Sons of Anarchy and Smarty Pants Are Gruff, But Filling

Sarah Anne Lloyd, 2011.

Seattle introverts and extroverts alike are at a pretty universally satisfying part of summer right now: Seattle is getting the last of its legitimately warm summer days as well as the first of its legitimately good television to usher in the fall TV season. The fourth season of FX's biker crime drama Sons of Anarchy begins tonight, a motorcycle gang-themed action drama that goes great with the similarly chopper-friendly Georgetown sandwich joint, Smarty Pants.

The Cuisine: Practically bosom buddies with working-class mecca 9 Lb. Hammer, Smarty Pants is rapidly becoming a Georgetown staple by catering to its two apparent weaknesses: good sandwiches and hard liquor. The bar may pander to the biker crowd, but in an honest, respectable way, offering patrons something that feels homespun and unpretentious as opposed to just a Harley Davidson theme restaurant.

Smarty Pants also seems like the perfect sandwich-loving foil to nearby Georgetown Liquor Company, answering its healthy and vegetarian minimalism with thick stacks of food on bread that's there for mostly structural purposes. I got the Troublemaker, a particularly generous pile of sliced chicken breast, bacon and grilled onion that's prettied up with lettuce and tomato before the whole thing is drenched to decadence with spicy sauce. Needless to say, I would advise caution taking on the Troublemaker while wearing anything you can't afford to wash, because chances are it'll be a glorious mess of an experience.

All sandwiches come with your choice of cole slaw, chips and salsa or a potato salad. I went with the latter, which was rich with thick chunks of potato that soak up a ton of spice to make for one filling side. This column usually tries to get a healthy spread from each restaurant, seeing as how it focusses more on food than ambience, so I was a little skeptical about ordering a single sandwich and a side. Little did I know that Smarty Pants' portions would leave me timidly surrendering half of my Troublemaker to the fridge.

The Entertainment: Like show creator Kurt Sutter with his Academy-hating, Mad Men-trash talking swagger, Sons of Anarchy is one of those shows that just wouldn't be as endearing if it weren't so antagonistic. Sons of Anarchy isn't afraid to alienate large swaths of its audience through not only its confrontational mouthpiece, but also the unapologetically violent alpha male tendencies of its protagonists, its gritty, unreserved depictions of sexual violence and an aggressively testosterone-laden soundtrack that might scare off no small amount of thee twee-loving Indie fans that dominate Seattle stereotypes.

The titular Sons are a violent, but (mostly) honorable motorcycle gang centered in North California, who have taken over small town Charming as the stronghold for its international arms dealing enterprise. The show starts with the club's grasp on Charming being absolute and unquestioned, but we immediately start to see cracks in the veneer. Owning a small town through brute force and intimidation just isn't as plausible as it used to be with the dawn of the 21st century, and perhaps the most dramatic shake-up of the status quo is lead by a well-connected Neo-Nazi organization spearheaded by a show-stealing, unbelievably vitriolic performance by Henry Rollins in the second season.

However, the third season really seemed to lose some steam as it sent most of its central characters off to Ireland, separating the plot from more imminent, permanent dangers that made the second season so relentless. It might've just been the nature of Sons of Anarchy's explosive, often casualty-driven emotional climaxes finally taking a toll -- after awhile, you're going to run out of characters whose deaths are going to carry much weight. Ultimately though, it just seemed like the raw, twisted emotion of the white supremacists faced down by the Sons just bred a much more immediate set of reasons to tune in every week than the cryptic, conspiratorial dead-ends of the endlessly morose IRA.

All in all, it seems like this next season will live or die by the new set of enemies the Sons will face. With the gang safely back in Charming and up against an almost entirely new town infrastructure (guess how most of the old one ended up), it seems like plenty of potential for the show to catapult itself back into its nail-biting, adrenaline junkie self tonight at 10PM.

The Pairing: While the biker theme comparison is obvious, there's a much more gratifying link between these two properties within their robustness. It could be just as easy for either property to be a haven for mediocrity dressed up in chaps and bandanas, but both manage to capture. in their own way, that industrious cowboy spirit of square meals and long, rowdy nights that make biker culture so alluring to so many curious outsiders.

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