Sun Ya Is Chinatown's Cheers

Where everybody knows your name, in Mandarin.

The Watering Hole: Sun Ya, 605 Seventh Ave. S., 623-1670, CHINATOWN

The Atmosphere: As you enter Sun Ya, to the left is a massive, austere dining area best known for plopping stellar dim sum in front of its guests. But head straight and to the right a little, and you'll shimmy into one of Seattle's darkest bars, perfect for days when you've forgotten your sunglasses.

At 4 on a Tuesday afternoon, the bar is half-full but pregnant with promise. Every patron is on the wrong side of 40, with blacks and whites peppered (or salted) among a mostly Asian crowd. Three television sets of varying sizes show Hurricane Isaac hitting Louisiana, Asian art adorns the walls, and red paper bulbs hang from the black tile ceiling, muting the lights. Against the back wall rest a wood stove and dartboard, both out of commission, and swivel chairs make for a potentially great bout of bumper drunks.

The Bartender: Tall, dark-haired Gloria Ohashi boasts a deep voice and quick wit. A skinny regular comes in and hands her a small green pumpkin that he says he found on the bus. "We don't have regulars," says Ohashi. "We have lifers." Every person who walks in is greeted by everyone else, and it becomes evident that Sun Ya is Seattle's Asian Cheers.

Ohashi has tended bar here for "over 20 years." Before that, she tended bar for 23 years at the original King Street iteration of Shiro Kashiba's Nikko, before he sold the restaurant (now defunct) to the downtown Westin and scurried three blocks west to start his Belltown sushi namesake.

The Drink: What's Ohashi's favorite drink to make? "None," she replies. "On the rocks." So she quickly prepares "Peter G's Drink": half unflavored Stoli vodka, half raspberry Stoli, on the rocks (natch).

The Verdict: Peter G's Drink is, in a word, effective.

mseely@seattleweekly.com

 
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