Centralia Washington is the halfway point between Seattle and Portland and to people driving between the two cities it is known mostly for an outlet mall just off the highway. If you take the time to drive down to Tower Avenue you find an older part of Centralia with some quite niceoldbars. But if you just linger by the outlet stores just off I-5, the area is dominated by Country Cousin, which looks just like you'd imagine, except larger and more crammed with old-timey artifacts. There's a tractor and a chicken coop outside, and the front door triggers a rooster crow. Step to the left and you're in the large restaurant and ready to order Country Pot Roast, Turkey N Dressing, or any number of other gravy-covered comfort foods, from a large menu that includes ads for towing services and tractor rentals. Step to the right and enter a smaller Hammer and Tong Lounge, where you can order from a small choice of beers, wines and common cocktails, from the warmly lit woody interior. It's not shabby enough to be a dive, and not flinty enough to be a saloon, but it's fun stop as a classic roadside attraction.
Long-time locals can't help but have mixed feelings about Olaf's, a neighborhood bar inspired by the March 2013 closure of The Viking after 63 years, and taking the place of the endearingly vulgar Copper Gate, which closed exactly two months later after 67 years just up the street. It's nice to see a local gin mill with personality in one of these old spaces, but one has to lament the departure of the viking ship bar, its vintage porn sail, and the lewd dioramas. Dismantling the ship bar seems like a crime, but if one can put the past behind and look at Olaf's as if it was starting tabula rasa, it's a nice little joint.
The sign out front manages a multiple part tribute to old Seattle, with letters shaped like Olympia Beer logo spelling out the name of the cartoon version of a viking. It's too brightly lit, too vibrant and healthy to really be an homage to old dives like The Viking, but it shares their suburban neighborhood vibe. It has a very simple menu -- a couple sandwiches, a couple burgers, and corn dogs -- but unusually well, as one might expect when the owners' resumes included Stumbling Goat, Ma'ono, and Le Gourmand. What remains is the Pussy Room, named for its vaginal entry hall (and now apparently referred to as "the red room" or "the womb room"), gussied up a bit. And they have added a room of pinball machines, surrounded by murals by Narboo, a break from the hordes of Henry works that crowd north Seattle. There are ten rotating taps of good beers and some decent cocktails as well. Maybe in ten years I won't keep looking for the ship bar every time I step in.
London Plane is a high end "cafe, specialty foods grocery, and ... floral workshop" from James Beard award winning chef Matt Dillon (Corson Building, Bar Sajor, Sitka and Spruce) and Katherine Anderson (Marigold and Mint). It is not completely clear whether to count this as a bar, as it is much more a cafe -- brightly lit, awash in white, never open past 9, and nary a beer to be found. But they do classify themselves as a wine bar, and there is a physical bar/counter where people will sit for a glass, perhaps after dropping in for some castile soaps and wild mushroom mix. The food is mostly delicate, small plates, and enough to make Bon Appetit's top ten Best New Restaurants in America 2014.
London Plane is actually located in two separate spaces, on the opposite ends of the historic State Building, constructed in 1890-1891, and from whence the Schwabacher Brothers sold dry goods for many years, including a boom period during the Klondike gold rush. Now the upscale restaurants and art galleries of the Occidental pedestrian mall and the western end of the old jazz district on Jackson, along with the encroaching sports stadia, condos, and office spaces encroaching from the south, continue to pinch the vagrants and seedier bars and clubs of the original "skid road" area into a smaller and smaller space, in what may now be Seattle's most diverse set of eating and drinking establishments.
Bloom is a nice little "farm to table Japanese cuisine" restaurant from Jason Harris, who was previously the chef at Showa and then served bento boxes from a pop-up at Kylie's Pizza. The bar part of Bloom is quite limited both in size and options, but it has apparently expanded a bit since this visit, going from just a few straight spirits -- bourbons, sakes, and soschus, with no cocktails -- to reports of shaved ice mai tais, shaved ice Moscow mules, and "a cucumber pepper drink." I shall obviously have to give the bar here a second look.
Oh man, do I love these guys' places. Old Sage is another restaurant/bar from my favorite Seattle chefs, Brian McCracken and Dana Tough (Tavern Law, Spur, Coterie). This place has an emphasis on smoked meats -- and a smokey vibe in general -- though the smokiness is more subtle than barbecue. And just as in their other places, they've delivered bartenders who craft excellent cocktails (here with a malty, smoky, scotch theme) and I love pretty much every item I order, even in a magician type way when the ingredients are not ones that would generally entice me. I started with the malted emmer, with a bit of local apples and mountain cheese, and it was delicious. Emmer! Emmer was delicious.
