The Watering Hole: There’s a certain shine to a new bar. The wood at the brand-spankin’-new Orcas Landing (5609 Rainier Ave. S., 402-4034) gleams.
The Barkeep: Mason Lange boasts experience slinging drinks to college kids in Hawaii prior to keeping Hillman (and Columbia) City dwellers well-lubricated.
The Atmosphere: Last summer, Angie’s Tavern, notorious for its high crime rate and for somehow pulling off a “Cheers-friendly while being totally intimidating” vibe, closed its doors. Word is the recently opened Orcas Landing is attracting some of the displaced Angie’s clientele.
At first glance, that’s almost impossible to believe. The walls are freshly painted red. The menu includes dishes like mussels. Jazz-themed art decorates the walls. It’s not dive-bar-tough, smoke-stained-photos-of-Miles-Davis art—think colored line drawings of musical instruments. The band—all white guys in well-fitting pants—starts to set up in the corner.
And of course there’s the glistening wood of the bar itself. Angie’s? Hardly.
The Drink: Getting back to the real purpose for bellying up to Lange’s bar, I asked the important question: “What do you drink?”
“It’s just a gin and tonic,” he said, almost apologetically. “It’s kind of my fallback drink.”
As he poured the gin, Lange paused. “Do you want an uncommon shot? It’s for, like, birthdays.” The light in his eye meant “Say yes,” so of course I did.
“It’s called Pineapple Upside-Down Cake; it tastes just like upside-down cake,” he explained. The mix of pineapple juice, vanilla vodka, and grenadine not only achieves the desired taste effect, it looks a bit like the dessert too.
The Verdict: As we sip our drinks, the elements that I suspect inspire the Angie’s comparison begin to appear. One woman seems to have spent the better part of the sunny afternoon at the video-poker machine, with no intention of moving on anytime soon. Two men come in for Rainier tallboys and immediately go into aggressive pickup mode.
One gets the impression the crowd will only get rowdier as the night goes on. Kind of like our drinks: You warm up with a G&T and work yourself into full debauchery with a Pineapple Upside-Down Cake.
That said, rowdy wasn’t really what defined Angie’s. Sure, it boasted an actual rap sheet. But it was also the kind of place you could comfortably walk into with a pizza from across the street, drink a beer, and just be lost in the anonymity afforded by a crowd, if life’s circumstances demanded it.
But it’s hard to stay unnoticed when you’re drinking a yellow-and-red shot.