The Watering Hole: Big Mario's, 1009 E. Pike St., 922-3875, CAPITOL HILL
The Atmosphere: Big Mario's, equal parts pizza parlor and bar, attracts mostly students and other industry people around Capitol Hill. It looks like a dive bar that's been in Seattle since the '80s, but it's not even two years old. The place really gets hopping on Friday and Saturday nights when Big Mario's serves pizza by the slice out a window until 4 a.m., and during weekdays when they dole out dollar beers from 3 to 4 p.m. The place is also home to the world's cutest dog, a puggle named Jackson that belongs to the bar manager, Melissa.
The Barkeep: Lisa Mungo. She's been bartending at Big Mario's for about six months. Before she moved to Seattle three and a half years ago, she tended bar in Portland. "One of the reasons I moved to Capitol Hill is because there are so many great venues around here for music," says Mungo, a member of a doom-metal band called He Whose Ox Is Gored. Her role? "I scream."
Mungo works the 11 a.m.–7 p.m. shift Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. "Sometimes it's hard to break into the scene when you're new in town. I actually started here working on the kitchen side, tossing pies and doing prep and all that kind of stuff. I've done pretty much everything here since we opened."
The Drink: "Today, I made a margarita, and the reason why is because it's Tequila Tuesday," Mungo announces. "A lot of people come in—a lot of students—and they'll do a little Tequila Tuesday action. It's not that we even have a particular special or anything, it's just that it's Tequila Tuesday."
There's nothing earth-shattering about the recipe: tequila and a mix of simple syrup and lime (Big Mario's makes their own sour) topped with a splash of OJ and soda. It's a little fancier than what Mungo likes to drink. "I'm easy. [I prefer] something like whiskey—probably Jameson. I'll do a PBR or some other cheap beer. The simpler it is, the better."
The Verdict: The drink was really good, but what I remember most was how much it made me appreciate Big Mario's, as if it were a little bit of sunshine that parted the clouds during a dark and gloomy afternoon—like when you've had a shitty day at work, and your low expectations when you enter an unfamiliar bar are exceeded tenfold. Lisa and her margarita (and her pink shirt) definitely brightened the day. I found a new favorite in a bar I didn't think I'd like. And a dog I want to steal.