It was a little less surprising that they could also make Coho salmon, my second dish, so delicious. After getting a bit my tastes, bartender Miles added a pretty much perfect cocktail to top things off; the Expat was made with blended scotch, Carpano Antica, Campari, Averna and sassafras.
With the small plates and craft cocktails flowing, evenings at McCracken and Tough's places can quickly start to get a little pricey. But when I'm in the mood for a drink and fine meal there is simply no place in Seattle I like better.
Masala ("spice mix") is a fairly standard Punjabi style Indian restaurant which tends to be ranked among the better ones in Seattle -- at least outside of the U District. They operated just a little bit down Northgate Way for a decade or so before moving into this new building in 2013 and adding a substantial lounge. They have super nice people working there. The lounge portion remains a mystery to me, as I've only gone in the afternoon and it's just very difficult for me to imagine a crowd gathering here that matches the club-like decor -- or any crowd, to be frank. I suppose I need to swing by on Saturday night sometime to get any idea of what kind of bar it really is, but in the meantime it is a very satisfactory lunch or dinner stop.
If I was to try and think of the Seattle restaurant names that seem least enticing to me, I can't think of any I'd put ahead of this one. Thankfully, the "sardine" part of the name came from the feeling of walking through the narrow space rather than the full content of the menu ("Well there's sardines, sardines, eggs and sardines ..."). Indeed, the "sardine" part was actually removed from the official name before they opened. They serve some nice, fairly fancy food with a Mediterranean theme. The bar is not the sort you relax and hang out in, with its bright colors and somewhat cramped quarters, but they do serve some quite nice, creative cocktails while you get a bite to eat.
This is the second Pecado Bueno ("good sin") from James Schmidt, co-founder of Taco Del Mar, and it is the 5th Mexican restaurant in the Junction. It has better than average Mexican food, better than average margaritas for $3, and a good salsa bar.
Sharp's Roasthouse and the Bent Prop Pub were established here by the Seatac Airport in 1990 by Tim Firnstahl of "Von's Roasthouse" in downtown Seattle (Firnstahl also co-established Jake O'Shaughnessey's and FX McRory's in the mid 70s) . Like the new Von's on the Harbor Steps, it is now run by his daughter Merrisa, and like the previous Von's, it caters to American roast beef and mashed potato style standards, with seasoned chickens turning on a large roaster and spin-the-wheel specials amidst a TGIFridays sort of decor. It is not a craft cocktails sort of place, but again like the new Von's, it has a very large assortment of spirits.
The Triplehorn Brewing "Micropub" is an archetypal suburban craft brewery, with a small tasting carved out of the brewery warehouse, with food trucks and various events ("Hordefest") in the parking lot.
The city of Duvall, it is said, was officially incorporated for the purpose of having a saloon (city status was apparently required to establish one in 1913). The Hix Market and the Grange Hall here were moved here from the Snoqualmie riverside in 1909, along with the rest of the town, then called Cherry Valley, to make way for the railroad. It's now a city of about 7,000 people, with a Main Street section that's been gussied up with public art and broad walking space. The Duvall Grille and Tap Room fits comfortably into this modest span between locals and sprinkles of tourists -- nothing fancy, but a homey sort of setting where you can get a good beer, burger or breakfast.
Woodinville is bedroom community northeast of Seattle, where an old logging and farming community now looks like everything was built in the last five years. Today it is now best known for the 80 wineries in the area, their carefully manicured lawns alternating with warehouses and industrial parks. In one of the latter, Kat Stremlau and Jan Newton established a small craft beer bar in December of 2012. The setting is as soul-less as you would expect from an industrial park, but they do deliver on the beer, with 44 interesting choices on tap, along with sandwiches and various small plates.
I love Josh Henderson's Westward, and quite like his Hollywood Tavern, but I just have never understood what all the fuss is about over Skillet Diners. So I could post about how average I have always found the food, drinks, and decor. But given that apparently every single other person in Seattle thinks they're fantastic, I must just be off my rocker on this one, and won't waste your time.
