The Zig-Zag: Juice Joint

Single malts and sexy spirits reign at downtown's best lounge.

The Zig-Zag has gotten under my skin. It's gotten under a lot of peoples' skins. Planted halfway down the Pike Street Hillclimb under the Market, it's not on the way to anything (unless you've been dining next door at the beloved El Puerco Lloron)it's a destination bar, and it usually requires a little walk from wherever you were last. From the steps outside, the warm glow illuminating the Zig-Zag's windows and the soft chatter of diners and drinkers on the patio welcomes, and walking through its double doors is a sweet relief. Inside you're not in Seattle anymore. It has the look of a sexy New York lounge and the vibe of a seedier joint in a much, much seedier town. Murray Stenson, lead bartender, is the main attraction. The man has fansmost of them employees at other restaurantswho've followed him over from his old post at Il Bistro. He's fast, he's good, and he reads minds: He throws out cardboard coasters like a card dealer; has a lighter ready at your side, eerily, before you've got your cigarette out of the box; and if he knows your tastes, he'll make you drinks you've never heard ofdrinks most other bartenders have never heard of. I've asked all over town for his bourbon-centric Derby and received only shrugs. The bar's crowded up to three drinkers deep on the nights Murray's working, but no one seems to mind. There's an impressive collection of fine spirits lining the wall behind the bar, and a list that includes over 30 aged single malts. It's a drinker's paradise, owned and designed by bartenders Ben Dougherty and Kacy Fitch. The co-owners met a decade ago as kitchen staff at Union Square Grill and, after working around Seattle's night scene as bartenders and bar consultants, bought the Zig-Zag last year. They put a lot of thought into the bar's design. Fitch calls it "a real bartender's bar; a one-two-three bar": in just three footsteps, he can reach everything he needs to make and serve a drink. The lounge seating is stylized as well, with huge, semicircular, emerald mohair and smooth African mahogany booths. Candles, wall mirrors, and antique-looking chandeliers give the place a pleasant yellow-pink glow. Many nights, fresh roses decorate the concrete-topped, teak-trimmed bar. They serve a full menu, but the food here purposefully takes a back seat to the drinks. The pan-Mediterranean menu by chef Jennifer McIlvaine, which has been underwhelming in the past, is being redesigned to match particular spirits. First choose your cocktail, then decide what to eat with it. Beautiful. kmillbauer@seattleweekly.com

 
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