The Atmosphere: One could initially be put off>"/>
The Watering Hole: Dilettante Mocha Cafe & Chocolate Martini Bar, 538 Broadway E, 206-329-6463, CAPITOL HILL
The Atmosphere: One could initially be put off by this remaining pillar of smooth-jazz-playing latte culture until remembering that Dilettante comes by it relatively honestly. They officially hit Seattle in their current-ish form in 1976 not too far away from where this cafe is currently located, putting it in about the same generation of local business as Starbucks. So sitting at this dark marble bar surrounded by dark, warm wood tones and bulbous chandeliers at least feels legitimate, even if still a bit gaudy. Besides, Dilettante caters in the kind of rich, chocolate experience that a certain generation of (boring) women equates with sex, so they're chock full of a sort of Oxygen Channel* eroticism. If this kind of vibe makes you feel uncomfortable, that's more than understandable, but it does preserve its little nook of choco-tinis as a cohesive experience.
* Pre-Bad Girls Club. Obviously.
The Barkeep: Rob Lehmann mans both the booze and coffee orders on his weekday shifts, and is a man of few words. When I ask if he had a background in both, he gave me a muted head-shake for no. Following up with asking which one he has more of a passion for, he briefly, discreetly nods toward Dilettante's pristine mountain of liquor (no wells in sight).
While he's only been working at Dilettante for about six months, since October, Rob says he's been working at Broadway watering holes that he wishes to keep anonymous for years. While Diletante gets regulars, he says, it's night and day from the places he used to work: "It's a whole new crowd."
"I like the people aspect of (being a bartender)," he eventually adds once he's warmed up a little. It's hard to convey the sheer conversational depth that Rob is able to convey just in nods and chuckles. But he was at least able to describe in words what kind of boozin' he likes to do.
The Drink: "I don't really like sweet drinks," Rob admits. He normally drinks straight vodka. He decides to bring me a Sea Salt Caramel Truffle Martini anyway, justifying it with, "If I were out with friends, I'd get that anyway, because you can't get it anywhere else."
The drink contains vodka, but that's about where the similarity ends: served in a martini glass striped in white chocolate with a salted cocoa rim, it contains Ephemere Truffle sauce, caramel sauce, vodka, and Caramel Bailey's. It's a cake in a glass.
The Verdict: "It doesn't taste like alcohol," I say. He responds, "that's why they can be dangerous," and goes off to mix another cake, leaving me to absorb just how rich, sweet and deceptively strong this drink is. I could see why, as a normal straight-shooter, Rob likes this one out of all the saccharine fare on the menu: the salt cuts through the sugar, giving a round, complex taste that's not too overwhelming.
While this isn't the ordinary drink of someone who actually enjoys the taste of alcohol, there is something to be said about this if you happen to like both (a) drinking, and (b) melted chocolate. Rob says that one reason he enjoys working here is "the look on people's faces when they first sip a chocolate martini... It's like, oh my god." He adds, "you did it." I'll admit: I totally did.