With a roadhouse interior, simple food, hog-centric decor and a playlist tending toward classic rock, the Alki Tavern could be mistaken for a solid, standard-issue biker bar. But don’t be fooled—just look outside, where the Sound is a stone’s throw away and an unobstructed view of the downtown Seattle skyline beckons in the distance. This is hardly an average biker bar, and not just because of the setting.
On a recent Tuesday around sundown, the Mariners were getting pummeled by the Yankees, their playoff hopes evaporating before a handful of regulars’ eyes. One of these folks offered to buy a round for those assembled around the bar. A younger couple disagreed on what type of draft beer to drink, a quarrel that was coolly mitigated by a muscular bartender, who explained that (1) the pitchers at the Alki, as at most taverns worth their salt, contain four full pints, and (2) rather than force one member of the couple to drink something other than his/her desired swill, he’d give both patrons two pints of their choice and only charge them for a pitcher (for those unfamiliar with tavern economics, it’s generally cheaper to buy a pitcher than four separate pints). What a prince.
As this anecdote insinuates, the Alki Tavern is nowhere near as intimidating as your average biker bar. Could be the laid-back beach in close proximity, or that bikers in Seattle are just more laid-back than Harley enthusiasts from other climes. But more likely, it’s because the Alki has a food window back by the rest rooms called the Coral Sea Cafe. All by itself, this easy, breezy moniker counteracts any sort of gruff, put-up-your-dukes connotation that the biker-bar stereotype serves to advance. And the $1 “Whimpy Burgers” every Tuesday don’t hurt either (nor do the $1 tacos on Thursday).
It’s damn near impossible to debate the merits of any main course that costs a buck. Case in point: McDonald’s dollar menu. By all means, hate the player—but not the game. Even the world’s most loathed (and loved) fast-food empire should be commended for turning its pricing clock back a half-century. But when an independent local icon like the Alki does the same, in a vastly superior manner (the simply constructed Whimpy Burger, with its self-serve condiment bar, is no-frills gold), it demands immediate, unbridled adoration and patronage.
They don’t bite down at the Alki Tavern. They just make you wish summer never came to an end, because it doesn’t get any better than dollar burgers, cold beer, electric guitar, salt air, and nothing but blue on the horizon.