The Watering Hole: Cooper's Ale House, 8065 Lake City Way N.E., 522-2923, MAPLE LEAF
Would that we had been friends in high school, Nick.
The Atmosphere: The purple-topped pool table and large televisions suggest that on Husky game days Cooper's draws quite a crowd. On a random Tuesday evening, however, it's a quiet neighborhood watering hole.
That said, you don't need to be a neighborhood native to feel welcome. A woman ahead of me at the bar offers to let me order a drink first. I gratefully assure her I'm still deciding.
Beer is clearly the drink of choice at Cooper's. A line of 22 taps sits in front of the liquor and a menu boasts still more unusual bottles. A hoppy IPA fan and a sweet barley wine drinker will both find something to wet their whistles when they belly up to Cooper's bar.The Barkeep: Nick doesn't say much as he pulls pints behind the bar. Asked for his last name, he politely replies "I'm not real big on that." He clearly knows the beer list in and out, though he answers customers' questions in short, three-word replies.
On hearing the First Call challenge, he replies: "I wish the girl was here, she's really good at this kind of stuff."
The Drink: Despite any reservations he has about doing anything in the spotlight, Nick gamely reaches for orange juice and whipping cream. He shakes it up with a splash of soda and a long vodka pour.
"It's sort of like an Orange Julius," he explains. "It reminds me of going to the mall in high school."
The image of a young Nick, nervously fidgeting around his high school crush at Northgate, comes to mind.
The Verdict: I order a plate of Tom Shanks--think pork wings--to nosh while sipping Nick's concoction. I'm almost immediately transported back to a time when I could drink things with heavy cream and eat pork dipped in sauces without my waistline expanding by a single inch. And high school would have been a lot better if I'd spent it sipping Nick's version of the Orange Julius.