Second & Bell

Just around the corner the young and coiffed are playing, but on Second Ave., it's strictly old kids on the block.

The eastern side of Second Avenue between Bell and Blanchard is perhaps the city's most reliable single block for dynamic entertainment. Like jazz? Tula's (2214 Second Ave., 206-443-4221) is as good as it gets. Want to rock? The Crocodile Cafe (2200 Second Ave., 206-441-5611), one of the birthplaces of grunge, continues to book sensational national and local touring acts. Want to drink in a hip, dark environment? The Lava Lounge (2226 Second Ave., 206-441-5660) is your kind of place. Want to feel like a pimply, carefree adolescent again—but with booze? Visit Shorty's (2222-A Second Ave., 206-441-5449), where you can play pinball and munch on hot dogs without your mom imposing a curfew.

But what really sets this block apart from the rest of the neighborhood is that it seems virtually immune to trends, maintaining a buoyant, carefree consistency that comes nowhere near approaching the testosterone levels of some of the more annoying establishments just one block west. And whatever smugness might emanate from the linchpins of Second and Bell is harshly countered by a come-as-you-are dress code that favors blue sweatshirts over blue blazers at any hour of the day.

MIKE SEELY

Bear in Mind...

The look, male: Near-shaved head with lamb-chop sideburns, Elvis Costello glasses, hooded zip-up sweatshirt, cargo shorts, vintage short-sleeve snap shirt, Doc Marten knockoffs.

The look, female: Chan Marshall meets Janeane Garofolo meets punk-rock Tina Fey.

Little-known facts: The grub at the Croc is actually far better than standard greasy spoon fare. Try the B.L.A.T.O. sandwich for lunch (a BLT with avocado and onion). And Shorty's isn't the only venue with kid games: The Lava Lounge features shuffleboard and Ms. Pac-Man.

Hangover prevention: Within walking distance are three quality 24-hour haunts: Cafe Minnie's (101 Denny Way, 206-448-6263), the Hurricane (2230 Seventh Ave., 206-682-5858), and the Five Point Cafe (415 Cedar St., 206-448-9993), the latter garnering Most Favored Diner status on account of its ongoing human circus.

Booze you can use: Noodle Ranch (2228 Second Ave., 206-728-0463) has a full bar if the block's other venues are running claustrophobic.

Not-so-smooth jazz: Tula's plays host to a big brass band every Tuesday night, and its bartender has a mustache that John Holmes would have killed for.

Survival tip: If you happen to stumble one block west onto Third Avenue, the street life is considerably more hardscrabble. If you're on mushrooms and don't have anything of value on your person, this can be a good thing. Otherwise, put your game face on.

 
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