Photo: Jenny Jimenez (L-R: Scott Kannberg, JJ Wandler, Hannah Levin)

So, last week, you opened a bar in Greenwood called Gainsbourg . Obviously, since you're SW


Conflict-Of-Interest Alert: Our Rocket Queen Columnist Opened A Bar! And I Interviewed Her About It.



Photo: Jenny Jimenez (L-R: Scott Kannberg, JJ Wandler, Hannah Levin)

So, last week, you opened a bar in Greenwood called Gainsbourg. Obviously, since you're SW's music columnist, you're a music fan. Why did you pick Serge as your inspiration and theme?

Honestly, the Gainsbourg name was my partner JJ's stroke of brilliance. We always admired the approach that the owners of Hazlewood in Ballard took when they named their bar after Lee Hazlewood. Just anchoring the concept on an admirable artist seemed like a good way to go. And Serge is such a perfect source of inspiration for a bar, in both aesthetic and spirit. Just hanging up pictures of [his famous former wife] Jane Birkin is a nice place to start. She's ridiculously gorgeous. I never get tired of staring at her.

 What can patrons expect from the drink and food menu? Do you have a "Lemon Incest" cocktail?

The goal with the menu was to do simple, but elegant small plates that were affordable. If you've ever been to Ocho in Ballard, you'll be familiar with what we are going for. Everything is handmade--down to the ketchup and aoili we serve with our frites--but nothing's over $10. We have a handful of classic items like French onion soup, escargot, and a mini-Croque-Monsieur, plus a few things of our own design, like JJ's take on baked oysters and the best brussel sprouts you'll ever have--they're roasted with olive oil, fennel and bacon and dressed with champagne vinegar and Dijon. The menu was designed by Angela Buck, who's also one of our bartenders. A lot of people know her from her years working at the Tin Hat (her and JJ worked there together), but her first love is cooking. She used to be the kitchen manager at PCC. JJ picked out all the beers, many of which are European, and we have six taps, including the requisite PBR. The wine list was my design, it's a mix of French, Spanish, German, Italian and domestic bottles. Everything is sold by the glass and the bottle.

I'm sure we will have a Lemon Incest drink once we get hard liquor (we're just waiting on our license upgrade for that). We're also going to have an absinthe fountain, for sure.

I remember you showing me a picture of Serge and Jane Birkin you had planned to blow-up and use as decoration. Is the decor all Serge-related?

We have a handful of Serge and Jane pictures up now and I'm sure we'll get more, but we also don't want it to look like a Serge theme park or anything, so we're not going to go nuts with that. JJ's grandmother is an antique dealer and his grandfather was a bar owner, so he's always had an amazing eye for vintage furnishings, so a lot of what's in the space is stuff we've picked up at auctions and garage sales. The walls are exposed brick and the bar is circled by a press tin facade. The building was built in 1928, but suffered from a number of unfortunate modern "improvements", so we've just been trying to take it to something closer to its original state.

When I went to Paris, I was amazed at how well the French can just sit around drinking and smoking for hours on end. Is your bar's atmosphere conducive to this type of behavior, as well?

Alas, the smoking ban means that's not much of an option, but as far as lounging around, I've definitely noticed that no one comes here just for a quick drink. We have couches and booths and a little fireplace in the corner, so people tend to cozy up and spend a couple of hours at a time here, which is great. I wanted to create a warm neighborhood bar that people would feel like lingering in. The digital projector helps with that, too. We always have a movie of some sort running on the back wall.

Given your connections in the music world, do you hope to have plenty of secret shows and/or guest DJs?

I definitely don't want to get into booking bands regularly, but I know it will come up from time to time. I was hanging out the Drive-By Truckers camp the other night and before I even had a chance to ask, [DBT frontman] Patterson Hood offered to play a solo show at Gainsbourg next year when he's here again. Former Pavement guitarist Scott Kannberg is a minority partner as well, so between he and I, I'm sure there will be plenty of unannounced shows. We have a pretty kick-ass jukebox, so there will always be good music on tap. And our first DJ night is already scheduled. Kurt Bloch will be spinning here this Friday, with help from his friend (and our bartender) Clarita Hinojoso. Clarita is awesome; up until recently she was the general manager of the McLeod Residence, and she has crazy good taste in music.

Gainsbourg, 8550 Greenwood Ave. N.,


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