Not pictured: Bobbi.
The Atmosphere: The Double Header is buried treasure. Owned by the>"/>
The Place: The Double Header, 407 Second Ave., 624-8439, PIONEER SQUARE
Not pictured: Bobbi.
The Atmosphere: The Double Header is buried treasure. Owned by the same family since 1934 (right after Prohibition ended!), it has its history in a very different Pioneer Square, one at the very center of Seattle's gay scene. Rumor has it that it's the oldest, continually run gay bar in the U.S., although its basement, now Volume, holds the bulk of that history. Now it only has small shadows of that history; some photographs of drag queens alongside the run-of-the-mill vintage alcohol swag ("Try a Jack & Coke!"), a couple of rainbows if you look closely, the occasional benefit drag show. Bonus: It was also the first bar in the city to have both men's and women's restrooms, so when you go into that dingy, cramped, rickety old stall, remember that you are peeing on history.
This calm pillar of local history is at once crowded by its surroundings and an oasis from them. Outside, a dulled sign that looks like it's been there since the '70s helps it camouflage into its brick exterior, especially next to its much more colorful neighbors: Volume, plus Fuel, then Trinity, and Last Supper Club a block over. Go to the Double Header on a weekend night and try to guess the Top 40 hits by their bass lines as they filter up through the floorboards and shake your booth as their ancient, yet kind of functional, electric dartboard beeps at you incessantly. Afterward, though, you get past it with a killer jukebox full of old country hits and rock classics that might as well be scientifically proven to be the best things to drink to, and start to feel like the Double Header's walls serve as a force field. Nobody having a club night even notices this place, for the most part.
Who does come in here? My bartender says that game days are pretty active -- she has a whole different set of regulars then, plus "assorted other folks that just come in for the games." She says she gets a lot of regulars from both St. Martin and the Chief Seattle Club, too. Yet occasionally, visitors who used to frequent the establishment in the '50s and '60s will come back and say, "Wow, this hasn't really changed!"
The Barkeep: Bobbi, who didn't feel comfortable providing her last name, does not like having her picture taken. "It's even that way with my friends," she insists. I take a picture of my drink instead; she says, "While you do that, I'll stand over here," and quickly moves to the end of the bar to distance herself.
Fitting right in with the Double Header itself, she's tough yet friendly, and assures me that the Double Header isn't too rough-and-tumble. "It looks like a bar where there could be a lot of heavy drinking and fistfights," she explains, "but it's not."
While she blends seamlessly with the atmosphere, she's only been working here about a year. She likes that it has more of a "neighborhood feel, as opposed to the chrome and glass and plastic" of the surrounding area. "It's a funky, old-style bar," she says, "a working man's bar."
The Drink: Before I've even finished the last syllable of "What do you normally drink," her eyes light up and she answers, "Southern Comfort, rocks!" She makes well-practiced, short work of having it out, ready, and on the bar .
Despite how sweet the end product is, SoCo starts as grain alcohol and bourbon. It's the spirit of choice for sweet-toothed drinkers who party tough -- think Janis Joplin. It's also a drink that gets a little easier the more you drink of it, once your palate has become accustomed. Still, it's impressive having SoCo on the rocks be your regular drink and not a Scarlett O'Hara or with ginger ale or something.
The Verdict: Everything about both the bar and the drink is comfortingly familiar, yet refreshingly gritty. If you ever want to feel like an old salt of Seattle, drinking SoCo with a tough, older broad at the end of the bar at the Double Header is not a terrible way to go.