This low-key place doesn't try too hard, isn't too pricey and might just be your new favorite hangout.
In the city that Seattle’s become, a place to eat and drink that’s simple, well-priced and just all-around nice is getting increasingly hard to find. A new place that feels like an old friend is especially rare, while overthought restaurant and bar “concepts” are a dime a dozen (and expensive when you’re there). What about the concept of somewhere very pleasant to just hang out?
The new bar called Bad Bishop works like magic — the kind of magic you get when you subtract the hype, forget about the marketing and merely make something you think people will like. The shoebox-shaped Pioneer Square space looks plainly great: high ceilings, exposed brick, a gentle curve of a reassuringly substantial wooden bar. Keaton Cooper and Jesse Spring, a couple of local restaurant industry guys who both worked at JarrBar, fixed it up themselves on a shoestring, adding a little wallpaper and a modicum of sedate gray wainscoting, respecting the era of the place without getting excessively olde-timey about it. There aren’t any trunks or taxidermy or stacks of hardback books, just an adorably compact manual typewriter on a high shelf, a painting of a Rainier beer bottle going for a run on a Pacific Northwest beach and a Canadian Club neon sign glowing in a corner.
Candles flicker. Friends talk. Jazz plays on a turntable, because Cooper and Spring like jazz and like records. If an Oscar Peterson track starts skipping, playing the same tinkling few bars over and over, it might take a few minutes for someone to address it, turning the world at Bad Bishop the tiniest bit surreal — has time become a loop? If so, you’re happy it happened here.
The liquor selection is not extensive — those who’ll be miffed that there’s no Grey Goose should stay away. A short cocktail list includes a classic hot toddy, made with Four Roses bourbon, honey, ginger, lemon and bitters, costing $8 and served in a thrift-store mug (maybe “Auto Gauge Warehouse: Dependability Since 1981!”). The Vespah ($12), made with Żubrówka bison grass vodka, gin, La Quintinye Vermouth Royal and Bittermens Boston Bittahs, is a pretty pale-pink-tinged amber, with a whisper of honeyed sweetness and cinnamon-Christmas. For odder options, you can try the chai daiquiri or a peppery vodka drink called the Blind Swine ($11, $12). Wines are rotating, oddball and only four in number — extend your trust, and end up with something like a deeply colored Calabrian rosé that’s both fruity and astringent. Bad Bishop’s version of happy hour is called Shift Drinks: $6 wells, $6 house wines and a Rainier tallboy plus a well shot for $7. Shift Drinks are in effect all the time.
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Everything on Bad Bishop’s concise food menu costs $10. A well-seared, smokey-tasting, flat-pattied little burger tastes like a favorite fast-food one; it’s not big, but it comes with a mountain of crispy shoestring fries. The macaroni is spiral-shaped cavatappi, and the cheese is cheddar, Taleggio and Gruyere — the former might want a bit more of all of the latter, but still, it’s altogether quite satisfying. Blackened Brussels sprouts do their best totchos impersonation, succeeding in tasting anti-healthy with lots of creamy comeback sauce, pops of pickled onions and spicy Mama Lil’s peppers. There’s a hand-dipped corn dog, a bacon-and-egg sandwich and a salad, too, if you must. The food at Bad Bishop is not going to win any James Beard awards, and that’s completely fine — it’s just there for you when you need it, and tasty, too.
And yes, you can play chess at Bad Bishop, if you’re in the mood.
Bad Bishop Bar, 704 First Ave., Seattle; 206-623-3440, facebook.com/badbishopbar; 21-and-over only