First Call: The Grizzled Wizard, Wallingford's Arcade Haven

The Watering Hole: The Grizzled Wizard, 2317 N. 45th St. WALLINGFORDThe Atmosphere: After being chased around Wallingford by a blue Subaru Impreza in what seemed to be a really lame adaptation of The Fast and the Furious, I arrived at The Grizzled Wizard thirsty and excited to see what a bar like this could have in store. Despite what the name might imply, there are no pale-faced kids playing Magic: The Gathering here. The space could be called a dive, but the cleanliness and attention to detail don't give off that typical vibe. And with a cooler full of Olympia tall boys, fresh juices for mixers, a plentiful jukebox, and a console with 48 free classic arcade games, some might instead call the place heaven.The Barkeep: Fresh off a vacation in the San Juan Islands, co-owner and everyday-looking guy Joe Couden opened the bar three-and-a-half months ago—on St. Patrick's Day, of all days—and up to that point had been a chef around the city for nearly 14 years.The Drink: Couden has been doing plenty of experimenting behind the bar, developing a pulled-pork-sandwich shot and a Hawaiian-pizza shot; he's working on a lutefisk shot using Swedish fish-infused vodka. But when asked what he drinks, the barkeep headed straight for the classic: an Old Fashioned. As could be expected, he gave it a slight twist by going the liquid route and leaving out muddled ingredients, giving the drink "the same profile without all the weird stuff that gets caught in your mustache and/or teeth." Couden's preferred base, (ri)1 (pronounced "rye one"), is a top-shelf liquor that held its own without overpowering the flavor of the bitters.The Verdict: After tasting it to make sure it was right, Couden handed it over—and it definitely was. Undeniably strong but equally smooth, the (ri)1 made a great starting point to accentuate the cocktail's layers. That may be more description than the drink really needs—the Grizzled Wizard isn't big, upscale, or especially "classy." But none of this matters because the drinks are good and strong, and as friendly bartenders and arcade games go, the place is hard to beat.food@seattleweekly.com

 
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