincorporated community of Ingomar Montana is down a short dirt road off of Highway 12 and appears like a ghost town -- abandoned buildings, trailer homes, horses and mules wandering freely down the dirt roads. Classic tumbleweeds bounce down the roads, and the promised bison are nowhere in evidence. Ingomar was put on the map by the Milwaukee Railroad in 1910. Local history has it that in the 1910s it was either the largest sheep shearing and wool shipping center in the world, or one of the largest in the country, depending on your source. In any case, it was booming, with 46 businesses, 2,500 homesteading filings per year, and 2 million pounds of wool shipping out each season -- the largest commercial hub between the Missouri, Musselshell, and Yellowstone rivers.

Boots Kope, owner, Jersey Lilly, Ingomar, MT
But by the end of that first decade, the boom had already started to fade, and after several years of too little rain, a fire that burned much of the town down in 1921 hastened the long running decline. The high school closed in 1952, the wool warehouse shuttered in 1975, and rail service ended in 1980. In 1992 the elementary school, which had a total of 3 students the previous year, ceased operations and the historic school building shuttered. With the railroad gone, there were no more shipments of water, until several years later a spring system was built and piped into town. The population dwindled down to single digits.

Jersey Lilly Saloon, Ingomar, Montana
The first brick building in the community was the Wiley, Clark, and Greening Bank, which opened in October 1914. That went under in 1921. At the end of prohibition, Clyde Easterday opened the Oasis Bar there (1933). Easterday brought in a cherry wood bar from St. Louis, up the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers. (I presume this was a Brunswick, but have not been able to confirm this.) The bar remains to this day. In 1948 Bob Seward, who had been a Rosebud County deputy sheriff, came into possession of the bar -- either by simply purchasing it or, as histories say, winning it in a poker game. Seward, a Texan, renamed it the "Jersey Lilly," after the famous saloon of Judge Roy Bean in his home state. He also introduced the signature bean soup that is a favorite to this day. Also remaining to this day are the outdoor outhouses -- the only public facilities in town, helpfully marked "Bull Pen" and "Heifer Pen," and with a slanted tin "cowboy rain gutter urinal" hanging inside the former. Back inside, under the pressed tin ceiling, the walls are lined with memorabilia and animal heads -- deer, antelope, elk, a moose, a buffalo, and, of course, a jackelope.

Ten years later, Bob turned the bar over to his son Bill, who had been a professional boxer in Chicago, winning 45 fights with 38 knockouts between 1939 and 1941 (hence the boxing memorabilia still in the bar today). Bill also opened up the dance hall portion, lining the walls around a wood burning furnace with wood from and old barn, a space which between the occasional dances and special events serves as additional dining space, with folding chairs and tables. Bill was a popular character, known as the unofficial mayor of Ingomar, and created the Lilly's other famous dish, it's "sheepherders' hors d'oeuvres," comprising saltines, onions, orange slices, and cheddar cheese. "You stick it in your mouth one bite, just like an old hound dog eating hot cakes," Seward explained. (atlasobscura).

Sheepherder's Hors d'Oeuvres, Jersey Lilly, MT
In 1995, Bill finally sold the bar to Jerry Brown, who'd been telling him on their hunting trips for many years that he would like to own the place. Brown was a burial vault magnate, who'd made a good living manufacturing and installing "concrete outer internment receptacles" in Milwaukee and elsewhere, in addition to owning livestock. In 2004, Boots Kope and June Nygren met at the bar, and where later married. Like the several previous owners of the place, Kope and Nygren valued the community center role of the bar, now the only remaining business in Ingomar. When they saw it starting to decline, they purchased the place themselves in 2010, and have run it ever since, most of the time with only the two of them, taking off only one or two weeks a year for vacation.

Ingomar, Montana
When I rolled up to the Jersey Lilly, the place was closed, with no vehicles in sight. There was a note in the window about how it would open late that day. I later learned this was due to a long drive to resupply the oranges for the sheepherders' hors d'oeuvres. I also learned that it was unwise to go to the Lilly without a reservation, and I was fortunate that they could slip in one extra if I was okay sitting at the bar (I am very much okay sitting at the bar). Boots brought me out a serving of their iconic appetizer, and explained as he no doubt has many hundreds of times that I should try them even if I don't like onions, as the oranges combine in an unexpected taste. He was right, of course.

Bull Pen and Heifer Pen outhouses at 
Jersey Lilly Saloon, Ingomar, MT
I had a good, local beef burger and fried potatoes, wandered the place taking pictures and reading the many newspaper clippings on the walls, returning to the bar to chat with Kope as June worked the kitchen. I felt fortunate to get in, and even more fortunate that people like Boots and June were around to preserve this great place. They have steady business from around the world -- there are precious few people living nearby and their guest book contains visitors from Switzerland, Mongolia, Germany, China, Tanzania, and many, many other far flung places from around the world and across the U.S. And yet the future of the Jersey Lilly is uncertain. The couple has had the place for sale for some time now, not due to lack of business, but from a desire to move closer to their kids and grandkids. They want very much to sell it to someone who will preserve and carry on the cherished traditions, but admit that eventually, if no buyer is found, they will simply shut it down. This would be sad indeed, so if you get a chance to go, you must take it (and make sure to call for a reservation!).

Est. 1948 - Building constructed: 1914
Previous bars in this location: The Oasis (1933-1948)
Web site: facebookfacebook 
Reviews: billingsgazette - atlasobscura - greatfallstribune - montana-mint - - onlyinyourstateyelp - tripadvisor - visitmt