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Bars where Pete has had a Drink (2,863 bars; 1,366 bars in Seattle):

Bars where Pete has had a drink

Friday, September 18, 2015

#2398 #S1207 - Fatburger Bar, Seattle - 1/18/2014

Fatburger franchise owners have included Kanye West, Queen Latifah, Montel Williams, and Pharrell. This West Seattle instance of the other California burger chain is one of those with a liquor license and bar area, with the bar inherited from Bada Bistro, which is unfortunate because that means that there is virtually no leg room and taller people in particular will face an ungainly stretch to reach their food. The cocktails are pretty much exactly what you would expect from a bar across from a beach and bolted on to a burger joint, so if your favorite cocktail recipes do not include things like peach Schnapps and raspberry vodka, you might look for another bar.

2738 Alki Ave SW, Seattle, WA 98116 - (206) 257-1871
Est. Oct 28, 2013 - Building constructed: 1915
Previous bars in this location: Bada Bistro
Web site: fatburger.comfacebook
Articles ranked: westseattleblog - yelpwestseattleherald - westseattleherald - seattletimes

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

#2397 - U Betcha, Tacoma, WA - 1/12/2014

U Betcha is one of several fine old dive bars on Tacoma's Pacific Avenue. There has been a bar here since at least shortly after prohibition. It was the Forty-Third Street Tavern (or some slight variation on that) since from at least the 1960s to the Summer of 2010. I'm not sure how long it had the same name before that, but there was a tavern here, owned by Charles Jacobs, since at least 1935.  In 2010 the name was change to "U Betcha Pub."

On this night I chatted with locals Thomas and Mike, two older gentlemen who were both drinking from massively generous pours of red wine, Thomas with a straw. And they had quite the stories.

Thomas was sent to a reform school in Brooklyn, after his mother stabbed her boyfriend when he was 11. He was recruited into the army and served for ten years, stationed at Ft. Lewis, with stints in both Vietnam and South Korea. Nevertheless, he says the times in his life when he felt most in danger were while driving a bus for Pierce County Transit. He talked of one night when he was caught in a gunfight between Crips and Bloods, with one of the gangs running him into the curb and parking in front and in back of him. One gang member pointed a gun at him and told him to open the door, but he would not. They shot through the front, and Thomas drove the bus backwards and then charged at them with it, then plowed away down the street.

Thomas told another story about a night in a Vietnamese restaurant where people started yelling about being Viet Cong, scuffling with a military vet with a .45 in his belt, then taking off with the vet chasing them. (Thomas later heard that one of them was killed that night, but I can't remember which.) As he finishes his story, a younger man hands Thomas a $5 bill to choose the music on the jukebox, stipulating "But no Jolene."

Mike had his own stories of shootings in LA, and ducking to avoid gunfire. Mike was a sax player in Los Angeles, and his stories included seeing some fire up the road from where he was playing one night, which turn out to the Watts riots.

I was pulled into U Betcha by the great sign out front, but it was the friendly welcome and engaging stories that really made my visit. Thanks, guys.

4302 Pacific Ave, Tacoma, Washington 98418                    
Est. Summer 2010
Previous bars in this location: Forty-Third Street Tavern

#2396 - Uncle Sam's American Bar and Grill, Spanaway, WA - 1/12/2014

If you're a member of the Bandidos motorcycle club then I do not need to tell you about Uncle Sam's. But just in case you are not, Uncle Sam's is moderately large sports bar with an immoderately large back yard section, which once was a miniature golf course and now hosts bluegrass and rock shows. The owner, Craig "Beerman" Arrowood, is said to have been born to a bass guitarist who once played with Duke Ellington and Count Basie, and Craig himself once opened for The Doors, and was a long-time road manager for Elvin Bishop. That musical background evinces itself in the form of live music virtually every night at the bar, with live jams, a couple of weekly regular acts, a fair number of touring acts including names like David Allan Coe and Hells Belles, with local bands on Fridays. The band list leans toward metal, including many groups with names like Kranial Saw, Inebriator, Acid Teeth, Sarcalogos, Mythogen, and Xelodaeon.

