Week 26 of 52
4201 Fremont Avenue North
Seattle, WA 98103-7221
(but not for long; look for their new address on N 36th Street starting in late September!)
Type of Establishment: Straight up – bar. no fancy stuff.
Visit: Wednesday evening from 9:00 PM-12:00 AM.
BEERS ON TAP
Wow. I was quite surprised to see the bevy of beers. As I will explain below, it used to not be this way. They have really stepped it up.
Diamond Knot IPA
Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA
North Coast Old Rasputin Imperial Stout
Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale
Deschutes Black Butte Porter
Elysian Immortal IPA
New Belgium Fat Tire Ale
….and plenty of others. We would estimate that there are a total of 25 taps.
Beers are either 3.50 or 4.25 – yep even the good ones.
Again, I was surprised to see the bottle options. Nothing rare or shocking, but a lot of good options. Specifically, Chimay Red & White, Stone Arrogant Bastard, Duvel, & Unibroue Trois Pistoles.
If you are going – stick to the tap list, though. Its damn good.
HA! You wish I would just say: “none.” But alas, I cannot. The Buck has a monstrous jar of hot pepper pickled eggs behind the bar. This is a necessity for any bar, in my mind. If you don’t have a jar of something pickled back there – you might as well be a bistro. Try these guys out.
They also have some snack items, including free popcorn!
Out of nowhere last night, my buddy decided we should walk down to the Buck. Now, I have to give full disclosure: I have been here before. Unfortunately, I do not really remember my visit and it had been quite some time. Based upon my new perspective, it really fit the mold for discussion here on 52 Weeks.
The Buck is a legendary institution. If a friend says: “lets go to the Buck,” you should freaking go. It has a similar aged luster to it that can make you feel at home, comfortable in your inebriation.
The Buck first staked its ground over 72 years ago! This truly makes it one of the oldest bars in all of Seattle, and certainly the most aged in Fremont (we believe).
The remains of nights gone awry are visible on the Buck’s walls, booths and wooden bar back. They have not changed it; they have not improved it. It remains the same wondrous place it was many years ago.
The Buck is a place where locals remain and ponder their days. This is the quintessential “regulars” bar. If you were to take a time-lapsing photo of the movement at the front door, you’re quite certain to catch the same case going in and out each day. This is how the bar has thrived for over 7 centuries.
So, when I woke up today and saw that even Voracious had caught wind of the sad news that I am about to report – I knew it was time for a write up here on Beer Blotter. Wait for it: The Buck is closing. Relax: it will return.
The Buck has lost its lease, after two rich kids decided to use family money to purchase the building and turn it into – an Eastern European Restaurant!?!? The concept alone boggles my mind. Have these owners actually been inside of the Buck? No building could personify the term “bar” better than the spot on Fremond Ave N. But alas – they made up their mind and the Buck is being booted in mid-September.
One of the worst parts of the article that was run today on Voracious is that it omits the uplifting news: The Buck is returning.
What’s best is that its returning in full force, complete with all of the booths, wooden wall coverings, and bar back. In fact, it appears that much of what makes the Buck so wonderful will actually be transported to the new venue. The new location is rumored to be on N 36th Street, somewhere between Stone Way and Fremont Ave N. Can’t wait to check the new digs.
But for now, the Buck is rolling on, serving cocktails, great beer and amazing service. We had an excellent time at the Buck last night. Our bartender went above and beyond to serve us; he even poured us a few on the house.
One of the troubling parts of the Buck is that its cash only (don’t forget that!). What makes it a bit more of an issue is the fact that the ATM was broken and there is not another one for a few blocks. But do not despair – our wonderful bartender let us relax, order beers, have a pickled egg, and enjoy our surroundings – all while not getting paid. I love a bartender who trusts his clients. A good bartender can spot the guys who will pay and the guys who will be a problem. We weren’t the latter, and he gave us a great honor.
So the progress went like this – Union Jack, Diamond Knot IPA, Old Rasputin (at this point we think we are leaving). Then some great conversation with the bartender about the Buck’s future, and another Union Jack (at this point, I’ve told my wife on heading home). Additional great conversation ensues – and its met with a Union Jack on the house (thanks guys).
The atmosphere was great, filled with oodles of kickballers, fresh from another game. The bartender could not have been better and the price was impeccable. We love it.
Take some time in the next 6 weeks and get over to the Buck before it moves. You will need to get a glimpse of the greatness before its replaced with a heartbreaker.
The Buck will be having a big going away party lasting 3 days. The party will likely center around the September 17th “move out” date. So keep your eyes peeled and chat up the bartender. Hope to see you there.
Wow we need to catch up. With the trip to Belgium, we started slacking a bit on this end. But alas, the 52 Weeks articles return.
By my count we have missed the past three weeks. But, we certainly visited countless new places over that time. For weeks 9 and 10, we will have some Belgium venues to review in the coming week. Stay tuned.
For week 11, which was last week, I visited the Columbia City Alehouse in, believe it or not, Columbia City, Seattle, WA……..
