Bars where Pete has had a Drink (5,772 bars; 1,754 bars in Seattle) - Click titles below for Lists:

Bars where Pete has had a drink

Monday, November 25, 2013

#2107 - Woody's, Shoreline, WA - 3/10/2013

It's been a long time since this stretch of Aurora Avenue -- and the triangular building that now houses Woody's, just two and a half miles north of the current Seattle city limits -- was an entryway to the wholesome family pleasures of the "Echo Lake Bathing Beach." But that's what it was back when Carl Melby and his wife Lillian lived in the upstairs and ran Melby's Tavern below. The building was constructed during prohibition and Carl Melby died in 1942, but the place was Melby's Tavern from the 30s into the 70s. In the 80s, it was Joe's Tavern, then Echo Lake Tavern, and Woody's as of 2011.
Melby's Tavern c.1938, WA State Archive via
"After a new route for Aurora was graded here in the mid 1920s, Echo Lake resident Theodore Millan built the two-story roadhouse in 1928 on its triangular lot squeezed between the new Aurora and the old Echo Lake Pl. N.  Here the latter leads to the canoes, tents and new beds of Scotty’s short-lived Paradise.  With the uncorking of prohibition in late 1933, Millan rented his flatiron to Carl and Jane Melby, for their Tavern." (
Seattle Times March 13, 1932
Via Vicki Stiles and
I'm not sure exactly when Melby's was established, but local history buffs have also found that Carl Melby was not content to wait until the repeal of the 18th amendment:
"Vicki Stiles, the helpful and scholarly Executive Director of the Shoreline Historical Museum (nearby at 18501 Linden Ave. N.), had heard rumors that the florist Carl Melby had more than liked his booze during prohibition as well. The sleuthing Stiles discovered that Melby had been arrested at least three times transporting mostly illegal Canadian liquor.  (We follow below with several Seattle Times clips on Melby’s career.) One night at Sunset beach near Anacortes he was chased into the Strait of Juan de Fuca up to his neck, collared and pulled ashore." (
In the 30s, before I-5 came rolling through, "Aurora Avenue" evoked the northern lights as it was part of the main local link in a route that ran from Mexico to Canada. Roadside resort cabins and motels to house the increasing numbers of people adventuring out from Seattle and any number of other towns as the automobile boomed. But by the time I moved to Seattle in the early 80s, Aurora had experienced at least a couple decades of decay, known more for cheap, crime-ridden motels, porn shops, small casinos, and chains of tattered strip mall businesses. "Aurora" connoted the sketchy part of town, not a romantic, natural light show.

To some extent it must be this image that Woody's new owners Elton and Heather Roundhill are trying to overcome, balancing preservation with establishing a new reputation. The Echo Lake Tavern was mellow and pleasant, but from the outside it seemed to fit in all to easily with the porn shop and ramshackle apartments next door, under a painted-over sign serving as a constant reminder that people don't care about this place like they once did. Were it in Belltown or Fall City it might become inviting by embracing it's diveyness, but that would be a cheerless approach here. And so the owners have provided some gentle touches of gentrification; it's still a modest neighborhood joint, but it's been painted and cleaned, added a patio, hosts antique car events, added some decent wines and liquor, and serves panini sandwiches. It hasn't got quite the new liveliness of Dan Dyckman's revival of Darrell's Tavern just a mile up the road; but as the larger city to the south has witnessed the disappearance of beloved old joints like the Alki Tavern, the Buckaroo, and the Viking, it's great to another of these places along the old highway happily preserved.

19508 Aurora Ave N Shoreline, WA 98133 - (206) 542-8781
Est. 2011 - Building constructed: 1928
Previous bars in this location: Melby's Tavern (30s to 60s), Joe's Tavern (70s, 80s), Echo Lake Tavern
Web site: facebook
Reviews: pauldorpat -  shorelineareanews - yelp

Sunday, November 24, 2013

#2106 - Ringers Pub, Mountlake Terrace - 3/10/2013

Another formulaic suburban, strip mall bar, although surprising low on baseball caps this day. Pull tabs, sports on TVs, 12 taps, pool tables, standard pub food.

Hat count: 15 people, 13 males, 4 baseball caps, 0 backwards.

22803 44th Ave W B3 Mountlake Terrace, WA 98043 - (425) 771-6072
Web site: - facebook
Reviews: yelp

#2105 - The Getaway, Mountlake Terrace - 3/10/2013

Basically the formulaic, suburban bar: Pull tabs, televisions, a decent selection of beers (12 taps), pool tables, mostly guys in baseball caps. (Hat count: 20 customers, 14 males, 12 baseball caps, 1 backwards, 1 stocking cap, 1 fedora).

24309 56th Ave W, Mountlake Terrace, WA 98043 - (425) 771-8478
Building constructed: 1961
Web site: facebook
Reviews: yelp

#2104 #S1118 - Fu Kun Wu (Mai Thaiku), Seattle - 3/7/2013

Fu Kun Wu was a cool "apothecary bar" in the back of Ballard's Thaiku restaurant, above what was supposed to be an old opium den basement space. They made some unusual, herb-based cocktails and were named one of the "Best Bars in America" by Esquire. They were closed in December 2011, after rising rents made continuing in this location untenable.