Uncle Sam's American Bar and Grill, Spanaway, WA
The food is pretty standard sports bar food, and the decor has more personality than most suburban sports bars. The crowd leans heavily male, with lots of bikers. Both the staff and the patrons are very friendly, and apparently with only the occasional shooting and bombing plot.

16003 Pacific Ave S, Spanaway, WA 98387 - (253) 507-7808
Est. 2008 - Building constructed: c.1964
Previous bars in this location: Silver Dollar Tavern
Web site: - facebook
Articles: 253watchbikerfriendlybar - examiner - yelp

Monday, September 14, 2015

#2395 - Exchange Tavern, Spanaway, WA - 1/12/2014

If you believe, as I do, that the most sensible way to calculate the age of a bar is to count the number of years that it has been a bar of a common name in the same building, then it is quite likely that this modest, little joint hidden two blocks off the highway in the unincorporated community of Spanaway is the oldest bar in the state of Washington.

Named for the nearby stop and turning point of the Lake Park Railway line between Spanaway and downtown Tacoma, the building that was once a rough loggers saloon is said to be one of only two structures -- and the only business -- that survived the 1922 fire that destroyed downtown Spanaway. Its lore includes a wooden wheelbarrow said to be used by wives to tote their drunken husbands home, a regular flow of moonshine during prohibition, and local character Will Fowler winning ownership of the bar in a poker game in 1890 then losing it in another game a week later. Today various photographs, newspaper stories and personal accounts in the bar itself attest to the protracted age of the place, with the founding date reported variously as 1890 or 1893. But former owner Jean Sensel has found evidence to suggest it is probably even a bit older:

The Exchange Tavern, Spanaway, WA
"The Exchange is in its original building on its original site. It has been called the Exchange from inception, except one of the oldest residents I interviewed, Henry Barna, (now long deceased) said it was originally the Exchange Saloon, then The Exchange Tavern, Irv’s Exchange Tavern, Spanway Exchange Tavern, then again just The Exchange Tavern. During prohibition, the Exchange “general store” ran the moonshine produced on the stills on the island in Spanaway Lake - so it never stopped serving liquor. Henry  told me that during prohibition he delivered “medicinal” moonshine from the Exchange as a child, making good money ..."

'My husband and I owned the Spanaway Exchange Tavern for 16 years. I became interested in the history and began research of the tavern, and this area. I found original sales documents for all the land east of Spanway Lake by a development company that platted the area as Lake Park. The parcel where the Exchange sits is the only one that was not in the sale, lending credence to the recollection of older residents that the tavern was in place when the Lake Park Land, Railway, and Improvement Company bought the properties around it in 1889. At the latest, when the railway was completed in 1890, the Exchange was in place. The 1893 date was on a painted bandsaw blade in the tavern, and was put there in the late 1970s. I asked the former owner where that date came from, and the response was he had no evidence whatever, that “It just had a ring to it.”'  (Sep 6, 2015, personnel correspondence)

As far as the oldest bar competition goes, the original owners of The Brick in Roslyn started a bar in 1889, but it was not in the current building nor named The Brick until 1898. (If one counts bars of other names or under contiguous ownership groups, several bars trace back even earlier than 1889.) Jules Maes in Seattle claims to have been established in 1888, but the building was not constructed until 1898, it did not host a saloon until 1907 and it was not leased to Jules Maes until 1936. The Oak Harbor Tavern is in a building that appears to have hosted a bar since the 1850s, but it has been run under various names over the decades. If one stipulates that a single bar must have run under a common name, then the only real competition in Seattle's Merchants Cafe, which was built over the remains of the great Seattle fire and hosted "Merchant's Cafe" since 1890. (For further details see my page on the Oldest Bars in Washington State.)

Today the Exchange retains a great deal of the pre-prohibition feel and small-town charm. Signs of suburban bar modernity speckle the decor, but it still clearly benefits from the devotion to history by Jean and her husband Irv. On this lazy Sunday afternoon it was populated by bartender Bobbie and three baseball cap wearing elderly gentlemen, who helpfully pointed out various artifacts and stories. At one point another man came in for a gallon of water and a book of matches. Patrons snack on peanuts and throw the shells on the ancient wood floor. Several of the locals have lent various antiques to the walls -- a scythe, ice tongs, cowbell, crampons, etc. etc.  Gone now is the "Wine Room," the structure once on the north side of the place, where women, legally prohibited from the bar, would sip wine and wait to haul their spouses safely home.

