52 Places: Caroline’s Tavern, Seattle, WA
Week 28 of 52
13702 15th Ave NE
Seattle, WA 98125
Type of Establishment: Good old neighborhood dive bar.
BEERS ON TAP:
Pabst Blue Ribbon
Georgetown Manny’s Pale Ale
A lot of options, almost exclusively shitty (in a good way) macros.
The moment you enter the front door your nostrils are greeted, pleasantly I must add, with the scent of fried mushrooms. I didn’t indulge in any of the fried appetizer options, but I must admit it was a bit of a challenge to hold back with that scent forever looming.
Just over 10 miles north of the Beer Blotter home base, just on the peripheral of the Jackson Park Golf Course in Lake City, lies a quintessential Seattle dive that we have never before visited. On this day, we changed that.
Yesterday was a lazy Sunday. For me, it started out with a drive out to beautiful Madison to stroll about Madison Park Beach and get some pizza at Mad Pizza (which is damn good, by the way…some seriously unique pies. I had the Sybil’s Breakdown – gorgonzola, apples, cashews, mandarin oranges!). Then an Anacortes IPA at Fiddler’s Inn. I was with my girlfriend, who either drinks whiskey or imperial stout. Since The Fid wasn’t supplying us with either, we departed after just one, but we had yet to have our fill for the day.
I then remembered that my boss, who, like my girlfriend, lives in Lake City, had just given me some serious shit for never visiting The Caroline. He told me that if I liked dive bars, The Caroline was not to be missed. The time seemed perfect to heed his recommendation. I’m so glad I did!
From the outside, you’d never know The Caroline was a bar were it not for the neon beer signs in the windows and the parking lot. I actually drove right past it my first time down 15th Ave. There is no sign and the building just looks like a cottage on a golf course. It isn’t until you approach the front door that you are finally assured that this building before you is indeed Caroline’s Tavern – very small lettering on the door tells you so.
As you enter you find the pool table directly in front of you. The largest table in the room is to the right of the pool table, creating a partition that separates the long bar from the rest of the room. The bar extends along the entire eastern wall of the small “house”. Stools line the full length of it, and are warmed by the extended family of local regulars. I was a bit surprised by how many people were there at 6pm on a Sunday. Behind the bar, a slew of pull tabs (yup, it’s a dive), five draft handles, wine, liquor (not a tavern, misnomer) and a very kind bartender, accepting of the new faces.
I ordered a can of Hamm’s, you know, because it’s that kind of place. It was $1.75. Wow! We moseyed our way down the length of the bar and took a right just beyond it’s culmination. This lead us to the wrought iron enclosed back deck area. Here we found two large, circular porch tables surrounded by outdoor, plastic chairs. It was quite clear that these were communal tables. Our addition to the deck, upon first appearance, seemed to bring the group count to 4. 4 groups, 2 tables…this is the kind of place where you grab a chair right next to a stranger and join in the conversation. It wasnt long until we were “welcome[d] home” by the regulars. It seems that this is a traditional phrase at The Caroline. “Welcome home”. To say the very least, home was quite an experience.
We chatted with a bricklayer who was drinking Busch Light, a carpenter who was sipping on Jagermeister and pounding bottles of Bud, a rapper and producer who, well I don’t know what the hell he was intoxicated with, and the list goes on… We had entered a very diverse world of locals, who all seemed to know each other in some way or another. Well, they knew each other as regulars at The Caroline, and it was quite a social experiment to enter the pack.
A lot of conversations came and went and a lot of rounds were purchased for us by them and for them by us. Though it was inevitable that when dealing with older, blue-collar men, there is bound to be uncomfortable moments of dirty jokes and the subtle revealing of bigotry, I still walked away with a fond feeling of family and community – something that is becoming more and more rare in the big city. My personal favorite moment was when Bob, the bricklayer, teamed up with Big C, the rapper, for a stunning musical collaboration that paired country music with human beatbox. Quite possibly the best part about this display was the fact that no one in the place seemed to bat an eyelash, as if it was just Bob and Big C being Bob and Big C. Meanwhile, me and my crew were literally crying with laughter. Brilliant!
In the end, I must hand it to my boss. He apparently know a good dive when he sees one. If dive bars are your type of thing, head to The Caroline in Lake City…you will be welcomed home.