Showing posts with label bars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bars. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

My Life in the Bars I Have Known and Loved

I have been known to enjoy the occasional drinky-winky.

And I particularly enjoy it in a bar.

I have always been fascinated by bars and bar culture.  My parents were both teetotalers and did not approve of people going to bars.  My father once said he couldn't think of anything more boring and wasteful.  I guess that's why bars have always intrigued me so.

So parents use that as a reminder that anything you disdain, your kids will probably want to do. 

The iconic bar, of course, is "Cheers," "...where everyone knows your name." 

And that is probably one of the main reasons people congregate in bars.  Why else get out of your robe and bunny slippers and head off to a public place to spend way more for drinks than they cost at home?

Because we humans need to rub elbows with each other from time to time or bend the ear of the friendly bartender who acts as part therapist and part best friend.

The British pub culture is a perfect example of this.

British pubs are cozy, woody, lots of architectural details.  They make you want to hang out there. You can shut out the world and stop time.  And whether you live in London or a village, your neighbors will be there.

I love checking out a bar.  I do the same thing with restrooms, too, but I will save that for another post.

So what makes a great bar?

  • It must have literally "a good bar."  That means a nice long one preferably with a lovely countertop and a place to hang your purse because I like to sit up at the bar. 
  • I like there to be many bottles lined up in a pleasing manner. 
  • The bartender must be friendly and it doesn't hurt if he or she is nice looking
  • A nice bathroom helps
  • Nice tables for those who don't like to sit at the bar
  • No windows (or if there are windows, a great view).  The no windows part helps to shut out the world and keep you drinking!
  • No TV - now this is controversial.  Hubby would not agree but if you really want to have a conversation, a TV set to a sports channel is not conducive to conversation
  • Good food.  Well, at least some nuts.  Something.

And that is my most important point about bars.

If you want to focus on your partner, your friends, your kids (if they are of drinking age), there is no better place than a good bar.  Some of the best conversations I have had with my adult children were in a bar.  The booze flows and so does the conversation and revelations!

It all started when I became of drinking age while in college (well it started a bit before that with a fake ID but I am not going to go into that because my mother might be watching me from wherever she ended up).

My first bar was The Handlebar, a dive bar with a table shuffleboard know, one of those long wooden game tables with little pucks you would shove down the length of it and try to be the one whose pucks went the farthest?  

The bar was dark and funky, but the best part, it was the closest bar to my college.  After a night of slaving away studying, it was fun to grab my roommate and head down to the Handlebar to meet up with friends and have a beer (or two or three). I met one of my husbands there! Beer was my drink of choice then, which could probably explain why I gained 20 pounds my senior year in college.  I have fond memories of that little bar, but I don't think it's around anymore.

That was 1969-70 and I had yet to develop a sophisticated view of bars.

After college I moved to San Francisco and though there were many bars in my life then, I can't remember them.

The 70's were a blur.  Remember what they say:  If you remember the 60's you weren't there.  And, my friends, the 60's as we have come to know that era - hippies, pot, revolution - didn't really start until about 1967 and lasted until the late 70's.

From the mid-70's to the mid-80's, I was busy going to library school, starting my career and having children, so I didn't really have the time nor the inclination to do a lot of bar hopping.

But in the mid-80's, I was derailed a bit by an unexpected divorce, so going to bars seemed the right thing to do.

I was living in the Monterey Bay Area (CA) at the time and met my soon-to-be Hubby, a meet-cute story I have told in detail in my blog post "Hubby."  (If you haven't read it, you should, it's a good story)!

Hubby had a huge gaggle of friends.  So many, in fact, that they used to call themselves "Rent a Crowd," because they could gather a party-loving crowd together at the drop of a hat.  His friends became my friends.

Sly McFlys, down on Cannery Row, was the watering hole of choice for Hubby and his friends. 

No matter when we would go there, all of our friends would be there.  We knew the bartenders, so that was a nice perk. One of the friends was an attorney and was in there so much, his clients would call him there.  Again it was a funky kind of bar but it was dark and smoky (we could smoke in bars then), but it had a nice long bar and good music. Beer was still my drink of choice, though I was developing a taste for wine. I can't say much about the restroom except there was a lot of activity in there, if you know what I mean.  It was the 80's, after all.  Today it's more of a family-type sports bar with lots of live music.