You won't stumble upon The Exchange by accident. It's been a long time since the street out front was the main route through town; and you won't glimpse it from the modern, strip-mall laden version of Pacific Avenue now two blocks east. But if you love old bars with a highly developed sense of time, or perhaps just an occasional tarriance in bygone times, it is well worth seeking out.

Older view of the Exchange Tavern (photo courtesy Jean Sensel)
16117 Park Ave S, Spanaway, WA 98387 - (253) 531-8833
Est. 1890 or earlier - Building constructed: 1890 or earlier
Previous bars in this location: None known
Web site: facebook
Reviews: link - link - link

Monday, September 07, 2015

#2394 #S1206 - The Fenix, Seattle - 1/11/2014

The Fenix rises in Seattle for the 6th time, this one at
124 S. Washington, previous locale of the Last Supper Club
Update: This version of the Fenix closed sometime in June or July 2014.

This short-lived version in the former Last Supper Club space was the sixth incarnation of Rick Wyatt's Fenix club in Seattle, and not quite as epic as a couple of its predecessors. The one indelible memory I will retain of this one was watching the Seahawks win Super Bowl XLVIII there. So rather than recount the relatively unremarkable life of this one, I thought I'd take a quick look at Seattle Fenix history, and some of my visits there over the years.

As best I can reassemble it, the Fenix locations have been:
  • 1992-1993 - The Fenix Cafe, 111 Yesler (subsequently the Bohemian, now Trinity)
  • 1993-2001 - The Fenix Underground, 323 2nd Ave (formerly Hollywood Underground, below what is now 88 Keys)
  • 1994-2001 - The Fenix Above Ground, 313/315 2nd Ave 
  • 2003-2006 - The New Fenix, 109 S. Washington (now Swannies)
  • 2006-2007 - Fenix SoDo, 1700 1st Ave S. (previously Premier, now Showbox SoDo)
  • 2014 - The Fenix, 124 S. Washington (previously Last Supper Club, now Box House Saloon)

Jubilant Seahawks fans celebrate Seattle's first Super Bowl win
at the Fenix, Feb 2, 2014
The Fenix Cafe was primarily a blues club, and some of the following versions were to some extent, although the styles of music and events exploded into any number of themes, from funk to rockabilly to goth industrial. Wyatt partnered with Mike Galloway, Mike Lagervall and John Corbett (who played the DJ on "Northern Exposure" and was a regular at the Fenix Cafe) to open the Fenix Underground in the basement space of the former Hollywood Underground, opening on New Year's Eve 1992 with Duffy Bishop and the Rhythm Dogs. A year later they took the ground level space next door and turned it into the Fenix Above Ground. These lasted until the building was severely damaged in the 2001 Nisqually earthquake.

Ambyr and friend, at the original Fenix in Seattle for the
Siouxsie Sioux show, May 10, 1999
These were a terrific place to see shows -- big enough to get some great international acts, but maintaining a very intimate feel, and pulsing with energy; for acts that I've seen several other places, the Fenix shows were almost always my favorites. Some of my best memories there were Einsturzende Neubauten, the Brian Setzer Orchestra, Siouxsie Sioux, Sky Cries Mary, the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, and the Genitorturers. Some other fine nights were the gothy events of fashion, music, and various vendors, such as the Christmas Balls or Bazaar Events. The Neubauten show in December 1998 was particularly meaningful to me. I had recently gone to see an event in Key Arena with several bands I liked, including Garbage and Hole, where I had been utterly, interminably bored. I was approaching 40 and despaired that perhaps rock music would just never be exciting to me again. So the Neubauten show was a thrilling revelation -- not only an electric show, but clarifying that it was not the music but rather the arena-sized venues that had lost me.

