The Watering Hole: Seattle’s newest (and westernmost) LBGTQA bar, OutWest, 5401 California Ave. S.W., 937-1540, WEST SEATTLE
The Atmosphere: West Seattle now has more same-sex couples than any Seattle neighborhood outside of Capitol Hill, and co-owners and Westside residents Bob Lunke and Chad Gabelein picked a great location for their venture—a 1926 building on the southwest corner of California and Brandon, well removed from both the bustling Alaska Junction and the up-and-coming Morgan Junction (California & Fauntleroy). It’s seen commercial use for nearly 85 years, most recently as the Westside Pharmacy for two decades before shutting its doors in 2009.
It’s a comfortable, unpretentious space, painted dark red, with big windows in front. It’s far from flashy or glamorous. There’s no chrome, and nothing glitters. There’s a smattering of art on the walls, and a recently restored piano up front, dating back to 1906. Most of the seating is in a row of booths to the right and a long, wooden, copper-topped bar to the left. Open just two months, there’s already a relaxed neighborhood vibe and a palpable sense of community.
Lunke has an unusual background for a bar owner (particularly a gay one)—he was in banking before spending 30 years in the Army Reserves, including two tours in Iraq. Asked if owning and managing a bar was a lifelong dream, he smiles, laughs, and says, “No, not at all. Not my dream. But we’re having a good time so far, and we’re here for the long run. We want this to be a place that means something to the people who live around here, and leaves a legacy.”
The Barkeep: Josh Trass, a West Seattle resident from the Tri-Cities by way of San Diego. He’s tall, with spiky blond hair, easygoing, and personable. In his 30s, he looks a decade younger. One of a rotation of five bartenders, he and Nick are managing a three-quarters-full house with ease.
The Drink: Seeing as West Seattle is practically an island (even before the Alaskan Way Viaduct comes down) and it’s been an unseasonably warm day, I opt for something rum-based. Josh obliges with a smile. “How about Josh’s Rum Punch?” I’m game. For $9, he hands me a pint glass filled with ice, two kinds of rum (Myers’s Dark and Malibu), amaretto, sweet- and-sour mix, and cranberry juice.
The Verdict: There’s a deceptively potent jolt of molasses/coconut/almond sweetness before the cranberry juice arrives, sharply astringent, to take the edge off. It’s a combination to savor, not gulp down, and it’s good all the way down to a thick, alcohol-sodden orange slice at the bottom. A couple of these could easily take you to the island of your choice.