Hubby and I got married, we had a child together so now we had a family, Hubby was working on his career, the kids had activities we participated in so the partying fell away to a certain extent and no new bars came into my life.

But then the kids left, we moved to Seattle and a whole new era began.

The main thing that happened was my taste in bars and my taste in drinks.  No more dive bars.  No more funky. No more beer.  It's time to upgrade!  I liked the posh hotel bars.

Seattle is a big city and there are tons of bars to recommend it.

We worked our way through many of them.  It was a fun way to get to know the city.  We would go for a long walk in a neighborhood and then treat ourselves to a drink and a nosh.  We particularly liked hotel bars and there are two that have
passed the test of time.

Oliver's in the Mayflower Hotel in downtown Seattle is a lovely room with gorgeous high windows and great cocktails. 

It has a long bar that looks out those windows onto all of the City's activities. Great for people-watching.  And it doesn't hurt that there is a huge Macy's right across the street. I like one of their signature cocktails, "The Silver Bell," a lovely drink topped off with some champagne.  My taste in drinks has decidedly changed. The bartenders are always friendly and you get peanuts with your drink. We have stayed in the hotel several times to celebrate Valentine's Day and have been known to close the place down.  That's how friendly the bartenders are!

The Six/Seven bar in the Edgewater Hotel is about as iconic Seattle as you can get.

If you are lucky enough to snag a table by the window, you are literally sitting on the water with cruise ships and ferries going by. And The Edgewater Hotel is the home of some famous rock star shenanigans:  The Beatles fishing from their room and the Led Zeppelin "mudshark incident."

As we traveled, we had some happy moments in some great bars.

Victoria, B.C. is one of my favorite places and we never leave there without a stop at the Bengal Lounge in the Empress Hotel.  The hotel is impressive enough but the lounge evokes England's empire with its ceiling fans and curry buffet and sitting in its plush chairs enjoying a fancy drink with waiters in full waiter regalia doing their wait thing, life is good!

Farther afield, when traveling in Europe, we have enjoyed some great bars, bartenders and other travelers.  Having a drink in your hotel bar in another country is an easy way to strike up a conversation with your fellow travelers, share some travel tips and possibly makes some new friends.

One of the nicest hotels we have stayed in was the Grand Hotel Casselbergh in Bruges (Belgium). 

And the bartender was handsome, friendly, and fun and we met some other Americans there.  We all met there after a busy (and rainy) day of sightseeing. 

It was a welcome respite after touring the frites museum and sampling the local beer!

Another high point in my bar-loving life was The George pub in London. 


It was right around the corner from where were staying in North London and we just happened upon it. 

The food was delicious so we ate there two nights in a row and one night we were eating late and the bar was closing (many close at 10:30pm).  We had engaged both the bartender and the waitress (who turned out to also be the bar manager) in conversation, and when I told her being in their pub was just like being in the Queen Vic from "Eastenders," she got a kick out of that and let us stay after hours with them.  We got to talk with them as they cleaned up and closed the bar. 

For those of you not familiar with "Eastenders," it's a British soap opera that I have been watching since it first started in the 80's.  Much of the story takes place in an East End pub called the Queen Victoria, so it was a wonderful experience to be included in the real life workings of a real life pub.  All of the staff lived above the pub, something that is quite common there. That is one of those special travel memories that I savor.

Finally, I have to talk about our "local."  In British pub culture, everyone has a "Local," that bar where you always go to have a drink and meet with friends.

Ours is Daphne's in Edmonds (WA), a tiny little hole in the wall that only seats about 15 people.

The big draw is Desmond, the bartender.  He is there Tuesday-Friday holding court with his admirers.  And he has many.  He is a welcoming, funny and exuberant host.  His cheese plate is a thing to behold and order a Moscow Mule so you can witness "the slapping of the mint!"

And there's no TV.  Just Frank Sinatra singing classic songs.

