The Watering Hole:The Ballroom, 456 N 36th St., 206-634-2575. FREMONT.
The Atmosphere: The Ballroom is one of the most well-known bars in Fremont, and its popularity is partly due to its split personality. Equal parts pool hall and night club, it attracts all kinds of customers depending on the night of the week. On Fridays when Fremont turns into "Fratmont," as it's often called by college kids, Ballroom becomes the prime spot for hammered students to hang out and dance. But during the week, the bros are nowhere to be found and the dance floor - featuring a cage and pole - seems to shrink into the background. Instead the rows of red pool tables lining the back of the bar and booths that hug the interior wall are scattered with customers kicking back with a beer and a slice of pizza after work.
The Barkeep: On a recent Monday night Tim Baker is tending bar. He has a charming, boyish grin, but his graying hair reveals he may not be as young as he seems. And Baker is, indeed, a veteran in the restaurant business. He has been waiting tables and pulling pints at a host of places for 20 years. But he says Ballroom, where he has been working for two years, is his favorite because he likes the balance between "neighborhood bar and crazy nightclub." Baker must be young at heart because he says he likes working Saturday nights just as much, if not more, than pulling pints on a quiet Monday evening.
The Drink: Baker's go-to is a classic: Maker's Mark on the rocks and a Stella Artois. He likes sipping the combo after work because it's straightforward, satisfying and something he can sit with all evening.
The Verdict: I'll be honest: prior to last Monday I had only been to Ballroom on weekends when the line outside seems to sway and inside I have to fight my way though packs of people to get a drink. So I was pleasantly surprised by the chill Monday night atmosphere. It's rare to find a bar that can transition comfortably between crazy club and neighborhood watering hole, but Ballroom has got it perfected.