I often dream about the perfect tavern. It is unpretentious. It’s at least half-full on lazy Sunday afternoons. It’s got television sets tuned to sports with classic rock on the jukebox. It’s in the middle of nowhere—preferably near the ocean—yet not too far from anywhere. It has cheap food, Black Butte porter, a massive patio, and aesthetic imperfections so mind-bogglingly unique that they turn into charm.
The perfect tavern blends into the neighborhood, rather than eliciting noise complaints. Its regulars are functional, professional drinkers, not amateur-night turbo-bingers or problem drunks. Bad pickup lines are frowned upon and spirited barstool debates don’t escalate to fisticuffs. The waitress’ greatest assets aren’t her tits and ass, and hair product on men is all but banned. A no-sneaker dress code and $10 pomegranate cocktails? Please—not at the perfect tavern.
In my dreams, when I find the perfect tavern, I don’t leave. I sit. I drink. I take it all in. Then I wake up, realizing that most dreams are too good to come true.
But since Prohibition, those lucky bastards who live in the secluded Sound-snuggling community of Richmond Beach—conveniently located between northwest Seattle and Edmonds—have seen the folly in such pessimism. Why? They’ve got the Cabin, which meets all of the aforementioned perfect tavern criteria and then some.
In the early 20th century, people didn’t actually live in Richmond Beach—they summered there. As established in the Ten Commandments, every laid-back beach community shall have a cozy, no-frills liquor dispensary a short walk from the sand. Thus, the Cabin was established, right in the middle of a residential block, with nary a like-minded commercial entity in sight.
Over time, Richmond Beach has evolved into a bedroom community, where people live full time and commute. The Cabin has undergone no such evolution, frozen in time and grandfathered right on by various and sundry bureaucratic bullshit like zoning regulations that might prohibit building a bar between a pair of single-family ocean-view homes.
In refreshing contrast to neighborhoods like Belltown, when people have moved into the neighborhood where the Cabin already was, they’ve respected it as an elder. More than that, they’ve embraced it. The fact that its proprietors haven’t bothered with flattening the sloped floor by the bar hasn’t been a deterrent, nor has the fact that it’s become a favorite stop on the Harley-Davidson circuit.
To call the Cabin a tavern is a slight misnomer: It boasts a full array of 80-proof hooch behind the bar. But it feels like a tavern; and considering the state recently relaxed hard-liquor service standards, that should be more than enough. The food, meanwhile, is filling and tasty. (In the perfect tavern, remember, food shouldn’t be fancy, just fabulous.) One notable standout: the tartar sauce. It’s fucking amazing.
I took tartar sauce for granted until I did time in the Midwest. There, whether or not a restaurant has tartar sauce is a total crapshoot. Here, it’s a given. At the Cabin, it’s a dream.