If you're a regular patron of the Crocodile, you've likely talked with VAL KIOSSOVSKI. Though your exchanges rarely stretch beyond the necessary (You: "Pint of Fat Tire." Him: "$3.50, please"), it's enough to gather that the dude has a bit of an accent. Though Kiossovski has called Seattle home since 1991 and has bartended at the Croc since '96, he hails from Bulgaria, the southeastern European country bordered by Romania, Greece, Turkey, and the Black Sea. Kiossovski left his home country because his band at the time had written a song criticizing the government's communist rule. Needless to say, the political authorities were not fond of the song. "My drummer and I applied for political asylum both in Germany and the U.S.," he says. "The U.S. [offer] came first obviously, or else I would be in Germany right now!" Because they were designated political dissidents, the U.S. allowed them the choice of where they wanted to live. "We chose Seattle first of all because we heard of the grunge scene. We wanted to start our experience in the U.S. in a medium-sized city, instead of the main metropolitan centers, so we could get a better feel for what the hell is going on here." Since then, Kiossovski has married an American, had two daughters, bought a home in Mountlake Terrace, worked his way up to bar manager at the Croc, and even joined up with a new band, Kultur Shock, which could be considered Seattle's answer to Gogol Bordello. While he openly loves and calls Seattle home, there are still elements of Bulgaria he longs for, all of which are reflected in his recommendations.—Brian J. Barr Crocodile, 2200 Second Ave., 206-441-5611, www.thecrocodile.com.
Val Kiossovski's Picks:
BEST RESTAURANT The Mediterranean Kitchen in Lower Queen Anne. "I love their food, and I like their no-bullshit attitude."
BEST SEASON Spring. "Every April and May, it's just rebirth everywhere."
BEST PLACE TO WALK Double Bluff beach on Whidbey Island. "I get a kick out of water. It just gives you a sense of freedom."
BEST HANGOUT The Hideout. There aren't many bars where Kiossovski feels as comfortable as he did back home. Someday, he's hoping to have enough money to open his own. In the meantime, he likes to hang out at this First Hill spot.
BEST ATTRIBUTE OF SEATTLE "I love how clean this town is. Every time I go to San Francisco, I like it, but it smells like piss everywhere."
BEST LOCAL BAND "There's too many." (But he cites the Divorce and Band of Horses among his top picks.)
BEST BULGARIAN FOOD None. "I miss the great food and style of eating, when you have lunch and it lasts for hours. [In Bulgaria] lunch is four courses, and you drink and have a cigarette and are bullshitting. By the time you're done with your food, you're wasted and love everybody!"
BEST NEIGHBORHOODS Belltown and Lower Queen Anne. "They feel connected in a way and make sense to me the most."
BEST OUTCOME OF THE SMOKING BAN It's made people talk to each other. "Having to smoke outside, I end up talking to people I would never be talking to if we were inside the bar. Outside, we're all smokers. I end up talking to frat boys, which I would normally never do."