I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have any idea what they’re trying to do at Manray, a new space-age bar on Capitol Hill. (I do know it has no relation to the surrealist artist Man Ray, 1890-1976). That said, allow me to offer a few comments on this new-fangled “video bar.”
Manray’s interior is striking—it’s unlike anything you’ll see in Seattle, or on planet Earth, for that matter. Manray grooves in a Jetsons-meets-the-Partridge-Family-meets-the-Gay-Dating-Game kinda way. Stark and techno-deco, the room glows in ever-changing neon. The place reeks of “concept” and must have cost a shitload to crank out (unless, as I suspect, they simply stole the holo-deck from Star Trek, The Next Generation).
In a small loft portal in the corner of the room, a George Stephanopolous look-alike (one of the part-owners, obviously in need of an audience) sits in front of a computer and “spins” (or rolls) MTV videos, of all things—Pat Benatar, ZZ Top, Cyndi Lauper, the Go-Go’s, and an occasional nude mud-wrestling clip in case you weren’t paying attention. (Unfortunately, this emphasis on 1985 video rock makes the chances of hearing guys like Bob Dylan pretty much nil.)
The breakdown of the clientele is about 80 percent gay men and 20 percent “other”—if that matters to you. I actually found the crowd to be the most diverse group I’ve seen within the city limits, which is a welcome change from white-bread REI types. Straight women were there in abundance, usually surrounded by a flock of gay friends (it’s the only way chicks can get guys to dance in this town). The only strange element was a bunch of older sweat suit-wearing men who looked a lot like my father, constantly circling the central bar.
The worst part of Manray is its high-tech liquor distribution system. Almost everything comes out of the gun—Coke, gin, tonic, vodka, water—allowing bartenders to calibrate liquor levels with penny-pinching accuracy. When I’m in a bar I like to see at least one bottle move—it’s part of the boozing ambiance. Apparently the alcohol at Manray is stored in large vats below the planet’s surface, which does not allow the customer to enjoy watching (and evaluating) the pour. When my friend asked for a single (all drinks are doubles), the bartender practically had to ask management over to show him how to pour a shot from a bottle.
Martinis (“sure to send you into orbit!”) are the specialty of the house, and an expensive one at that. Seven-fifty a pop, they come in a plethora of Ben and Jerry’s-like combos: the Oatmeal Cookie (butterscotch schnapps, Goldschlager, Bailey’s, and Finlandia), the Lava Lamp (vodka, raspberry liqueur, and a splash of honey), and even a Smoked Salmon Martini (Finlandia flavored with salmon, capers, onions, and lemon), which, thankfully, was not being served because, according to the barkeep, “they really weren’t very good.”
Ultimately, Manray is worth a visit. Once. Manray, 514 E Pine, 11am-2am.
Bar Joke: Descartes walks into a bar and the bartender asks, “Would you like a beer?”
Descartes replies, “I think not,” and POOF! he vanishes.