Over a year later they re-opened in Phinney Ridge as Mai ("new") Thaiku. They are in a much smaller space -- an old bungalow previously occupied by Gaspare -- with the Fu Kun Wu bar tinier still.

The restaurant has a more strong emphasis on authentic Thai dishes, and the bar continues to serve some nice cocktails that you aren't likely to find other places. I had a pretty tasty Yohimbe Old Fashioned, but my desire to follow that with a Yohimbe Manhattan was declined, as you are limited to one yohimbe drink per visit (the limit is ascribed to its stimulative properties, and not it's purported powers as an aphrodisiac). It's not as fun a space as the old Ballard location, and certainly not big enough for the bar to host the owner's jazz band, and probably not even my friend Selector Lopaka's exotica DJ nights. But it's very nice to have it back in any form, and a bonus to have it in my neighborhood.

6705 Greenwood Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103 - (206) 706-7807
Est. Feb 19, 2013 - Building constructed: 1924
Previous bars in this location: Gaspare
Web site: - facebook
Best articles: seattletimes - thrillist - seattlemet - eater - yelp

Saturday, November 23, 2013

#2103 - Aunt Charlie's, San Francisco - 3/4/2013

Aunt Charlie's appears to date back to some point in the 70s, and is the only remaining gay bar in the Tenderloin. I suppose it should have been obvious that "Aunt Charlie's" was a gay bar, but I had no clue until I looked it up after my visit. E.g. I saw no obvious hints from Bob, the avuncular, white-sweatered, white-haired, soft spoken bartender, who has worked here for 20 years. Of course it might have been different if I'd come in during the "Dream Queens Revue," the "Hot Boxxx Girls," or the "Tubesteak Connection." But while I was there the only striking demographic was that it was all old white guys.

133 Turk St, San Francisco, CA 94102 - (415) 441-2922                 
Web site: - facebook
Best articles: metblogs7x7 - jameshosking - gaycities - coastnews - peacheschrist - blackbookmap - yelp

#2102 - Jonell's, San Francisco - 3/4/2013

On one of the rougher corners in the Tenderloin, I enter Jonell's, a bar named for the intersecting streets Jones and Ellis. Bonnie, the middle-aged Korean bartender, serves up a gin and tonic and chats with me from behind the central horseshoe-shaped bar, the ceiling swooping down to echo its shape, and decades of wear obvious in the formica bar top and the red leather sides. The place obviously had a different sort of character many years ago, with a horse racing theme and named, I would later find out, The Horseshoe. Now Bonnie, the bartender told me that she was watching the place while Jennie the owner was busy. Bonnie and Jennie are old friends from Korea. "I get done at Safeway, wait here, we go together, we good friends, we [she bumps her hands together]."

Bonnie says the bar has been around 100 years, but Jennie's owned it for about ten. The past few years have been more difficult, and she seems to be opening later every few days. Bonnie explains that liquor prices "high, high, high -- go up, up, up."

I hope she does well. From some of the reviews I ran across, Jennie seems like a pretty sassy lady. I always have high hopes for a bar with this much age and character; you can't help but feel that even stronger when the place is run by a couple plucky, middle-aged, immigrant ladies, unflinchingly handling the the junkies, dealers, and characters of these parts.

401 Ellis St, San Francisco, CA 94102 - (415) 776-8345
Previous bars in this location: The Horseshoe
Reviews: sfweekly - sfexperiment - instantcity - yelp

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

#2101 - High Tide, San Francisco - 3/4/2013

You want your dive bar?  This is a dive bar.

They have all your dive bar essentials -- cheap, stiff drinks, dark interior bills pinned to the ceiling and walls, random small packets of snacks hanging on clips, Christmas lights hanging year round. But then the High Tide takes it up to dive-bar eleven. It is massively dingy, clearly not meant to be seen in daylight hours. The portion of the red carpet under the pool table features a plateau of dust that must have been building for generations. The remaining portion is specked with black dots of aging miscellaneous substances. The cracked vinyl seats have some hapless attempts at patching with packing tape, and the Camel Cigarettes display case is filled with dusty origami made from dollar bills. Then there is the enshrined portrait of the old owner's mother, topless.

The portrait, it appears, is of the grandmother of local hip hop artist Richie Cunning. (7x7Cunning's grandfather and then his father once owned the place. I came at a slow hour, on an early Monday evening when there was only one other customer with myself and Vicki, the bartender who immigrated from China seven years ago. I would like to come back and see that the tide brings in on a Friday or Saturday night.

600 Geary St, San Francisco, CA 94102 - (415) 771-3145
Reviews: 7x7sfist - sfbarexperiment - sfweekly - yelp

#2100 - Sears Fine Food, San Francisco - 3/4/2013

This barely, barely qualifies as a bar, but they do have a physical bar where they serve beer and wine, presumably just sine 2004 when they began staying open for the dinner hour and on weekends. The "fine" in Sears Fine Foods must be taken with a grain of salt, but they do fit the bill for anyone looking for old-fashioned American breakfasts and comfort foods.

