The Watering Hole: Canterbury Ale & Eats, 534 15th Ave. E., 322-3130, CAPITOL HILL
The Atmosphere: Nestled atop Capitol Hill on the northern edge of the 15th Avenue business district, the Canterbury is an elder neighborhood mainstay, celebrating its 35th birthday in October. On weekends, the whole joint—from the table-service alcove to the bar to the cavernous southern room—is packed and rowdy, but weeknights usually see a different crowd. On this particular Sunday night, there's a group seated at the bar, including a woman in her early 20s having a few drinks and a bearded man in his mid-50s having breakfast for dinner by the light of a Toy Story marathon on the muted television. One outspoken regular occasionally poses discussion questions like "What's your favorite movie of all time?"
The jukebox is scant but packed with quality, as only those few remaining manually filled jukeboxes are. The selections are as diverse as the crowd, jumping from "Gimme Shelter" to "My Boyfriend's Back" to "Run to the Hills." While chatting around the bar about the soundtrack—at that point, some Sonic Youth—a regular asks the bartender if they have My Bloody Valentine. "I'm glad My Bloody Valentine isn't on the jukebox," he says; "I would never wanna get sick of My Bloody Valentine."
The Barkeep: That My Bloody Valentine fan is Jeremy Read, who's been working at the Canterbury for slightly less than 12 years. He sees regulars, weekend drunks ("We get attacked by jocks and bros"), and pool enthusiasts come in, but it's really the people who come in multiple times each week who stand out. "Some people, if you don't see them for two days, you get worried about them."
The Canterbury fits Jeremy like a glove, at least at this weeknight level. He's obviously accustomed to remembering people, and I regularly witness him joking around with customers. The flock around the bar addresses him by his first name.
"I like that I don't have to wear a uniform," he says. "It's kind of a joke, but it's true." He describes the place as "family-esque" (at this point, the outspoken regular chimes in with "Pirate utopia!"). The owners are awesome, he says, plus, "I like the atmosphere a lot . . . I totally dig the mazey castle thing. I sometimes take that for granted because I've been here too long. I forget what it looks like on the inside."
The Drink: Jeremy does not fuck around: Asked what he would be drinking right now were he not on the clock, he tells me that it'd have to be a Mind Eraser and a pint of Strongbow.
For those unfamiliar, a Mind Eraser is equal parts vodka, Kahlua, and tonic water, downed quickly through a straw to get a layered effect. The cumulative taste is not unlike root beer, but the effect is . . . well, like chugging around four ounces of liquor in one go. Strongbow, by contrast, is a UK-manufactured hard cider now ubiquitous in Anglophile bars and pubs here. It's crisp, moderately sweet, and accessible.
The Verdict: While they seem an unlikely combination, pairing a Mind Eraser and a Strongbow makes sense on a practical level. Once your mind has been erased, an unobtrusive comfort drink like hard cider is certainly welcome.
On a deeper level, though, the combination speaks perfectly to the Canterbury's varied identities: the life of the party and a warm, boozy blanket of a neighborhood watering hole. Since Jeremy's been here so long, one has to wonder: Has he evolved into this kind of drinker because of the Canterbury, or does the Canterbury fit both these choices so well because of his influence? The world may never know—because our minds have been erased.