The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, Fenix Underground
Oct. 31, 1998
After the disastrous earthquake, Wyatt and Lagervall re-opened the Fenix in another multi-level space in Pioneer Square in May 2003. Here too I have memories of many great shows and events, but my favorites were the "Moonday" nights -- costume balls on the Mondays closest to a full moon, each with a theme based on a color and/or a particular tarot card. A few of the many shows I enjoyed here were Hate Dept., Ministry, Hanzel und Gretyl, My Life with the Thrill Kill Cult, Go Like Hell, Betty X, Bozo Porno Circus, the Genitorturers, and Drag Strip Riot.

Bozo Porno Circus, at the New Fenix, May 26, 2003
I also saw several bands I liked at the SoDo location of the Fenix, but this was never the fun space that the others were, and to this day I wince a little when a band I like is booked for the big, boring, concrete floored rectangle that is now Showbox SoDo. Similarly, the abortive attempt to rise from the ashes in the much smaller space formerly occupied by the Last Supper Club didn't seem very distinguished or much of attraction to me -- though who knows what would have developed if it had live more than half a year. But over the years I've had many a memorable night at these clubs, and if the Fenix rises again, I'll be there.

The gal on the left snatched my camera and took this selfie
at the New Fenix in 2003
"Moonday," May 2003 at the New Fenix
"Moonday," The New Fenix, Seattle
Cinco de Mayo 2006, at the New Fenix, Seattle
124 S Washington St, Seattle, WA 98104 - (206) 748-9975
Est. Dec 31, 2013 - Closed June/July 2014 - Building constructed: 1909
Previous bars in this location: The Last Supper Club, Dutch Ned's, Borderline Saloon
Subsequent bar: Box House Saloon
Web site: facebook
Reviews: edshawentertainmentdancemusicnw - examiner - king5 (video)

Saturday, September 05, 2015

#2393 #S1205 - Cantina De San Patricio, Seattle - 1/8/2014

With a name and them celebrating the Irishmen and other Europeans who defected from the U.S. and allied themselves with the Mexican army in the Mexican-American war, the Cantina De San Patricio sits in the Pike Place Market complex (in the former "Post" space). There it serves tourists and locals better than average American Mexican food and better than average magaritas in a better than average Mexican restaurant space.

1914 Post Alley, Seattle, WA 98101 - (206) 443-2150
Est. Nov 2013 - Building constructed: 1914
Previous bars in this location: Post
Web site: - facebook
Reviews: thestrangerseattlediningyelp

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

#2392 #S1204 - Triumph, Seattle - 1/7/2014

It's difficult for me to feel a lot of intimacy from bars tucked in the massive concrete structures of new condo buildings. But if the buildings are going to be there, I suppose it's nice to have some places where you can grab a very nice glass of wine and some tasty small plates here virtually in the shadow of the Space Needle and Seattle Center. The owners of Triumph, two sommeliers and a chef, have mitigated the concrete behemoth -- the Expo building from Burkheimer Management and Essex Property Trust -- with some nice wood, friendly service, 300+ wine choices, and some unique and tasty cocktails. And bacon -- at least on this night. That is, while bacon is not a theme of the place, tonight I enjoyed a Bacon Old Fashioned to go with my Bacon Clams. Yum.

114 Republican St, Seattle, WA 98109 - (206) 420-1791
Est. Aug 29, 2013 - Building constructed: 2012
Previous bars in this location: None
Web site: - facebook
Reviews: eater - seattlemag - seattlemet - yelp - thestranger - tripadvisor

Saturday, August 29, 2015

#2391 #S1203 - Eureka!, Seattle - 1/6/2014

One yelper observes, apparently without irony, "The University District Shopping Center creates a nice environment and ambiance." If you don't cringe at that, or at chain restaurants that attract a preppy, mall-shopper sort of crowd, then this is one of a number of nice new food and drink options that opened at U Village in 2013. It's not the ambiance for me, but if you can get past that, this California "Burger Bar" chain has some very nice whiskey options, 40 mostly local craft beers on tap, and some quite tasty burgers and other food choices. And the staff are both nice and knowledgable -- virtually everyone who works there is a Cicerone-certified beer server.