Sears was established a block up the street in 1938, started by Ben Sears, a retired circus clown with a reputation for good Swedish pancakes. From its heyday when people lined up down the block for a table, it basically went under in 2003, and was revived in 2004 by Man J. Kim. Kim immigrated from Korea in 1972, working as a janitor and taxi driver before buying into the restaurant business. (sfgate)  He now owns a local chain of 50s style diners called "Lori's" and "Gaining control of Sears would make him the indisputable pancake volume leader at Union Square." (ibid)  Nolstalgia for the menu notwithstanding, the sign out front alone makes me grateful someone preserved the place.

439 Powell St, San Francisco, CA 94102 - (415) 986-0700
Est. 1964 in current location, 1938 in earlier location, Aug 1, 2004 under current owneship
Web site:
Reviews: sfgate - gayot - yelp - citysearch

#2099 - The Redwood Room, San Francisco - 3/3/2013

This is very much what you'd like a hotel bar to be -- dark and swanky, with history and good cocktails. I'm not sure how well the digital portraits (which change over time) fit in. But the cherry colored wood, the lighting, the art deco angles and the rest of the decor make for a romantic stop -- at least if you come in on a non-busy night when there are no special events. And while the bar has recently had an expensive remodel, it retains the redwood bar and the basic design theme from it's beginnings right after prohibition.

495 Geary Street, San Francisco, CA 94102 - (415) 929-2372
Est. 1933
Web site: facebook
Reviews: restaurant-ingthroughhistorysfweekly - worldsbestbars - spottedbylocals - about.compartyearth - yelp

Sunday, November 17, 2013

#2098 - Toronado, San Francisco - 3/3/2013

Toronado is a long-time craft beer mecca, in a divey sort of setting crowded with beer lovers and hipsters. I had my first Pliny (the Elder) there, and got a lot of friendly nods from people who thought a guy sitting on a stool near the door must be working the door.

547 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117 - (415) 863-2276
Est. Aug 5, 1987
Web site: - facebook
Reviews: partyearthbeeradvocate - esquire - sandiegoreader - blackbook - urbanspoon - yelp - tripadvisor

Saturday, November 16, 2013

#2097 - The Mad Dog in the Fog, San Francisco - 3/3/2013

Perhaps you like soccer. I do not. But the Mad Dog is still a pleasant place to grab a pint. It's a fairly typical English style pub, comfortably situated in the neighborhood, with a pretty good beer selection, a nice little patio, and enough unique gewgaws and decorative touches to feel like it has some personality.

530 Haight St. San Francisco, CA 94117 - (415) 626-7279
Web site: - facebook
Reviews: partyearth - wsj (barcraft) - yelp - thefillmorecenter - citysearch - everybarinsf 

#2096 - Trax Bar, San Francisco - 3/3/2

From the 70s through the first half of the 80s, the Haight had a thriving gay community rivaling the Castro. A dozen gay bars in the area included including the I-Beam, which hosted such bands as the Cure, Red Hot Chile Peppers, Duran Duran, and Siouxsie and the Banshees. But unlike the Castro, the more bohemian Haight gay scene never recovered from the AIDS crisis, and Trax is now the single gay bar left in the neighborhood.

From the outside it looks like a vintage gamers' scene, but the inside is bathed in velvety reds and rainbows. The site is said to have hosted a bar since the 40s, and it's now one of the oldest running bars in the Haight. It's now a fairly standard gay dive bar, with strong, cheap drinks, friendly bartenders, and a mellow vibe.

1437 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117 - (415) 864-4213
Est. 1974
Previous bars in this location: Question Mark Cocktail Lounge
Web site: facebook
Reviews: yelp

#2095 - Martin Macks, San Francisco - 3/3/2013

An Irish themed "gastropub and sports bar" that struck me as pretty thoroughly boring.

1568 Haight St, San Francisco 94117 - (415) 861-1586
Web site: - facebook
Reviews: haighteration - yelp - menupages - eater

#2094 - The Gold Cane, San Francisco - 3/2/2013

The Gold Cane may be most famous for being the place that the infamous Bruno chased people to when he kicked them out of Zam Zam. But the crowd makes it quite a happening little dive, even on this night when the streets of the Haight seemed strangely quite for 10pm Saturday. It states that it was established in 1926, although this was in another location up the street and would have been during prohibition. It appears to have been in its current location sine 1978. Besides stiff, dive-style drinks and a fun crowd, the Gold Cane has little patio and a large moose head.

1569 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117 - (415) 626-1112
Est. 1926, 1978 in this location
Reviews: sfist - yelp - sfgate - zagat

#2093 - Milk Bar, San Francisco - 3/2/2013

When I entered this bar it was packed with people, perfectly still, and eerily quiet -- so much so that I felt obliged to whisper my drink order. Eventually I learned that the people staring at the televisions had come for a screening of the film "Rolled" by Whit Scott. This is apparently the only dance club in the Haight, and on more typical evenings caters to USF students with a mix of live music and hip hop DJs.

1840 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117 - (415) 387-6455
Web site: - facebook
Reviews: yelp