It can be hot, crowded and we might not be able to find a seat.  It doesn't fit all of my criteria for a great bar.

So why do we go there?

Because Desmond makes sure that everybody knows our name!

Tell me about your favorite bars!

I was inspired to write this blog post by a charming little book I reviewed back in December "Of All the Gin Joints" that gives the history of bars, restaurants and hotels in Los Angeles and the drinks they inspired.  Highly recommended.


See you Friday

for my review of the new movie 

The Week in Reviews
(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)

and the latest on

My 1001 Movies I Must See Before
 I Die Project."

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Some Favorite Seattle Restaurants and Bars A-Z With One Sentence Reviews (And The Week in Reviews)

[I review the movies "Heaven is For Real (in theatres now)," and the DVDs "Out of the Furnace" and "The Last Waltz" - it's been a slow week - and give you the lowdown on Rosie Perez's memoir].

But first

One of my favorite TV food shows started back up this week. 

"Check Please Northwest," on our local PBS station, puts three people around a table to talk about their favorite restaurant, which everyone at the table has already visited. (You can also find this show on the Chicago PBS station and in the Bay Area and possibly other places.  Check your local listings)

I was actually on the first season of this show here in Seattle (see below) and it was great fun.

I was in good company as Senator Barack Obama appeared on the show in Chicago in 2009.

Reliving the memory got me to thinking about the experience of dining out and my favorite restaurant adventures since moving to Seattle.

When I moved to Seattle 10 years ago, I realized it was a huge foodie town, right up there with San Francisco.

Also when we arrived, we subscribed to a couple of live theatres, so we got in the habit of going into town, having a nice meal and attending the theatre.

I read restaurant reviews, made lists and tried to get to as many of the great restaurants as I could

However, the librarian that I am wanted to organize our restaurant experiences, so I decided to take my lists and arrange them alphabetically, and then we could work our way through Seattle's restaurants more methodically.

We actually made it through "F" until I realized that too many new restaurants with names falling in the "A" to "E" range were opening up, forcing me to either backtrack or visit those new ones once I had made it through "Z". 

Too much. 

I abandoned that project and arranged the restaurants by neighborhoods instead, (Seattle is a city of neighborhoods, each unique), so I would have some good choices depending on where we were stair walking or exploring (for our stair walking adventures see my blog "The Joys of Stair Walks").

But as it turns out, I have been to enough restaurants to give you an A-Z list, which I will do now with one sentence reviews, because I know you are busy and wouldn't read my long reviews anyway (and for you English majors out there, I know some of my descriptions are phrases, not complete sentences.  Thank you in advance for pointing that out).

I know this is Seattle specific, so if you don't live in the Seattle area, you might think this isn't for you.  Save this list.  Who knows when you might visit?  And if you don't have a Seattle visit in your future, use this list to inspire you to do something similar in your own town.

By the way, I have a theory about dining out. 

It's not just to eat and drink, though that is fun.  Dining out at a nice restaurant gets you out of the house and into an environment where you don't have the distractions of dirty dishes, folding laundry, TV and other annoyances.  It's just you and your dinner companions, face to face, enjoying each other's company, getting caught up with your family and friends and having meaningful conversations. 

So you could say that dining out is a necessity for a good quality of life and to enjoy the essence of our humanity.  And I just did!

So here is my list of some of my favorite
Seattle restaurants:

(Note:   For some letters, I have more than one, so I might throw in an honorable mention here and there.  But just know, there are many more than one under each letter that are notable.  You can discover those on your own)

Old school Mediterranean in the Mayflower Park Hotel, where you can enjoy a drink in Oliver's Lounge, the wonderful bar with huge windows overlooking the excitement of downtown (order the "Silver Bell" cocktail), before enjoying your paella in the beautiful wood-paneled dining room.

Ba Bar
This restaurant features Vietnamese street food and Kung Foo Karaoke (what more could you want?) and open late, and I mean late, like 4am, on weekends.

Honorable mention:  Bastille - best French 75's in the City.

Venetian style tapas in a charming setting with friendly staff

Venerable drive-in (been here since the 1950's and must have given McDonald's a run for their money) using only fresh ingredients: order the Deluxe Burger, fries (real potatoes) and the hand-dipped shake.

