Maharaja: Seattle's Best-Smelling Sports Bar

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Walk into the front door at West Seattle's Maharaja and you'll find a pretty typical Indian-restaurant interior: lots of brown, yellow, and orange paint and furniture, gaudy chandeliers, and a buffet table at the far end.

Most nights, the dining room is pretty empty. But it doesn't really sound that way, as disembodied voices float into the entryway. To find all the people, head down the long hall to your left.

At the terminus, you'll find a very different Maharaja--brightly lit, a full bar, several large flat-screen televisions, and a jukebox tuned to a mix of classic and contemporary rock.

The only hint that you're still in an Indian joint is the smell wafting in from the nearby kitchen--a rich aroma of curry, masala, and other West Asian spices.

Maharaja boasts an impressively diverse crop of regulars for a niche ethnic restaurant. They gather in the bar to down drinks poured by longtime drink-slinger Bogie and watch the Mariners get their poo pushed in--this time by the Dodgers.

With the score at 8-0 in the sixth, Bogie turns down the announcers and cranks the jukebox. He and a few of his regulars start belting out the lyrics to Cee Lo Green's "Fuck You." This is not the tamed Grammy version.

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Drinking beer and watching the M's lose never smelled so good.
A member of the wait staff drops in briefly from the other side to ask how spicy I want my paneer tikka masala, and a short time later the smell coming out of the kitchen suggests the food is ready.

It's easy to forget, amid the joy of just hanging out with the crowd at the bar, that Maharaja is also a pretty decent Indian restaurant, but a couple bites of the food quickly remind.

There are dozens of bars where you can drown the sorrows of another dismal M's season, but only one will perk up your mood with basmati rice, samosas, and lamb korma. Who needs burgers and onion rings?

Maharaja, 4542 California Ave. S.W., 935-9443, maharajawestseattle.com, WEST SEATTLE.

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