Red Onion Tavern, Madison Park. Of all the neighborhoods to boast two throwback taverns, hyper-yuppified Madison Park might be the unlikeliest. But here they are, down by the lakeshore: the Attic and the Red Onion—places where our dads' dads jollily tilted back beers when they were in their drinking prime. While the Attic and its scrumptious pub fare is the more popular diamond, the Onion is the rough, and it was in that rough that I found myself on a Wednesday after lunch, nursing a pint of Rainier and reading next to a silver, chardonnay-sipping fox in Chanel suspenders. Slurring her speech by 2 in the afternoon, this woman asked me if I thought the bartender was a good-looking man. Before I could respond in the affirmative, the bartender reprimanded her for asking such an inappropriately forward question. The silver fox spent the next several minutes leaving several messages on several doctors' answering machines, seeking some sort of prescription for a sore throat. Meanwhile, the bartender pointed out a news item in one of the dailies where some woman who'd just purchased a smoker found an amputated human leg in the embers. The name of the owner of the smoker was Peg.
The Sloop, Ballard. Two young guys walk into a bar. Only it's not a bar, it's a tavern. And not just any tavern; it's the Sloop, where they serve 34-ounce "Sloopersize" tankards of Rainier for a mere $3.75. Anyway, back to the two guys who walked into the Sloop: One of them tries to order a well drink from an attractive thirtysomething female bartender. She replies, "Sorry, honey, this is a tavern." They walk out. Their 34-ounce loss. And is it just me, or don't french fries always taste better in a basket of cod?
Poggie Tavern, West Seattle. Sticking out like a sore thumb amidst an onslaught of retail family-friendliness, the Junction's Poggie Tavern is nonetheless a well-kempt stalwart: clean, well-lit, with pull tabs galore, frequent live-music nights, and an affable bartender in an Olde English cap. Poggie mostly caters to hard laborers who've just punched out for the evening; diversity comes in the form of a quarreling couple and a starch-collared dad sneaking in 16 ounces of relaxation before he must contend with the rug rats.
Beveridge Place Pub, West Seattle. About a mile down the road from the Poggie sits Chuck & Sally's, a longtime local favorite that has been closed with little explanation since the onset of summer. Until its resuscitation, Morgan Junction's thirsty residents are making do with the Beveridge Place Pub. No, "Beveridge" isn't some super-cheesy play on "beverage"—it's the actual name of the street, intersecting California Avenue, that the pub sits on. Catering to a younger crowd than its northerly neighbors, the Beveridge Place Pub turns the run of its front room over to trivia every Wednesday night. If you want to play Trivial Pursuit at your table, more power to you. But to commandeer an entire establishment for trivia? Fuck that. How glorious, then, that the Beveridge Place Pub has a large game room in the back that is 100 percent trivia-free. They also have Roslyn Brewing's dark lager on tap, which is one of the best dark beers ever brewed.
Fiddler's Inn, Wedgwood. The Fiddler's Inn used to be a nicotine-infested dump with floor-to-ceiling carpeting where my late grandpa, Bill Donahue, an Alicia Park resident and hero drinker, used to buy six-packs to go just to support the local economy. Then, in the '90s, the Fid was sold to a younger owner. Liquor laws were sufficiently weird at the time that in order to keep his beer-and-wine license without having to reapply and face likely rejection from the surrounding bedroom community, the new proprietor had to preserve the frame of the structure in his remodel. So he ripped the Fid down to its studs while keeping the sign—a rusty fiddle—and bare-bones skeleton of the building intact. Today, the Fid has been transformed into a neo-hippie's paradise: jam bands on the stereo, acoustic open-mike nights for folkies, really kind pesto pizzas that take forever to cook (but are worth the wait), a garden patio, and the latest microbrews on a rotating tap handle.
The Shanty, Lake City. One of the weird things about places like the Shanty is their countercultural fondness for network TV. This might explain why, on a recent Wednesday evening, the tavern's lone set was devoted to That '70s Show reruns. With but a couple of tired-looking neighborhood types nursing beers at the bar, this could have made for a pretty boring evening were it not for the Aussie bartender, a chatty bloke who called to mind Bryan Brown's star turn in Cocktail and offered up free bowls of pretzels (pretty much all there is to eat). Plastered on virtually every open space on the walls were flyers advertising KEXP's annual hot-rod show and Shake the Shack concert, featuring a nifty Merle Haggard cover band. The pool tables, of which there are two, are covered in Jack-in-the-Box felt. If that ain't brilliant target marketing, I don't know what is.