The Watering Hole: The Leary Traveler, 4354 Leary Way N.W., 783-4805.
Dave and a bourbon milk punch that would make Bourbon Street proud.
The Atmosphere A quiet neighborhood joint in Fre-lard (halfway between Fremont and Ballard, in the former Harvey's Tavern space) with the unpretentious hipness that countless Seattle bars have aimed for and missed. There's a wavy copper-colored bar, and jet-black walls decorated with colorful art and old-school Rainier swag. The crowd is a mixed bag: a mother and daughter sharing a meal of steamed mussels, an older gentleman at a table in back nursing a beer and reading the paper, and several pairs of 20-something dudes atop bar stools sipping microbrews.
The Barkeep: His name is Dave, and he's been working at the Traveler for about nine months now, after moving on from a catering gig with McCormick and Schmick's. He lives just up the street from the bar, but though The Traveler has been open almost three years now, he didn't frequent the place until just before he got a job there."When I finally came in here for the first time, I was like 'How did I miss this place?!'" Dave says. "There's no lights outside, there's not a big sign, it's just a neighborhood pub."
The Drink: Informed he can make whatever cocktail tickles his fancy, Dave says excitedly, "I'm going to make you a traditional New Orleans breakfast drink." It's 6 p.m. and my date and I are about to split an order of sweet potato fries, but a breakfast cocktail sounds good to me--just so long as it doesn't contain any V-8, the red scourge of tomato-averse morning drinkers such as myself.
What we get instead is a bourbon milk punch: bourbon, half and half, cinnamon, and simple syrup shaken with ice and strained, then topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon. The cream is reminiscent of a white Russian, but this drink is much sweeter and benefits from the vanilla flavor brought by the whiskey.
"One of the owners went to the national cocktail conference in New Orleans," Dave explains. "Of course he drank a lot every night, and one morning he woke up and someone told him about this drink. He said 'Oh, no way,' but he tried it, liked it, and brought it back with him. The first time he described it to me, I was the same way--'No way that's good'--but now I love it too."
The Verdict The Traveler has a mouth-watering weekend brunch menu--highlighted by salmon lox Benedict--that is accompanied by a make-your-own Bloody Mary bar. The food sounds great (our sweet potato fry snack, which came with both chipotle and garlic dipping sauces, certainly hit the spot) but I simply cannot abide anything that contains tomato juice. The bourbon milk punch is a rich (roughly the equivalent of eggnog) but tasty alternative.