The Watering Hole: The Wilde Rover, 111 Central Way, 425-822-8940, KIRKLAND
The Atmosphere: Since opening its doors in 2006, the Wilde Rover has become known as the neighborhood Irish pub in Kirkland. Nestled in the heart of downtown, the seemingly small restaurant has a surprisingly roomy interior. The bar sits in the center of a spacious area to the left, which opens onto a back deck overlooking the waterfront, and there's a separate dining section on the right for customers seeking a quieter atmosphere. When my friend and I arrived at 10 on a Wednesday night, a trivia competition was just wrapping up, and by the time we ordered a drink the previously packed bar was almost empty, save for a few groups of college students home for the holidays.
The Barkeep: Nick Sabin started working at the Wilde Rover after he graduated from Boise State two years ago. He was a server for six months before being promoted to bartender, and says he likes mixing cocktails and pulling pints much better than serving food. Despite leaving BSU behind, Sabin's backward hat and sneakers make him look a lot like a college bro.
The Drink: Sabin may look like he's straight out of college, but he mixes sophisticated cocktails. Asked to make whatever he chooses, he opts for a French 75. Gin, muddled lemon, and bitters are combined in a shaker, then strained into a martini glass and topped with champagne. Asked if he drinks this himself, Sabin shakes his head. "This is more work than I'm willing to do for myself," he said. "Usually I drink Jameson."
The Verdict: I'm usually not a gin drinker, but the champagne and lemon masked the flavor enough to make the French 75 quite enjoyable. Yet I felt a little out of place sipping a sophisticated cocktail at this laid-back pub. Next time I'll get there early enough to participate in trivia night and grab a Guinness instead.