Honorable mention:  Daphne's, the teeny, tiny bar in Edmonds, overseen by the irrepressible, raconteur bartender, Desmond, who charms his customers with his banter and cheese plates.

Tucked away in Tangletown, this is a cozy, romantic dining experience that features seasonal, local ingredients.
(2016 update:  Sadly, Eva is now closed).

The Fireside Room in the Sorrento Hotel
A must for a drink during the holidays (try to sit in the big leather chairs by the fire) because the room is decorated so beautifully, but it's a destination anytime for afternoon high tea.

2015 Update:  The room has since been remodeled and I don't think it's as cozy.

The Gerald
Hipster retro bar and restaurant offering comfort food such as several kinds of grilled cheese sandwiches, mac and cheese and poutine.

How to Cook a Wolf
Named for a book written by food writer M.F.K. Fisher, this is one of celebrity chef Ethan Stowell's restaurants - Italian inspired small plates using simple ingredients, beautifully prepared.

See me talk about it when I appeared on "Check Please Northwest."

Japonessa Sushi Cucina
Fancy innovative sushi rolls in a lively downtown location.

Belltown restaurant featuring Japanese street food: skewers, hot pots, sushi and lots of different kinds of sake

Part of the celebrity chef Tom Douglas empire, this one honors his grandmother and gives us food with a Greek influence (and it's open for breakfast too).

Celebrity Chef Tom Douglas

Honorable Mention:  New restaurant Loulay, named for Chef Thierry Rautureau's ("The Chef in the Hat" hometown of Saint Hilaire de Loulay in France,) presents delicious non-stuffy French food in a beautiful downtown location.

Chef in the Hat Thierry Rautureau

Matt's in the Market

Overlooking Elliott Bay and the Olympics, in this intimate setting you are in the heart of Pike Place Market eating wonderful fresh food.

Upscale sushi and Japanese food in an upscale neighborhood.

Spanish tapas in a teeny, tiny intimate, but lively space in Ballard.

Poco Wine Bar
Our favorite wine bar, because it's relaxed and friendly and has Pino Grigio on tap!  And the cheese plate is huge and delicious!

Quinn's Pub
Where else can you get a wild boar sloppy joe?

Korean inspired street food.

Two words:  bacon jam.

Honorable mention:  Staple and Fancy, the best value for a Chef's tasting menu in the City - it's $50 (another Ethan Stowell restaurant).

Tillicum Place Café
Perfect place to eat a Dutch Baby, especially if you are attending Bumbershoot or any other event at Seattle Center.

Grab a munch or a drink before heading over to the Paramount for a show, which is only a hop, skip and jump away

Contemporary Italian - more wild boar - this time a tenderloin - and yummy wide noodles, a favorite.

The Whale Wins
Celebrity Chef Renee Erickson's latest restaurant, it's all fresh with a vegetable focus - think something yummy spread on perfectly crisped toasts.

Nothing starts with "X"

Yummy, Tummy Teriyaki
or any teriyaki joint.
Teriyaki is Seattle fast food.

Zig Zag Café
One of the best craft cocktail bars in the City.

Well, there you have it. 

Now go out and eat something with your loved ones!

What would you add to this list?