2614 NE 46th St, Seattle, WA 98105 - (206) 812-9655
Est. Nov 25, 2013
Previous bars in this location: Sonrisa
Web site:  - - facebook
Reviews: washingtonbeerblog - eater - seattlemet - yelp - tripadvisor - thestranger

#2390 #S1202 - Bill's Off Greenwood, Seattle - 1/4/2014

After 32 years as a stolid, unpresumptuous pizza joint on Capitol Hill, Bill's Off Broadway was forced to move out for the construction of yet another mixed use condo building with retail on the ground floor -- the kind of building, that is, that are fulfilling increased demand for living space on the hill while simultaneously eliminating the large chunks of the character that made it attractive in the first place. Bill's eventually moved back into the new building, but the owners first looked for a space in the neighborhood that they could temporarily occupy. Failing that -- in part because of the competition from other businesses being forced out of their homes by big development projects -- they eventually found this new location in Greenwood, which they now maintain even after they reopened in the new building in their old Capitol Hill space.

This Bill's is more errantly a sports bar, with more TVs and pennants, and with tables, booths and walls constructed from the bleachers and gymnasium floor of Battleground High in Vancouver. It seems to have basically the same menu -- nothing fancy, but pretty fair pizza and bar food and a friendly, comfortable vibe for watching games.

8560 Greenwood Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103 - (206) 708-1400
Est. Oct 17, 2013 - Building constructed: 1937
Previous bars in this location: None known
Web site: - facebook
Reviews: link - myeverettnews - yelp - tripadvisor - untappd

Saturday, July 04, 2015

#2389 - Bison Creek Pizza, Burien, WA - 1/1/2014

Bison Creek Pizza, Burien, WA
The grand old bar in Bison Creek Pizza features a plate reading "Bison Creek Dude Ranch -1891." The Bison Creek Dude Ranch was established in Montana in the 1920s, starting under a different name. A long-time worker at the restaurant told me that the original owner used to say that he got the bar from Butte, Montana, but that he later corrected his story and told her he actually obtained it in Tacoma. As there is no "Bison Creek" that I know of in Washington, I suspected that this came from the Montana dude ranch, though I did not know whether to think that the "1891" is the actual age of the bar or an old timey affectation for the ranch (established during prohibition).

A note from Keith Schauf help clarify the dude ranch portion of the story:
"I own Bison Creek Dude Ranch and my parents owned it back in the late 1960's, when Rod Cross and Tim Davis worked for Glacier Park Company at the East Glacier Park Lodge.  They enjoyed coming out to Bison Creek Ranch to go horse back riding for for dining.  Often they organized groups of people to come to Bison Creek.  The original ranch was established in the early 1900's actually before prohibition, but it was established under the name of the Broken Arrow Ranch.  It was in the 1940's when the name was changed to Bison Creek.  When Rod and Tim moved to Seattle to open their business they were trying to decide what to call their business.  What they told my parents was that the place where they remembered having the most fun was at Bison Creek Dude Ranch and so named their business Bison Creek Pizza.  I have no idea where the bar came from.  Bison Creek never had a bar.  It allowed guests dining there to bring their own alcohol.  At one time Rod and Tim had three Bison Creek Pizza locations. I would guess the sign may very well be something Rod and Tim had made." (Keith Schauf, personal correspondence, Jan 2, 2014)
In any case, Bison Creek Pizza debuted in West Seattle in 1975 and expanded to this location, in what for many years had been the Burien Theater, in 1977. In between Bison Creek and the theater, the location briefly housed Big Bob's Pipe Dream Restaurant, a 300-seat, multi-tier pizza restaurant that included the large, four-manual 1918 Wurlitzer organ from the Coliseum Theater, which the KING-TV owners sold to Bob White for $1.

Today Bison Creek is no longer run by the original ownership, but continues as a fairly standard, old school, neighborhood pizza joint. It's best to stay away from the cocktails, with options one would imagine seeing on a cocktail menu at a Chuck E. Cheese, were legal to openly market liquor to 10-year-olds (Jolly Rancher Passion Fruit Punch, Skittles, Red Hots, Red Vines, Pineapple-Orange, etc. etc.) But it's a good enough stop for some pizza and beer, and if you haven't seen the back bar, that alone is worth a trip.

630 SW 153rd St, Burien, WA 98166 - (206) 244-8825
Est. 1977 - Building constructed: 1957
Previous bars in this location: None known
Web site: - facebook
Reviews: b-townblog - yelp - tripadvisor