The vibe is Capitol Hill meets off-the-strip Vegas lounge.
It’s 6 o’clock at the Shanghai Room, and the lifers and college-age bar hoppers are hovering around the horseshoe bar — the former for the Republican debate, the latter for $6 happy-hour cocktails.
Across the dark room, a confused dude came expecting to compete in the weekly video-game contest. He was a day early, so instead he got The Donald on the big screen.
The old-timers cheered Trump on. Carly Fiorina? Eh, not so much.
For all the political discourse, it’s civilized at the Shanghai Room, the bar inside the new 24-hour North Star Diner, along the main drag of Greenwood Avenue North.
The Shanghai Room opened in July, but it’s meant to look like it has been here for a half-century. It’s where Capitol Hill dive meets off-the-strip Vegas lounge, with karaoke in homage to the space’s previous tenant, the Chinese restaurant Yen Wor Garden.
There are low ceilings and deep booths to sink into, and if you stagger and stumble in the dark, well, “Our carpet will be there to catch you,” quipped co-owner Kato Lombardi.
Lombardi has an affinity for 24-hour diners, having met her husband, Tony, at one in Bellingham 12 years ago.
With the Shanghai Room, the couple, along with another business partner, are looking to keep the legacy of Yen Wor Garden alive, the seedy karaoke bar with soul, where locals came for cheap booze and greasy food, and the servers didn’t give a damn about Yelp reviews.
The bar menu is typical — nachos, sliders and quesadillas — but dirt cheap and in copious amounts.
There’s mescal and Fernet for the cool kids, and plenty of cheap booze for those needing liquid courage to grab the karaoke mic. Or to approach the cute brunettes at the corner booth.
For the most part, the Shanghai Room is pretty tame. It doesn’t have the naughtiness of more seasoned dives. And it’s still missing the late-night ambience of scratch-off tickets and bad decisions. But that will come with time.
Shanghai Room, inside the North Star Diner, 8580 Greenwood Ave. N., offers happy hour daily from 4 p.m.-7 p.m. and 11 p.m.-2 a.m. with $2 Olympia beer, $3.50 well drinks, $6 house cocktails; $3-$8 bar snacks. Late-night happy hour features only food discount (206-457-5794 or northstardiner.com).