The Atmosphere: Tiki Bob's, which bills itself as "the number one night>"/>
The Watering Hole: Tiki Bob's Cantina, 166 South King Street, PIONEER SQUARE
The Atmosphere: Tiki Bob's, which bills itself as "the number one night club beach party in Seattle," is like what island-themed dances in teen TV dramas look like, only with approximately five bajillion pieces of alcohol decor: Fireball Whiskey, Pilsner Urquell, Miller Light, Corona. The furniture and accents are mostly fake-bamboo based, save a few table legs that have been replaced by gigantic plastic Red Bull cans. Garlands of Coors Light flags line the ceiling. Inflatable sharks hang above the bar, and a hula Santa Claus stands by to keep things festive. Framed black and white portraits of sports figures line the wall -- sometimes with ladies in thong bikinis for that special touch.
But despite looking like an overdecorated frat party shitshow, it's really mellow and comfortable here. One bartender manages a few quiet tables of people, and no one's drink is Jell-O colored. There's not a single cocktail umbrella in sight. I bring you Tiki Bob's at 6:30 on a Wednesday night: just another mild-mannered happy hour, a stark contrast to to weekends and game days, when petite bartender carries a whistle around her neck that she blows when she needs people to get out of her way.
The Barkeep: Kelly Hook has been working at Tiki Bob's for almost a year now -- mostly mild weekday shifts like this. Occasionally she'll cover a weekend rager or Sunday football shift, but for the most part, she fills the role of neighborhood beertender, serving Pioneer Square locals, and travelers and train commuters from the Amtrak station half a block away. She says she likes "the more down-to-earth feel" of the early weekday shifts, when she can talk to people more -- especially people just getting off the train, like one Swiss customer recently who had been traveling all over America. "I've lived in Seattle my whole life," she explains; having people coming in from so many different places "lets me experience different parts of the country without going there."
It's no surprise that Kelly likes the down-to-earth shifts -- it describes her in a nutshell. Constantly smiling and wearing a fedora, jeans and a grey sweater, Kelly is a welcoming and nonabrasive friendly face, and seems genuinely interested in her customers without being overeager. She's the perfect bartender to have a conversation with.
The Drink:Kelly's drink of choice, Jameson on the rocks, is as versatile, understated easy to get along with as she is. It just makes sense; it's the perfect drink to grab on your way to a lonely train ride at the same time as it's a great way to start out a party.
The Verdict:Seattle takes Pioneer Square for granted, but we forget how much stuff happens there. With the exception of First Thursday, it's not the absolute favorite neighborhood of locals right now -- but the train station is there, and it skirts the edge of the stadiums, making it an underrated neighborhood constantly in motion. Overshadowed by the weekend party crowd, we forget that Pioneer Square continues to exist, and the party bars that stay open are just your neighborhood bar: less Mai Tai, more Jameson on the rocks.
The sentence "I'm going to Tiki Bob's" will always sound a little silly. Despite it turning from island-themed party to the the bar by the train station on certain days, it's never going to acheive any kind of bar-for-the-lonesome-traveler "On the Road" vibe with the fake thatched roof and Jagerbomb posters. But strictly speaking about weeknights, Tiki Bob's was a pleasantly surprising, relaxing experience.