While the horse is well out of this barn, some of my age group would still have us despair of the gentrification and hipification of north Seattle's old Scandinavian shake mill and fishing community of Ballard. But while I prefer dive bars filled with crusty old blue collar workers over faceless condo buildings as much as anyone, bars as good as Percy's simply leave one no option but to capitulate.
Percy's & Co. Apothecary Bar and Restaurant is in an old bar location -- built in 1898 according to the owners and in 1893 according to the Ballard Historical Society -- which first housed Percy Sankey's "Ballard Bar." It has hosted various bars and types of bars since then, including, according to rumor, throughout the years of prohibition.
Seattle hipster hotspot owners Wade Weigel (Ace Hotel, Rudy's Barber Shops) and Jeff Ofelt (Bimbo's, Cha Cha, King's Hardware) upgraded the food considerably and made what had been a fairly attractive bar substantially more elegant, as well as increasing the nods to the history of the location and neighborhood. They host classic movies on the patio and live music from blue grass to garage rock. More to the point, they induced craft cocktailers Kyle Taylor and Joe Petersen of New York's "Apotheke" to join them, and to create delicious and creative drinks with an antique herbal pharmacist spin.
Even with the old Smoke Shop and Hattie's Hat still serving the dive crowd, it is increasingly rare to run into someone like the old fisherman I met in a joint up the street, who used to trade salmon for drinks, and proudly told me that in all his years of walking back to his boat from the bars, he'd only fallen in the water once. And the space that is now Percy's is a world away from the seedy old Silver Spot Beer Parlor, which took over after prohibition. But while the condo buildings rise relentlessly around it, this old avenue has preserved its century-old buildings, even while it has become awash in great places to eat and drink -- unmatched in Seattle outside of Capitol Hill. And damned if Percy's isn't one of the best of them.
For three and a half decades this was a Greek diner with a lounge in back -- the kind that had murals of ancient Greece painted on the walls, belly dancers, and coin operated plungers that sprayed cologne in the mens room. It has now been taken over by Ridgley Kuan, who runs the well-regarded Green Leaf Vietnamese restaurants in Seattle. This location is not another Green Leaf; while it contains some similar dishes it seems to focus on Chinese American dishes, which are pretty good. The lounge is not a major attraction, but my visit was pleasant thanks to very accommodating bartender Peter.
There isn't much to the bar of this little southern Italian bistro, although you can get a nice glass of wine or sangria. But the food is quite good. Early reports had well known Seattle restaurateur Enza Sorrentino (AKA "Mama Enza") as the executive chef, but there was apparently some falling out between her and the owners, sending the latter scrambling and flying to Naples to import another chef. In any case, it's a modest, breezy setting with an open kitchen and offering nice southern Italian plates for lunch, dinner or snacking.
Historical notes: I've found no bars in this space, although there was a pre-prohibition saloon owned by Nick Cunningham in the earlier 1900s next door, in the space currently occupied by the Endless Knot shop. The building is well over 100 years old, though there is relatively scant visible evidence of that after remodels.
2302 1st Ave, Seattle, WA 98121 - (206) 441-4480
Est. 2013 - Building constructed: 1900 or earlier
Previous bars in this location: None known
Web site: belliniseattle.com - facebook
Reviews: yelp - tripadvisor
For people who've lived a while in the greater Seattle area, all you need to know about Chinook's is that it is part of the Anthony's chain. What this means is that you'll have a very solid selection of seafood, nothing super fancy, not cheap but not expensive, and a really nice view of some body of water. The setting for Chinooks is sometimes called "non-touristy" because it is a more industrial seaport setting than the others, but at the same time it's commonly recommended as a place that will please both you and your elderly relatives visiting from the midwest. The bar too is nothing cutting edge, but reliable on the basics.
Matt Storm (Malt and Vine) owns this small craft beer joint in lower Queen Anne and manages the beer selections, with Lucas Neve (Cafe Lago) handling the small, wood-fired pizzas. Both are pretty good, and the space is a bit spare, but with a relaxed, pleasant crowd.
The Woodman Lodge is set a restored lumberman's fraternal hall constructed in 1902, and now filled with nice wood, antiques, old photos and grand taxidermy. From this very pleasant setting they serve a fairly standard contemporary steakhouse menu, including several seafood choices, along with a good selection of wines and common cocktails. It's a good place for a reliable and satisfying meal and feels like eating in a historical museum. I'd eat here a lot if I lived in this town.