I am pretty resilient. Still, at my advanced age, it’s hard to do two consecutive cocktail crawls. (If we’re going to get technical about it, this was my third straight night of boozing.) But friend K came up from San Francisco, friend S was raring to go, and let’s face it, drinks in Seattle still cost half as much as they do in London. So I was prepared to sacrifice my liver to the greater good. (I think my liver has actually gone on strike. You may run into it, picketing for better working conditions.)
We started our drinking at Grim’s, a relative newcomer on 11th Avenue between Pike and Pine. I really like Grim’s, even though they tick every early oughties ‘trend’ box. (Exposed industrial piping on the ceiling? Check. Richard Serra-like distressed and artfully rusted sheet metal on the walls? Check. Long communal tables? Check. Hip little ‘secret’ upstairs lounge-cum-‘speakeasy’ with its own bar? Check. Drinks served in mason jars? Check.) Grim’s could also stand to update its cocktail menu, which, although appealing, has a “that’s so 2007″ feel to it. I love St. Germain, but maybe it doesn’t need to be an ingredient in two different cocktails. Nevertheless, Grim’s is one of those places that comfortably feels like it’s been around a while and intends to stay. And the servers and staff are lovely.
S and I had Vodka Drink #2 ($8.50, I think), a pleasant citrusy mix of vodka, grapefruit, lime and (you guessed it) St. Germain, while K went for that tasty classic, Blood and Sand (maybe $10?) (scotch, orange juice, sweet vermouth and cherry brandy). Both were totally acceptable drinks, even if not spectacular. And it was kind of cute that the Vodka drink came with a massive lemon wedge, as opposed to the now-ubiquitous twist. It sort of made me feel like I was at the bar on a cruise ship.
Where Grim’s excels is their bar food, which basically consists of totally moreish sandwiches. Last time I was there I had the French dip – a generous amount of warm tender thinly sliced beef sandwiched in chewy bread, and delicious salty hot jus. This time we had another one of my faves, the grilled cheese with tomato soup ‘chaser’ (thick hearty soup served in a ramekin for dunking), reasonably priced at $7. You can choose what kind of grilled cheese you want – we went for havarti with herbs and sautéed leeks – and the whole thing is hot and buttery and crusty and salty and melty and utterly satisfying.
It was time to move on. I wanted to take S and K to one of my favourite spots on Capitol Hill, the Tin Table. This bar/restaurant is in a BEAUTIFUL space at the top of Oddfellows Hall, the kind of place where you instantly become ten times more attractive just by walking through the door (i.e., my kind of bar). It’s also open late, serves one of the best burgers in Seattle (the ricotta gnocchi are nothing to sneer at either), offers a great cocktail list, and boasts incredibly friendly, competent staff.
S’s cocktail was fabulous. The Serrano ($8.50) – Serrano pepper-infused Sauza blanco tequila, sloe gin, grape, cucumber, and lemon juice, served up with a salt rim – was smoky, tangy, spicy, and yet delicate. And it was PURPLE. I went old-school with a very dirty vodka martini. In London, I can’t find a dirty martini that tastes right. This one made me wonder why I’d ever left Seattle. Bliss. (K, true to form, reverted to wine.) Tin Table’s Sweet Potato Tater Tots, served with garlic aioli, (Isn’t that redundant? ANYWAY) were good bar snacks (hot, salty, deep-fried) but not as good as Grim’s grilled cheese.
(She may also have been the only person ever to ask for wine at Pony.) We would have stayed longer but a drunk guy drank my entire cocktail, and besides, I was on a mission to find my gorgeous and adorable friends, P and G. So we concluded our night at my ‘home bar’ (like a home boy, or a home, but a bar), Café Presse. Presse is the edgier, drunker Capitol Hill cousin of Francophile favourite Le Pichet, and I have spent more evenings than I can count propping up the end of the bar closest to the door. (Disclaimer: numerous friends of mine have worked there at one time or another. That just makes it better.) Yes, I had another St. Germain-based cocktail, but the Hot Charlotte (gin, cucumber, lemon, St. Germain, and Tabasco, $9) is so much more than just another cocktail. You can find a recipe here.
So yes, I admit it. For crawl #2, I did only go to places I’d been to before, and again, I didn’t leave Capitol Hill. That doesn’t matter if they’re great bars, though, does it? And yes, if you really want to know, I was hungover after this crawl too.
Grim’s Butterfly Lounge and Social Hall, 1512 11th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98122, (206) 324.7467, www.grimseattle.com
The Tin Table, 915 East Pine Street, Seattle, WA 98122 (206) 320.8458
Pony, 1221 East Madison Street, Seattle, WA 98122 (206) 324.5864 www.ponyseattle.com
Café Presse, 1117 12th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98122 (206) 709.7674 www.cafepresseseattle.com