The watering hole: Rose Petals Restaurant, 6901 Martin Luther King Jr. Way S., Rainier Valley.
The atmosphere: A cross between the female-free space where your favorite uncle and his drinking buddies play their weekly dominoes game and the ancient, no-frills soul-food joint in every black neighborhood in America. The crowd is mostly what we’ll call “grown and sexy.” The decor is bright, which tends to make the place’s physical scars obvious. Call it the spiritual twin of the considerably rowdier Angie’s in Columbia City.
The bartender: For the past 15 years, Yolanda (last name withheld by request).
The drink: A Shirley Temple, in which ginger ale and grenadine are the central components.
The verdict: It’s important to say up front that a Shirley Temple is not Yolanda’s favorite drink. More like it’s what she came up with after being pestered by a reporter. Hence, a Shirley Temple must be what Yolanda makes for people whom she wants to shut up.
As the rest of the patrons sip Budweiser and Hennessey, I drink my Shirley Temple. It’s sweet and fizzy, and for a second I feel very self-conscious. I’m drinking something pink, which in this space is an obvious sign of an outlier. When it’s gone, I notice the thin residue of grenadine left on the glass.
It’s now that I relax. It could be the sugar rejiggering my brain chemistry, but Shirley Temples are kind of quaint—soothing, even. After 15 years tending bar, Yolanda probably knows that. And maybe, behind her unexcited demeanor, is a woman able to intuit what her customers need, rather than what they want.
But do I want another round? Yolanda asks the question between bites of her Hot Pocket. While I’m deciding, a guy in black coveralls and a do-rag strolls up and rips off a $100 from a fat wad of bills. “Those Shirley Temples are good, aren’t they?” he says.
Yolanda fixes him a Crown and Coke, and smiles for the first time since I sat down.
First Call is a weekly feature on our food blog, Voracious (seattleweekly.com/voracious), in which we ask a bartender to make us his or her favorite drink.