In 1996, Ballard was still something of a punch line, usually involving shitty Scandinavian drivers and drunken fishmongers. Historic (although some might have called it decrepit at the time) Ballard Avenue had both in spates, and when the drunks would attempt to operate a motor vehicle after a day spent on a barstool in the back of the Vasa Grill (now the People's Pub), Ballard's two archetypes would merge into one.
Lauren Lynch Alcoholics serving alcoholics since 1929.
Other than that, Ballard Avenue was typically pretty sleepy back then. But you could tell something was afoot, especially after Tractor Tavern owner Dan Cowan and No Depression publisher Kyla Fairchild purchased Hattie's Hat, a venerable dive/diner from which fights used to spill forth into the street. Undaunted, whatever changes the new owners made to Hattie's were subtle, yet undeniably wonderful. Hence, for a few years anyway, Hattie's turned the near-impossible trick of attracting a younger, hipper clientele while not pissing off its embedded tipplers.
While 5-Point co-owner Dave Meinert professes ignorance to the comparison, something undeniably similar is going on a couple blocks south of the Space Needle. Meinert and his longtime partner (and on-again, off-again 5-Point employee), Mandy Park, took over the iconic 24-hour cafe/bar in November, intent on changing very little."The 5-Point almost owns itself," says Meinert, who manages several area bands. "Mandy and I happen to be taking care of it right now, and hopefully we'll be taking care of it for a really long time. We have a hundred-year lease."
Park and Meinert met at the 5-Point, which recently celebrated its 80th birthday with Depression-era prices. Meinert was sitting at the counter with a friend, and when he saw Park, then a waitress, he remembers thinking, "God, that's a girl I could marry." Park, says Meinert, had just broken up with her boyfriend and had sworn off men at the time. But she thought Meinert was gay, so when he asked her out, she figured it'd be platonic. Not so much, as it turns out, and the pair, who've never actually tied the knot, just gave birth to their first child.
The new owners have made some minor tweaks, adding a couple vintage sodas and cheese curds to the menu while instituting a new happy hour. But the clientele still seems plucked straight from grunge-era central casting, the jukebox still rocks, there are still framed photos of Native Americans on the wall, and there're still ice cubes in the men's urinal. The scene is a step or two livelier throughout the day, however, and the food--particularly the pot roast and country skillet (a sizzling platter of chicken fried steak, eggs, potatoes, and onions)--tastes a little better.
Meinert has been devoting some time of late to convincing Seattle officials to either extend or do away with last call at bars. Asked when the 5-Point would stop serving booze if that decision were left to proprietors, Meinert responds: "Never."
Spoken like a true 24-hour diner owner, even if the diner owns itself.