The Bar: The Rat and the Raven (University District, 5260 University Way NE) perches in the former space of Paddy Coyne's Irish Emigrant, just celebrating


Experienced Trivia at The Rat and The Raven


The Bar: The Rat and the Raven (University District, 5260 University Way NE) perches in the former space of Paddy Coyne's Irish Emigrant, just celebrating its one-year anniversary this Saturday. It's a spacious bar split into three distinct areas: the main bar, the stage, and the upstairs game room. The game room is quite formidable, featuring two pool tables, a deluxe version of Big Buck Safari, an outdoor area with shuffleboard and the greatest pinball table of all time. If that weren't enough, the stairway is decorated with a rat and a raven playing soccer together -- if that alone doesn't complete your ideal drinking experience, I do not envy your standards.

Although the upstairs is as gamer-friendly as it gets, The R&R's trivia night takes center stage. A giant red curtain serves as a usual partition between the stage and the rest of the bar, but is left wide open for the night's totally free entertainment. As with any bar on University Way, the audience skews young and loud. The Rat and the Raven is certainly equipped for a great trivia night -- but does it deliver?

The Quiz: (Mondays at 9 PM, Free) The standard Rat and Raven trivia night consists of four rounds of ten questions with two visual rounds. Ryen, the host, takes the stage with charisma and the confidence that comes with having started hosting pub quizzes at The Olde Pequliar near seven years ago.

Questions are read onstage, answered by teams on unadorned sheets of printer paper and turned in to be graded by the host. This particular night's questions tipped slightly in favor towards movie buffs and sports fans, but Ryen claims a commitment to diversity. This commitment is supported strongly through calling upon the staff of whichever establishment he's hosting for questions from a different perspective.

The quiz's awards usually break down into $30-$20-$10, for first, second, and third place respectively. However, Ryen adds that the cash prizes frequently grow with the crowd, and it isn't unprecedented for him to take money out-of-pocket to sweeten the pot.

The Rat and the Raven also offers each team a quarter of a $10 dollar gift card for each perfect round they achieve. This means return players have the opportunity to collect money from a free quiz even without necessarily being the most dominant team in the bar.

The Host: Ryen hates the term "quizmaster". He loathes trivia franchises like Geeks Who Drink. In fact, Ryen went so far as to say that he can't name a single other trivia night in Seattle that he'd recommend.

He owes this dislike mostly to an ever-growing "setlist philosophy" of hosts who claim to host several different nights of trivia, but are really just shopping around the same few questions they picked up off a website. He calls Geeks Who Drink the "Nickelback of Trivia Nights," separating themselves from any meaningful, entertaining connection to the audience by sending a boilerplate weekly list of questions to countless bars across America. Ryen prides himself in the fact that even if anyone were to follow him across the number of bars he hosts (this one, Clever Dunne's on Tuesday, The Iron Bull on Wednesday, and is working on a new installment at Jai Thai), they would have a unique experience every night.

The anti-quizmaster has roots as an announcer in the notorious Seattle Semi-Pro Wrestling, where he learned to dodge empty beer cans and deal with forms of heckling that your average trivia host couldn't even fathom. There Ryen was known as "Evil Kimmel," both for his physical resemblance to the primetime talk show host and a similar sardonic, everyman sense of humor that he brings onto The Rat and the Raven's stage.

Drink Specials: $10 pitchers of Sierra Nevada. Not too shabby!

Special Effects: Ryen swears by the picture round, usually comprised of ten pictures to be identified and bonus questions regarding a common thread between them. He firmly believes picture rounds are essential to a solid pub quiz. In addition to providing him with a much-needed smoke break, he thinks this round is key to bringing in members of a quiz team that were brought along only to sulk in the corner while their nerdier counterparts have all the fun. Pictures may speak a thousand words, but they're definitely more fun to solve than thousand-word long trivia questions.

The Verdict: Ryen is a witty, experienced host in a fresh location that still draws a pretty respectable college crowd in the summer. If the established, raucous crowd of Clever Dunne's is any indication, this trivia night is destined to blow up come the beginning of Fall Quarter. Although The R&R's young pub quiz might not be the most polished or established I've seen, it's certainly one to watch as the weather gets colder and students need more distractions.

Note: The claim that Geeks Who Drink franchise uses the same questions at every sponsored bar is unverified and unsubstantiated. On the contrary, Geeks Who Drink's website has this to say about visiting more than one of their quizzes a week: "You can play every night. Each quiz is original so please, go nuts!"

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