I spent a sizable chunk of the day in downtown Seattle, prowling neighborhoods where I hadn’t spent a lot of time and reconnecting with one of my oldest friends.
Drove down in the early afternoon and parked in a garage on Pike between 7th and 8th Streets. Wandered around the downtown retail area for a while before making my way east on Pike toward Capitol Hill, where I ended up at Six Arms (Google Maps), one of McMenamins’ downtown Seattle locations. I’ve driven by it a dozen or so times over the last few years but never been inside until today, and I find I’ve been missing out.
One thing I like about the McMenamins in Mill Creek (Google Maps) is its relatively larger size and its bar-in-the-center layout. Has a nice patio too. But in the summer it gets pretty crowded with families, and the kids get bored, and when the parents are a bit tipsy they ignore the kids, and the kids start running around or making annoying noises or being otherwise general pains in the ass, and that pisses me right the fuck off. So while I quite like the outdoor seating on the nice days of summer, the child quotient kills it for me.
The Queen Anne location (Google Maps—though it’s actually on the northwest corner, not northeast as the map indicates) has a kids-friendly seating area on the east side of the pub, so I always grab a table or a barstool at the furthest westerly point I can manage. I haven’t had any screaming-children-from-hell experiences there yet but it’s so small overall, the noise levels can be deafening even when the place is only half full.
Six Arms, however, has a cool layout with a bar and tables and booths on its main floor and an upstairs seating area with smaller tables. A big open-air design, chandeliers everywhere, huge windows facing west so your face burns off in 30 seconds when the sun suddenly appears from behind clouds and it takes a bit of time to drop the shades. I had a few pints of Ruby, my standard McMenamins beer choice, and some tater tots, because of course I wanted to eat as healthily as I could manage. With the beer I had electrolytes and the tater tots gave me my daily ranch-dressing allowance, so I was set.
The party at the booth next to mine afforded me my first taste of the amazing people-watching in the Capitol Hill district. It was a group of what seemed like 30 dozen women of varying ages and body types but all with amazingly similarly spiked hair and enough metal chunks attached to and pierced through various parts of their bodies to swing all the compass needles around. The odd part, though, wasn’t the way they looked; you see pierced and otherwise decorated personages around Seattle all the time. What was odd was their conversation, snippets of which I overheard ranging from one woman’s problems finding a suitable day-care facility for her seven children (!) to another’s difficulty with her manicurist who can’t seem to find a nail-polish color to match her brushed-steel eyebrow and neck piercings (!!) and a third’s lamenting the lack of a properly talented tattoo artist to give her the permanent nipple shadow she wants. (!!!)
But anyway. I was also fully engaged in television coverage of a game of lacrosse, which is a pursuit that absolutely mystifies me, and I was flipping through the pages of Seattle Weekly and not paying much attention because I had beer all around me and the server also was quite chatty and amiable. I don’t know her name, of course, but she got a $10 tip on an $18 check (I love happy-hour pricing!), so she must have rocked utterly.
Eventually it was 19:40 and I decided it was time to wobble up the road further into Capitol Hill to see if I could finally locate Frites and my friend Corey Allred. I last saw Corey oh, I’d guess almost two years ago—it was right around the one-year mark of my arrival in the Seattle area the first time—and he’s now a year and a half into the Frites business with his buddy Anthony. I’ve been in the area since January and only now can I finally say I’ve tried their product, and I hereby declare:
Oh. My. God.
Seriously. You have to rush right down to 10th and Pike and crowd into Frites and get a cone with the one included sauce, but try others. I had a couple tonight and they were both delicious, and the frites are this astounding mixture of textures: crisp outside and tender inside and not greasy and mildly flavored, letting the sauce flavors shine through but equally delectable on their own.
All right, enough with the gushing. Suffice it to say they’re damned good and you should brave the craziness of parking in Capitol Hill (or do what I did, park a ways away and enjoy a pleasant stroll into the area) to give these things a try.
I arrived before the crowds who would be filing into Neumo’s later, so Frites only had a dozen or so customers the couple hours Corey and I stood around catching up, but when I left at 21:15 the people-watching was getting good again. I don’t think I’ve seen that much ink on skin any other time, except perhaps the time in my high-school graphic arts class when the printing press sprayed dark blue all over me.