Bottomfeeder: Mercer Island's "Other" Roanoke Gives You a Reason to Get Off I-90

"Meet me at the Roanoke" is a far more confusing proposition than it should be. This is because there are two Roanokes, and they're in fairly close proximity. These Roanokes aren't part of a local chain, like Prost!; they're totally separate entities, one located on north Capitol Hill, the other on north Mercer Island.Both are homey watering holes. The Capitol Hill Roanoke's exterior is covered in ivy, and its sign is knocked off from Heineken's famous green-and-black label. There's a ping-pong table on the back patio, and its full name is the Roanoke Park Place. Built in 1914, Mercer Island's Roanoke Inn resembles a golf-course clubhouse, with seating on both the front porch and patio. When it's nice out, the bar is happy to loan customers a croquet set for play on its well-manicured lawn. Hence, from the outside, the Roanoke appears to be a blue-blood bar for a blue-blood community,Yet inside, the Roanoke is dark and rugged—divey, even. Its afternoon bartender, Casey Koon, is soon to head off to medical school. But despite his presumed predilection for chemistry, Koon, whose last day was Sunday, and his colleagues pour mainly Budweiser. Of the workaday menu, he quips: "We even fry the salad." Not quite, but not so far from the truth either. The Roanoke's "South of the Border" menu is where it's at. The burrito, stuffed with "spicy beef," is drowned in saucy toppings. It won't kill you, but it will fill you.Mercer Island— aka "The Rock," née "East Seattle"—is a mysterious oasis known mainly for harboring moneyed families whose children can afford cocaine instead of pot. As the crow flies, it's the Eastside suburb closest to Seattle. Its area code is even 206. Yet given its staunchly residential focus, it offers Seattleites very little incentive to exit from I-90. Lately, however, it's cultivated a smartly laid-out commercial core, leading to a slight rise in right blinker signals.The Roanoke is nowhere near this core. Like Richmond Beach's Cabin, it predates modern zoning standards, thus catching motorists by surprise as they round the bend on North Mercer Way, near where the old, pre–floating bridge ferry dock used to be. This dock explains the Roanoke's very existence. It was conceived, according to the Mercer Island Historical Society (the Roanoke is one of four landmark properties on the Rock, another being the VFW Hall across the street), as a wet way station for folks awaiting a member of Lake Washington's woebegone mosquito fleet to coast into shore.During prohibition, it is said that the Roanoke simply served booze in coffee mugs instead of glasses. If you decide to head in, please ask them to reprise that tradition.mseely@seattleweekly.com

 
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