The Watering Hole: Chopsticks, 23025 100th Ave West EDMONDS, 425-776-1196
The Atmosphere: Chopsticks is the Chinese restaurant our family frequented when I was growing up in Edmonds. While I was never allowed in the bar as a youngster, I would sometimes peek inside while we waited for take-out. My dad, a building contractor, knew every blue-collar worker in town. And they could be found in the bar at Chopsticks, joining the after work crowd.
The restaurant has been in business since 1963. It is now located across the street from its original location, but the dimly lit lounge--called the Cathay Room--looks pretty much the same as it has since its inception. Vinyl, rolling lounge chairs circle round tables, while swivel bar stools line the faux-wood bar. An electric fireplace flickers on one wall, red lanterns hang from the ceiling and the carpeted floor absorbs the chatter of regular patrons here for cheap drinks, sweet and sour pork, almond chicken, and other staples of Chinese-American restaurants and their adjoining lounges. Sure enough, my dad saw someone he knew in the bar when we stopped in for lunch recently. Yup, some things never change.
The Barkeep: Karen has worked at Chopsticks for 35 years. She glides between the lounge and kitchen, delivering plates of lunch specials (just $6.25) to the midday crowd. There are no beers on tap and she's not quick to offer up cocktail suggestions. She wasn't about to offer food suggestions either, claiming she doesn't eat Chinese food. After working in a Chinese restaurant for 35 years though, I can't really blame her. Although I don't know how anyone could pass up the potstickers here.
The Drink: The Mai Tai. Karen says it's one of the most popular drinks and, "It's really strong." It's made with Trader Vic's mix, plus three kinds of rum, the juice of a lime, and a splash of orange curacao. When asked what other drinks are popular, Karen simply replies, "It's mostly old people in here. So screwdrivers, vodka tonics and seven and sevens are mostly what we sell." At least she's honest.
The Verdict: I love a Mai Tai, and while this one was overly sweet at first sip, after squeezing the lime garnish into the drink and letting the ice dilute it a bit, it was damn tasty. It was also only $6.75. You don't go to a Chinese restaurant lounge looking for perfection, but rather for a strong drink for not a lot of money.