Before my fish and chips arrived, the bearded bartender remarked that the cod “is fresh, never frozen” and the fries “are cooked four times.” And when I eyed the buttermilk-battered chicken sandwich, he added, “It’s free range.” Even the side of pickle is “made in-house.”
“The only thing we don’t make ourselves is the ketchup,” he said proudly.
This litany came, not from a precious farm-to-table bistro, but from a dive bar, Bait Shop — the latest project from boozing matriarch Linda Derschang, who gave the hipster masses watering holes such as Oddfellows Cafe & Bar, King’s Hardware, Smith and Linda’s Tavern.
Known for her vintage décor, Derschang was behind one of the most influential bar designs in the past five years; the wilderness chic look of Smith — the taxidermy, reclaimed dark wood and industrial light fixtures — was often cribbed by other bars.
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Bait Shop is a nautical iteration of the Linda’s look, with a giant Marlin mounted on the wall, accented by the hood of a Firebird (Bandit, is that you?) and other 1970s pieces.
The food isn’t fancy, but it’s certainly better than a dive grub needs it to be. Chunks of fresh cod are coated in a light, crispy batter and served with golden fries, as good as what you’d find at one of the better fish-and-chip shacks on a pier. And there’s a poor man’s lobster roll, generously stuffed with buttery, plump shrimp. For those Rainier chugging, mustachioed, tattooed hipsters, some crunchy barbecue pork rinds made in-house will do.
It’s also one of Capitol Hill’s most efficient cocktail programs. There are two cocktails and two spiked slushy concoctions on tap, which require the bartender to do little more than pour. And the other cocktails on the menu are simple, three-to-four-ingredient drinks.
It’s perplexing then, that the bar staff could mess up some of these drinks so badly. A stellar bourbon drink I had here, the Lion’s Tail ($7), with subtle notes of baking spices and lime, couldn’t be duplicated on two other nights; one variation was drowning in allspice, another was watery.
Opened in December, Bait Shop is an excellent neighborhood spot. Derschang chose wisely in opening on the north end of Broadway, where her boat-y bar will be one of the anchor tenants on this quiet drag.
Bait Shop, 606 Broadway E., offers happy hour 4-6 p.m. daily with $2 off on frozen Painkiller cocktail, $1 off on draft beer and well drinks (206-420-8742 or baitshopseattle.com).
Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @tanvinhseattle