A corner pub becomes a gathering place for lower Wallingford, with cheap drinks and nostalgic ambience.
At the corner pub Union Saloon, The Doobie Brothers exhort you to listen to the music, the bar man entices with $6 cocktails, and this shorts-and-sandals evening comes with the promise that the sun won’t set till 9.
It’s only 5. The No. 31 articulated bus had screeched to a stop right out front. The staff behind the horseshoe bar prepped for the after-work flurry to come.
Opened in May, Union Saloon sits at the elbow of North 37th Street and Wallingford Avenue North, named after the lake that’s a half-mile south of it.
Saloon owner Michelle Magidow worked in the kitchen at Salumi, Lark and Harvest Vine, an old-hand who learned something new at her last stint as dining-room manager at Delancey in Ballard. There, she saw how that pizza place evolved to become a community hangout, with locals walking over to grab a bite and running into neighbors in the dining room.
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That’s her aha moment. “I wanted something centered around the neighborhood and community, (a place) you don’t have to think too hard about, nothing too fancy.”
Union Saloon is meant to be a hub for lower Wallingford, nothing more ambitious and better for it: Drinks are cheap, two-and-three-ingredient cocktails, fast to make and hard to mess up (Campari and soda; tequila and Squirt).
There’s seating outside for locals and their pups, booths inside for those younger than 21 and $4 sammies (open-faced briskets and tuna sandwiches) to lure neighbors to the bar for happy hour.
Better were the shared plates: crunchy and salty fried chicken thighs and deep-fried pita wedges to scoop up the sturgeon rillettes with.
This place calls itself a saloon, and that’s the guiding aesthetic, from the chandelier above the entry to the fact that just about every surface is wood.
The soundtrack is nostalgic (Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles). The décor (black-and-white pictures of trolleys and Lake Union) lends it some gravitas.
As Seattle grows and fills in, neighborhood places to pause and drink keep growing and surprising.
3645 Wallingford Ave. N., Seattle, offers happy hour Wednesday-Friday 4-6 p.m. with $6-$8 cocktails, $1 off beer and wine and $1-$4 snacks. Closed on Monday and Tuesday. 206-547-2280, unionsaloonseattle.com