The Atmosphere: If there's one area that Ballard Avenue's otherwise impeccable La Carta de Oaxaca falls short in, it's ambiance. Why? Well, for starters, it used to be a Taco Del Mar, a chain not known for its interior valuation. And lastly, it doesn't place enough emphasis on its drink program.
Atop Queen Anne, La Carta's baby sister, Mezcaleria Oaxaca, addresses those shortcomings with aplomb. As its name suggests, it is a bar that pushes Mezcal, a smoky tequila offshoot, to the fore. (If the name isn't enough to tip you off, there are multiple portraits of the Mezcal-making process hung prominently in the northeast corner). And in terms of its layout, it's narrow and quirky, with a separate dining room in back and Spike Mafford's bold, illuminated photography gracing the walls.
The Barkeep: Damon Delvechio, who bartends Tuesdays and Wednesdays in addition to moonlighting at the mothership on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
The Drink: The Mezcalita, which consists of Sombra Mezcal, Triple Sec and organic lime juice. This drink, Delvechio explains, is designed to ease the novice Mezcal drinker into appreciating the spirit. We're not sure it accomplishes that objective, as the Mezcal totally overwhelms the rest of the drink. What we are sure of is that's not such a bad thing, as Mezcal is a standalone liquor that's worthy of singular worship.
Delvechio is appropriately well-versed in the many Mezcals which line his bar, explaining that while Del Maguey, like most Mezcals, is made with charcoal, Fidencio is cured with gas instead, causing it to taste more like traditional tequila. We dutifully sample both alongside an intimidating yet scrumptious plate of goat tortillas.
The Verdict: The Mezcalita is fine, but cut to the chase and order straight-up sippers with Dos Equis backs instead. Mezcal, with its smoky finish, is a fine way for those wary of purebred tequila to dip her toes into the realm. It is delicious--and dangerous, especially if you're a lushy aficionado who's so excited by the fact that Seattle has its very own Mezcal bar that he tries to sample all the bar's wares. Don't do that.