GSS: Pink Door, Il Bistro & Bonus Del Rey Preview
On Tuesday night R and I picked back up on our Great Seattle Shake (GSS) quest. Our plan was to visit The Pink Door and Il Bistro. Prior to meeting R at The Pink Door, I made a quick stop at Del Rey to check it out for an upcoming Cocktail Club meeting.
This Friday will mark Del Rey’s one month anniversary. A swank new Belltown spot, it is half-sibling to Capitol Hill’s Barça. Knowing that, I figured the place would be fun, but wanted to make sure it would accommodate our group of half dozen or so. Del Rey does not yet have a website and they are too new for much information to be available online, but I thought they might have a Happy Hour similar to Barça’s. So my plan was to swing by about 6:00 or 6:15 and check it out.
Sometimes even your best laid plans don’t quite pan out, especially when you live north of downtown and often use 15th Ave/Elliott Way to sneak downtown. This just happened to be one of those days when, as I approached the Ballard Bridge, the lights started flashing and the warning arms came down in preparation for an opening (or closing, depending on your viewpoint). This bridge actually opens quite often – it’s just low enough that even fairly small sailboats’ masts can’t clear it when closed. Normally, these events don’t take too long; sometimes the bridge doesn’t even open the whole way before it changes direction and begins to close again.
I parked my car, turned off the engine and enjoyed the beauty of the day. From this bridge you look over what I consider the heart of Seattle, Fisherman’s Terminal where the fishing fleet docks when in port. A little way past the terminal you come to the Hiram M. Chittenden (Ballard) Locks, the amazing "elevator" that moves boat traffic between the saltwater of Puget Sound and higher, freshwater of the Cut and Lakes Union and Washington. On the other side of the bridge are the ship repair and building facilities. I know many people like to think Seattle is a metropolitan city but really we are still a working city and this area is the center of it.
After sitting a few minutes I realized this wasn’t just the normal pleasure-boater opening; it was taking much longer. So craning my neck to see what was coming through I saw a tugboat guiding a barge filled with sand and gravel under the bridge. I love tugs – they are such workhorses and it amazes me how they can move and maneuver those giant barges! Well, the tug and barge finally passed, the bridge closed and I was on my way but I ended up getting to Del Rey later than anticipated, so didn’t have much time to spend in the place.
When I arrived the doors were wide open and there was a smattering of people throughout the place. I moseyed to the bar in the back, grabbed a stool and started chatting with the bartender and a woman sitting nearby. Del Rey does have a Happy Hour: several light bites at $4 – $6; a couple of tap beers; and a couple of wines by the glass at $4. There may have been other options but that’s where I stopped. I barely had time to down my wine before taking off to meet R at The Pink Door. But I liked the place and we will be having our Cocktail Club meeting there in a week or so – stay tuned for more information!
The Pink Door is one of my favorite summer places! There is nothing better than sitting on their rooftop deck, with a Pink Lemonade in hand looking out over Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. Ahhhh. I don’t get there as often as I should in the winter so I was really looking forward to this stop. If you haven’t been to The Pink Door, one of the fun things about it is that it’s a little bit hidden (while in plain sight) and so entering always feels like you’re just one of a few that knows the great secret! The doorway is in Post Alley, directly across from Kell’s and the Tasting Room. Other than the color (pink!) it’s a pretty non-descript door and there really isn’t signage to speak of. I couldn’t get a photo on Tuesday but I’ll try to add one in the next day or two I was able to get one on Thursday.
Once you enter you go downstairs into a dimly lit dining area but you don’t want to stop there! Continue through the dining room to the back where there is a bar and the entrance to the outdoor deck. On this night we chose so stay inside – the wind was a tad blustery.
We both decided to order Parfait L’amore for our cocktails and the Bruschetta Di Tonno for our appetizer. Even better than the anticipation of our cocktails and food, was the fact that Eugenia was in residence! Eugenia is a Tarot Card reader and a really nice woman, to boot. Now, I don’t live my life by the cards but I love having them read, especially by someone like Eugenia who is amazingly perceptive. So both R and I took a turn at having our cards read, she went first which allowed me lots of time to look around at what was going on.
The Pink Door is full of all kinds of funky decor – I don’t think it was actually planned; it just seems to have occurred but it’s fun. On this night, Eugenia and a clown making balloon animals and hats, added to the eclectic feel of this place. The wooden floors amplify the sounds of the crowd and so even with a few people it’s a lively and convivial place. It’s not large, although you can cram quite a few people into the space.
The crowd was comprised of several couples, a large work group taking advantage of the Great Seattle Shake specials, what appeared to be a wine-tasting group with several open bottles of wine on their table and R and I. All in all, an interesting bunch to observe, which I was doing so I wouldn’t look at R and disturb her reading!
I know – you want to know about the food and drinks, enough already! Okay, but the atmosphere is a big part of the experience here and it’s always a positive influence. About the drinks – they were too sweet and they were a bit more neon purple than I think they should have been so I wouldn’t order one again. The tuna, however, was yummy! The bread had been warmed and lightly grilled, covered with a dollop of freshly made mayo and then a large portion of oil-packed, flavorful tuna. My only complaint (why do places do this??) is that the serving was three pieces. Appetizers are normally shared and I would guess mostly by two people – why do places make things in threes or fives?? Now with this we could easily cut one piece in half but that isn’t always the case and I don’t understand the thinking. Silly people. We finished our food and had our memories of our readings and we moved on to Il Bistro.
I first visited Il Bistro in 1986 and at the time Murray, currently at the ZigZag was the bartender. He was making magic then and people would flock to the bar to spend time with Murray. The place was always full of politicians, the financial crowd and other slightly seedy characters. Always lots of color! Similar to The Pink Door, Il Bistro is hidden while in plain site. It sits below the main area of the Pike Place Market, down some narrow steps near Rachel, the pig. Once you enter you turn right to get to the bar. This is a room where it’s always dusk – too much light would not be good for the clientele!
After the 80s I sort of forgot about the place but in the mid to late 90s I revisited it as a guy I dated for quite some time liked to occasionally hang out there. Murray was still there and so it was a pleasure to become reacquainted with his beautifully crafted drinks. Well, it’s been a good many years since my last visit. It still looks the same but the life seems to have gone out of the place. Keep in mind this was a Tuesday night – but the "crowd" was sparse and not really compelling, I guess.
R and I both ordered a Lemoncello Lemondrop and we ordered Calamari for our appetizer. The Lemondrops were very tart. They were okay but not as good as they would have been if Murray had poured them. :-) This bartender seemed nice but distracted and even though Murrray has been gone for years, he’s still a tough act to follow… The calamari was yummy! Tomato-y, lemony and tender; it had a nice slow burn that soon dissipated. Very nice!
I don’t see this becoming a regular place but I do think I should stop by now and then. The food is good, the atmosphere seamy, but in a good way, and the location is great. It’s a fun place to stop in and take a trip down memory lane!
Other GSS entries:
- The Great Seattle Shake
- The Matador and Hi-Life
- Palace Kitchen
- Frontier Room, Bada Lounge and Belltown Bistro
- The Bookstore and Jasmine
2332 First Ave.
The Pink Door
1919 Post Alley
93A Pike St