Now on to

The Week in Reviews

***In Theatres Now***

Four-year-old Colton Burpo is hospitalized for a ruptured appendix and almost dies.  When he gets well, he tells his father that while he was being operated on, he went to heaven.
Based on the 2010 best-seller, "Heaven is for Real:  The Astounding Story of a Little Boy's Trip to Heaven and Back" by Todd Burpo, the little boy's father, it begs the question:  if you really believe in God and heaven, why would you doubt a story like this?  But that is what happens.  Todd Burpo is himself a minister, but when presented with this story by his son, he has his doubts.  And so do half of his parishioners.  You see, little Colton didn't have one of those events where his heart stopped and he was brought back to life.  He never "died" while on the operating table, though his situation was very serious.  No, little Colton merely visited Heaven, where he met his grandfather and his little baby sister who died in utero. It's seems people can understand someone's heart stopping and then coming back but not a little boy who just has a visit to heaven.  What Reverend Todd comes up with in the end is that Heaven is here on earth, Heaven is everywhere, Heaven is how we treat our fellow man, etc.
You may wonder how I came to attend this theatre showing.  I asked myself that same question as I sat in the theatre.  But despite what you think, the life of a retired person is a busy one and I am often forced to base my theatre going on my schedule and this one fit my schedule, unfortunately.  And, hey, I live in the 'burbs.  Cinema in the 'burbs is like malls in the 'burbs - nothing but Forever 21, Wet Seal and Express.  I have to travel 20 miles for the foreign films and indies.
It's talky, schmaltzy and sometimes cringe-worthy, but I must have been in a theatre with true believers, because I heard sniffling before the opening credits even rolled, and people were talking back to the screen like they knew these people.

I will say that much as I am against precocious little kids in movies, little Conor Corum who played Colton is one of the cutest little boys I have ever seen,(except for my son and grandsons, of course).

Rosy the Reviewer says...Believers will find comfort here.  Non-believers will think this is hokey as hell (pardon my irony).

You Might Have Missed
And Some You Should Be Glad You Did
(I see the bad ones so you don't have to)

Out of the Furnace (2013)

Rodney (Christian Bale) has a crazy brother who keeps getting himself into trouble (Casey Affleck - does Casey Affleck have a lock on playing crazy brothers?  I'm just saying), mostly in underground fight clubs.  When his brother goes missing, Rodney heads into the Appalachians of New Jersey to find him (I never knew New Jersey had hillbillies) .

Christian Bale never ceases to amaze me.  He inhabits every character he plays.  And Woody Harrelson is as mean a bad guy as Javier Bardem in "No Country for Old Men."

Rosy the Reviewer says...Engrossing drama with Bale's performance as the centerpiece.

The Last Waltz (1978)

The final concert of "The Band" directed by Martin Scorsese.
I have to be honest, I was disappointed in this movie. 
 I have been working on a blog about the best concert and rock films, and this film is at the top of many lists.  I couldn't believe I hadn't seen it, so I decided it was time.  And c'mon - better than "Woodstock" or "Gimme Shelter?"
I think the gravitas here is the Scorsese element but Hubby made the comment that when he was interviewing Robby Robertson it reminded him of Rob Reiner in "This is Spinal Tap."  I would like to have seen some more depth.  Why was this their last concert?  There were some comments about being on the road for years, but they were still really young (BTW, I saw Bob Dylan in Chicago in 1966 right after he went "electric" and "The Band" was his back-up band.)
Rosy the Reviewer says...It was cool seeing Joni and Neil, etc. but "the greatest concert film of all time?"  I don't think so.

***Book of the Week***

Handbook for an Unpredictable Life: How I Survived Sister Renata and My Crazy Mother, and Still Came Out Smiling (with Great Hair) by Rosie Perez (2014)

Perez shares her difficult childhood and the ups and downs of her career.

Perez was able to drag herself out of poverty when she was discovered dancing on Soul Train.  That led to her choreographing Bobby Brown's early work and then to "In Living Color," where she choreographed the Fly Girls, who provided hip hop dancing between sketches.  A chance meeting with Spike Lee led to her appearing in his "Do the Right Thing" and other acting roles followed, though her distinctive quasi Puerto Rican and New York accent mostly limits her to roles where that can be exploited.

Yes, she had a rough childhood, but I wish she would have spent more time talking about her career.  However, I did enjoy the dishing on Jennifer Lopez (Lopez was a Fly Girl at the start of her career).

Rosy the Reviewer says...For Rosie Perez fans only.

That's it for this week.

See you Tuesday for

"Retirement Fashion Chic: 


I Know You Are Old But Do You Really Have To Look Like Crap?"

Thanks for reading!

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Check your local library for DVDs and book mentioned.

Note:  Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database).
If I reviewed a movie, you can now find my reviews there too.
When you get there, click on "Explore More" on the right side panel and then scroll down to "External Reviews."  Click on that and you will find me alphabetically under Rosy the Reviewer.