Captain's Grog

A highly subjective Seattle pirate-bar tour taken by a man who feels that pirate bars, in theory, shouldn’t exist.

I don't get the appeal of pirates. After all, if you want to wear ragged clothing and a tricornered hat, why not re-enact the French and Indian War? And if you want to act like a murderous homosexual who likes to sing, I'm sure casting for the role of Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs: the Musical will begin any day now.If you were going to open a really authentic pirate bar, you'd need to hire some Somali teenagers with AK-47s to work there. And modern-day pirates, being predominantly Muslims, don't drink alcohol at all. So in theory, pirate bars shouldn't even exist! Yet somehow they do.Here are six of them:The Baranof 8549 Greenwood Ave. N., 782-9260, Greenwood. The Baranof is hardly a pirate bar: There are a few fishing nets stapled to the ceiling; a crude painting of Popeye adorns the men's-room door; Olive Oyl, naturally, graces the women's restroom. People will stare at you when you walk inside. A pint of PBR sets you back $3, and gargantuan shots of Wild Turkey are $6.50. An Absolut Citron and soda—and before you start impugning my manliness, you should know that I wasn't drinking it—cost a surprisingly affordable $3.50. The food sucks. A "bottomless" order of fish and chips is $9; the chips were undercooked frozen French fries and the cod tasted like they'd breaded and fried a ball of wet toilet paper. The reuben ($8) had the tinny metallic aftertaste you get when going down on a robot. Popeye was a law-abiding merchant marine, not a pirate. The Viking 6404 24th Ave. N.W., 784-3662, Ballard. The Viking, like the Baranof, isn't a paragon of piracy. After all, it is called The Viking, and while I admit that Vikings were the first pirates, the bar just doesn't have very much seafaring crap on the walls. In fact, with all the baseball trophies on the wall, you'd think it was a bar dedicated to the collection of old trophies, and not a watering hole committed to the preservation of terror on the high seas. PBR tallboys are $2.50; the aforementioned Citron & soda is an almost Belltownian $6.50. The food, while OK, gets extra points for being prepared in the TINIEST KITCHEN IN THE UNIVERSE. They've got a microwave, some plastic wrap, and those red-and-white paper hot-dog baskets you can buy in packs of 2,000 from Costco. And that's it. It's as if they're trying to pack in as much flavor using as few utensils as possible. "Fuck you, Williams & Sonoma"—that's what the kitchen at The Viking would say, if we came up with enough technology to imbue rooms with the ability to speak. You can get a single rib, smoked offsite then lovingly microwaved by the bartender, for $2.50. The ribs lose a lot of the crusty charm of a freshly smoked baby back, but even reheated they're still pretty good. While microwaved ribs might make Steven

Raichlen punch the air and slam doors with rage, they are, after all, only $2.50. You're at The Viking. You're drunk. Eat some ribs.Captain Blacks 129 Belmont Ave., 327-9549, Capitol Hill. Captain Blacks might be a relative newcomer to the pirate-bar scene, but it's clearly the most deeply steeped in piracy. Nautical maps grace the walls. There's a ship's wheel. Things are wrapped in rope. I keep expecting the First Mate to come out and batten down the hatches, or whatever the fuck it is that practicing pirates do. Happy hour here is pretty good: pints of Manny's, Peroni, or Blue Moon are $3.50 (they stupidly don't have PBR on draft). A shrimp po' boy ($10) tragically has only six shrimp on it, and for some reason they leave the tails on the fried shrimp, so that you get slippery flakes of chitin stuck in the back of your throat every time you swallow. The mac and cheese is $4 during happy hour, and it's so motherfucking cheesy it's like a bowl of cheddar fondue that happens to have elbow macaroni floating in it. Best of all is Captain Blacks' famous waffle ($3). You get a sweet, crusty waffle, folded upon itself like an Eastern Bloc contortionist, hiding a half-melted puddle of butter within its luscious creases. Plus they give you a shitload of syrup to drench it in. My only complaint is that the indentations in the waffle are too shallow.The Knarr 5633 University Way N.E., 525-3323, U District. "Knarr" at least sounds like a noise a pirate might make, but that doesn't make it a pirate bar. In fact, aside from the Viking-ship logo on Knarr's sign, there's absolutely nothing about legal maritime trade, much less piracy, inside this bar. It looks more like a regular sports bar, with pool tables, plastic MGD banners, and plasma screens perpetually tuned to ESPN. The drinks are cheap: a pint of PBR is $2, which I consider practically a Depression-era price. A Citron & soda won't break your wallet either: They're $4.50. As for the food, you could get the $4 chicken fingers or a hamburger or whatever, but the whole place smells so much like microwaved gravy that I didn't really want to eat there.Copper Gate 6301 24th Ave. N.W., 706-3292, Ballard. Copper Gate is ostensibly a Viking bar, but Vikings were the first pirates, ergo that makes Copper Gate a pirate bar. When you step into the Copper Gate, you're immediately confronted with some Viking awesomeness: The prow of a Viking longboat juts from the wall out into the middle of the floor. This is the bar. There are plenty of booths everywhere, and shitloads of porn. I'm not making this up: Pictures of naked chicks are EVERYWHERE. Scandinavians are notoriously heavy drinkers, and the menu reflects this. Aquavits are available, including the delightful Krogstad Aquavit, a surprisingly easy-to-drink aperitif that will get you brutally shitfaced. The food is serious, but nothing costs more than $10. Grilleribbe sounds like something you'd buy at IKEA, but it isn't: They're braised short ribs, though they hardly taste as though they were actually braised. They were cut crosswise the way you get them at a Korean barbecue and coated with a crusty dry rub, and a bit tough to the bite. Pannekaker are Norwegian pancakes: They're foamy and light as a feather, very buttery, folded over upon a nimbus of whipped cream, and topped with more lingonberry preserves. Copper Gate is the ideal place to drink away your existential angst, and admire some porn. The Shipwreck Tavern 4210 S.W. Admiral Way, 420- 4718, West Seattle. The Shipwreck Tavern is dark inside, and wood-paneled, with a balcony. There's a strange emblem on the wall: a yellow shield emblazoned with an axe, like a coat of arms. In fact, if you remove the nets stapled to the balcony and the porthole mirrors, the Shipwreck seems more like a medieval meadery than a pirate bar. But they get a pass: The jukebox is BAD-ASS and the beer selection is damn good. Rainier tall boys are $3.50, as are domestic pints like Rolling Rock, Budweiser, or Bud Light. Fancier beers like Rogue Dead Guy, Manny's, or Pilsner Urquell are only $4.50. The Shipwreck is the perfect place to have a couple beers before you go out to slay Grendel. Beowulf was, after all, a Viking. The Benbow Room 4210 S.W. Admiral Way, 922-3313, West Seattle. The Benbow Room is the name of the bar inside West Seattle's Heartland Cafe, which used to be a beloved, super-divey neighborhood restaurant/bar called The Admiral Benbow. The inside of the bar is shaped like the hold of a pirate ship (just like the original lounge), which is cute; but it irks me because in Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, "Admiral Benbow" was the name of a hotel, not a ship. So they should've made the Benbow Room look like a hotel inside. But $3 PBR pints and $7 Maker's Manhattans certainly won't break the bank, and the food is decent. Comforting favorites like chicken-fried steak ($12.99), made from a New York Strip and served with a side of buttery mashed potatoes and blanketed with a beige awning of sausage gravy, will dispel any hangover you may have gotten from drinking too many rations of rum with Blackbeard the night before.

 
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