The watering hole: Rose Petals Restaurant, 6901 Martin Luther King Jr. Way S., Rainier Valley
The Shirley Temple: what Yolanda makes for you when you give her guff
The Atmosphere: A cross between the female-free space where your favorite uncle and his drinking buddies play their weekly dominoes game, and the ancient, no-frills watering hole cum soul food joint that exists in every black neighborhood in America. The crowd is mostly what we'll call "grown and sexy." The decor is bright, which tends to make the place's physical scars obvious. But you won't find anyone there apologetic about it. Call it the spiritual twin of the considerably more rowdy Angie's Cocktails.
The barkeep: For the last 15 years, Yolanda [last name withheld by request].
The drink: A Shirley Temple. Yes, that Shirley Temple.
It's important to say up front that a Shirley Temple is not Yolanda's favorite drink. More like it's what she came up with after being pestered for 15 minutes by a reporter. So, by that math we can surmise that Shirley Temple is the drink Yolanda makes for people when she wants them to shut the fuck up.Which is not to say that Yolanda, or anyone else at Rose Petals is unfriendly, just press shy. CeCe the cook, who works the door when not doling out orders of short ribs and yams, is just as unwilling to have her picture taken. "I don't want anyone at my church to see me holding a drink," she says, even if it has all of the visual cues of something designed for people without enough winters under their belt to need something stronger at the close of their day.
So, as the rest of the patrons sip bottles of Budweiser, and the more flush among them Hennessey, I drink my Shirley Temple. It's sweet and fizzy down to the last. For a second I feel very self-conscious. I'm drinking something pink, which in this space is an obvious sign of an outlier, someone to be approached with caution. When it's over I notice the thin residue of grenadine left on the glass.
And it's here that I relax. It could be the sugar rejiggering my brain chemistry, but Shirley Temples are kinda quaint, soothing even. After 15 years tending bar, Yolanda knows that. And, maybe, behind her unexcited demeanor is a woman able to intuit what her customers need, rather than what they want. But do I want another round?
Yolanda puts the question to me between bites of her hot pocket. While I'm considering, a guy in a black coveralls and a black doo-rag strolls up and rips off a $100 from a fat of bills. "Those Shirley Temples are good, aren't they" he tells me.
Yolanda fixes him a Crown and Coke, and smiles for the first time since I sat down.