11 of 52
4914 Rainier Ave S.
Part of the Seattle Alehouses trio that includes 74th St. Alehouse in Phinney Ridge and Hilltop Alehouse in Queen Anne
Rank: #9 of 11 (only because i know the two Belgium spots are better)
Type of Establishment: English Alehouse/Pub
BEERS ON TAP (at time of visit) —>Columbia City Alehouse has about 20 taps to choose from:
Diamond Knot IPA
Odin Brewery Freya Kolsch
Pike Tandem Dubbel
Snoqualmie Steam Train Porter
Maritime Pacific Old Seattle Lager
Georgetown Manny’s Pale Ale
Ninkasi Oatis (Oatmeal Stout)
Boundary Bay IPA
Various other lagers, pilsners, and ambers…..
BOTTLE OPTIONS: Columbia City has a few bottles, including some of the usual business.
But, I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had bottles of New Belgium Ranger IPA and Port Brewing Panzer Imperial Pilsner. Both are very good ales.
FOOD OPTIONS: A large number of pub items. Actually, the menu is incredibly appetizing for those of us with bar food brains.
You can check the menu online by visiting this link. However, I must say that I saw someone’s Cod Tacos and the Gumbo and almost wet myself. They both look great.
Having our New Orleans connection, we always get excited to see Gumbo on the menu. Aside from nice places (Kingfish Cafe & Steelhead Diner – two of the best places in Seattle) and a few bars (Frontier Room), you just do not see it on the menu.
STAFF & BAR OPINION: Extremely casual and low concern. Bartender was essentially just “hanging out” and reading a newspaper. Not much, if any, of a beer atmosphere to the crew here.
However, the bartender was incredibly attentive and kind. Being a Sunday afternoon – you never need to expect to much liveliness and activity out of any bar folk. This is a day for decompression and hair of the dog.
I was thrust into Columbia City because the wife had a day of volunteering at the NW African-American Museum, where she assists with administration. So, we grabbed a bus and meandered through the neighborhoods of Seattle’s south region.
People don’t come down here much. This is not the travel and visit hub of Seattle. Its an incredibly ethnic neighborhood that some classify as dangerous. Dangerous how? Looks great to me. In fact, Columbia City is essentially the best place to see culture in the City of Seattle. This is the one place where I can grab a bowl of gumbo at about 5 different places – at 5 different prices. I can also grab some of the best BBQ (Jones BBQ), best Ethiopian (Tagla Cafe), and some damn good Caribbean cuisine (Island Soul).
The fact is Columbia City has grown into a hot piping bowl of eclecticism. Many of the city’s youth have moved in for affordable housing and cheap entertainment. Plus – maybe they just wanted to get away from the “Seattle freeze” because it really does not exist down there.
In any event, I was left to stumble around the town looking for a beer to cure my Sunday blues. I was left with nary a choice – Columbia City Alehouse.
Really, the owners did a good job of sniffing this place out. There isn’t another decent beer within spitting distance (unless you count Verve Wine Bar where I once enjoyed a Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA). This is my beer stop. done.
Upon entry, nothing fancy. Its simply a pub with light decor and moderate lighting. The tap lineup is immediately in your face and a sense of delight crossing my slowly operating brain as I see Ninkasi Oatis, Diamond Head IPA and Boundary Bay IPA. Today, I will settle for a Diamond Head – been awhile since I have tasted that fruity pulp they call an IPA. (thats a good review by the way)
I saddle up at the bar, right in front of a TV playing the Michigan State v. Tennessee game (go Big Ten). I order my sugary goodness and it arrives in a wide-mouthed English-styled 20 0z glass – HALLELUJAH! This is the way of Seattle Alehouses. All three pubs serve their pints in imperial pint glasses – 20 oz for $5.00. I’ll take it. This way my malty wonder can warm up and I can taste it open up all the way to the last drop.
As I sit there, I notice the climate. A couple of locals popping in to catch the game and quick bite. Nothing spectacular, but again notice the Sunday 2-3 PM time period.
The food smells amazing. But, I am hung over and thus most things smell amazing today (except vomit, feces, or urine). I bypass the food today, because I have big plans with the wife for later on.
In any event, I hunker down, sip my beer and take in the newest Stranger to check the music scene. Its been so long since I could commit an hour to sitting at a bar and reading through an entertainment piece. In recent months, my busy meter is off the deep end. Trying to start a business is taking a toll, but I relish in my saturated in hops peace and quiet. I take it all in.
As I wrap up, Michigan State wins and half the bar top is pissed – the other half ecstatic. This is purely due to the bracket system, not actual fandom. I appreciate that, though I like to see a fan every once in a while.
In all, the bar does what its supposed to do: serve beer, where we cannot find beer. On top of that it does it with good food and a peaceful demeanor. Nothing to complain about.
That being said, the bar just does not stand out. Though the offerings are good, they aren’t noteworthy. The menu is not epic, the bottle list pedestrian and the decor non-existent. These items do not kill a bar, they just hurt its chances for high marks.
The conclusion: If you are in Columbia City, go here for a beer. There really is nothing else in its category and it will treat you well on a cold, rainy day.