Watering hole: Everyone's favorite neighborhood dive by day, unabashed country-music bar by night, karaoke provider for irony-savvy twenty-somethings: Little Red Hen. 7115 Woodlawn Ave. N.E., Green Lake.
What's yer handle, barkeep? "Shorty, I don't want people to know my name around here."
Well then, Shorty, name yer poison: "Really? You don't want to drink what I drink. Why don't I make you something you'll like?"
(Dropping the annoying accent) I can take it. "Alright." Shorty looks concerned as he pulls out a bottle of Jagermeister. Uh oh. I've never had a morning that began well after an evening ending with anything from that green bottle. To spare my drinking companion, Carmi, I tell Shorty to make her the likable drink and proceed undaunted with mine.
"Can we have a water?" Carmi asks.
Shorty nods. "You'll need it after you drink what I drink." Out comes the peach schnapps. Double uh-oh.
He fills a wide shot glass with the Jager and schnapps, adds a dash of cranberry juice, and plops it down. "It's a Red Headed Slut. I make it dirty," Shorty explains. "You're supposed to shake it up and everything, but I just pour it in and drink it like that."
Siiiip: It's been a while since I graduated from college, which was the last time I downed one of these. Memories of bad Jagermeister mornings come flooding back. But actually, Shorty's drink is pretty pleasant -- it makes a difference to have a Slut mixed by someone other than that friend who bought a bartending book and now thinks he's the shit with a shaker. Carmi gives it a taste, "I like it!" she says. "It tastes comforting."
So what's the tasty one? "It's a Hawaii 5-0, but I can't tell you what's in it because it's my secret." It's also in a shot glass but tastes just like fruit punch. "It gets the job done, too," Shorty assures us. We decide the dark, syrupy Slut is an ideal winter drink, the Hawaii 5-0 best for hot summer evenings. "It's getting to be fall, so just combine the two," Shorty laughs.
Sitting next to us for this whole exchange is Irwin, the Filipino chef. His menu is pretty typical for a bar, with cheese-bacon fries and onion rings, but Irwin also has a special off the list -- stuffed green peppers. The people around the bar pulling tabs all go for it, so we do, too.
As he explains the special, Irwin notices my notebook.
"Wait, why are you writing this down. Are you from immigration?" he laughs. "If you are, I got to go the lake real quick and find myself an American woman! Ha!" Then he saunters off to the kitchen. (Note to INS: I'm pretty sure my new buddy is green-carded up, but if not, I can't emphasize this enough -- he offers a vegetable-based entree in a bar. I can't think of a more valuable contribution to this great country of ours.)
Comfort drinks, comfort food, comfort bar ... I'm just sad we have to leave before the karaoke machine gets fired up.