Pioneer Square’s Damn the Weather, several local bartenders have assured me, is the next great place to grab cocktails. That may be true. But you know what patrons also love here? The food. The Caesar salad sandwich. The fried-chicken skins. And I’m partial to the fries cooked in chicken fat.
For a while there, we had a string of establishments that waxed high and mighty about their bitters and their artisanal drinks, while holding a different standard for food, as in “just good enough.”
Damn the Weather belongs in the new wave of cocktail halls that are more ambitious in front of the burner. It’s the most welcoming of all bar trends.
Despite his young age, owner Bryn Lumsden is an old hand at this game, having done stints at some of the city’s best drink dens. He recruited his former Vessel colleague Jay Kuehner, Seattle’s best mixologist, to join him behind the bar and enlisted Eli Dahlin from The Walrus and the Carpenter to run the kitchen.
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The bar occupies half of the former New Orleans Creole Restaurant space, where the décor is already built in — giant windows, handsome exposed brick and arches that announce you’re in a century-old building. Making the old look new seems to be its mission. The kitchen riffs on comfort food — pastrami burger, duck hot dog and a Caesar salad sandwich that’s served on a buttery brioche with a fried egg, essentially a bread hybrid of crouton and toad in the hole, its most inventive play.
The cocktails are as good and as eclectic as you would expect from a seasoned crew — sherry, cognac, pisco and exotic vermouths. Concoctions include the Scandinavian homage of aquavit with cucumber juice, dill, cane syrup and lemon, and the Caribbean drink of Agricole Rhum and sugar cane juice — both excellent summer libations.
Patrons must love the cocktails, too, because they order them with food, which is unfortunate because the cocktails, for the most part, aren’t robust or acidic enough to cut into the rich, buttery food that Damn the Weather serves.
But I can’t complain about the prices. Most drinks and bites are $10 or less, nothing more than $12.
Oh, and that name? The bar is named after a gin cocktail and also serves as a declaration to not whine about the rain and just get out there and enjoy life — or at least a cocktail and a duck hot dog or two.
Damn the Weather, 116 First Ave. S., offers happy hour weekdays from 4-6:30 p.m. with $1 off bar snacks and beer and $6 house wine and $4 vermouth specials (206- 946-1283 or http://damntheweather.com).
Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @tanvinhseattle