Bars where Pete has had a Drink (5,837 bars; 1,754 bars in Seattle) - Click titles below for Lists:

Bars where Pete has had a drink

Friday, December 13, 2002

Saturday, May 04, 2002

The Baranof, Seattle (Greenwood) - 5/4/2002

The Baranof, Seattle, WA
The bartender in the right foreground is Dotti,
who also bartended at the Rendezvous and the
74th Street Tavern. "She was a legend" 
I believe the Baranof was, and may still be, the ultimate Seattle dive bar. I told a friend that he must go there, noting the "bands" that seemed like Saturday Night Live skits (now replaced by karaoke) and the elderly woman I met at the bar, chain smoking and drinking after coming straight there from chemotherapy. My friend ordered a White Russian, which was made with packaged dried coffee creamer. The delightful couple behind us put on a little two-person play, with Act I highlighted by "I'm not going home with you, I know your wife!"; Act II centering around the male's spectacular falling off his stool; and Act III concluding with the two staggering out together with the woman slurring, "Are you sure you're okay to drive?" Disturbing? Sure. But you don't get that kind of entertainment value at Black Bottle or Purple.

Marie's Cafe and the Greenwood Room
(Photo courtesy of Gerald Nielsen)
The history of the Baranof is evident in the produce section of grocery stores around town and around the country, as it is the origin of Marie's Salad Dressings. Marie's Cafe operated at this location from 1940 or possibly a little earlier, until 1982. It's possible this was in a different building as county tax records indicate that the current building was constructed in 1942 and Marie's is listed here by the 1940 Polk Guide. For most of that time if not all of it, the bar in the back of the restaurant was called the Greenwood Room. At some point owner Marie Nordquist hired Harold Smith as a cook, and Smith's blue cheese salad dressing recipe became so popular that they began bottling it, with revenues eventually greatly exceeding those of the bar itself. In the late 50s Smith bought out Nordquist and expanded the salad dressing side, eventually selling both the dressing business and the cafe/bar. The change to the Baranof name and the nautical theme appears to have taken place in 1982.

Today, the Baranof bartenders are diverse in gender and age, whereas several years ago they seemed to be exclusively elderly women (I once heard a patron explaining to one what goes in a Martini). Since replacing the Bill Murray style cover acts with karaoke, the Baranof is much more populated by younger people and hipsters, which may compromise the pure divey-ness, but add a different element of fun. The Baranof remains a classic old school diner in front, and one of the city's best dive bars, as well as one of its more popular karaoke destinations.

Here are a few anecdotes about the Greenwood Room and early Baranof that I've collected from folks who worked there and/or drank there:

The fellow to my right is Doug. Doug claims to have
been hired and fired by the Baranof 29 times over the
past 30 years (starting when it was still Marie's).
The Greenwood Room was a "smokey dingy strong drinks dive bar" -- John White

"I worked at Greenwood Safeway across the street, graveyard shift, and we all got off work at 7am and would head over to the Greenwood Bar in Marie’s that had a line up at 7am to open the bar, and the dance floor was busy by 8am. I was only 21 then, but it was blast from the past." -- Michael Messer

It "became Baranof when Richard Newby bought it." -- Pat Simon

"Richard bought it after the night he came in there with fellow fishing boat owners to have a meeting. It was about ten and the surly bartender was tired and tried to kick them out. After a long argument he agreed to leave but promised to come back, buy the bar, and fire her...and he did! That bartender was Wanda. He soon found out she was the only one who knew the workings of this bar and had to hire her back." -- Bonnie Delys
8549 Greenwood Ave. N., Seattle, WA 98103 - 206-782-9260
Est. 1982 - Building constructed 1942
Previous bars at this location: The Greenwood Room (Marie's Restaurant)
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