The Politics of Food and Drink

November 10, 2011

No political edition of King County Bar Association’s Bar Bulletin would be complete without a food column dedicated to politics. This month’s column is a guide to political food, with journeys to food and drink on all sides of the aisle, and some unusual formats for civic engagement.

Election Night “Blue Plate” Special

Every other year, on the first Tuesday in November, the Washington State Democrats tend to host an election results party in the vast ballroom of the Westin Hotel. Before the polls close, we recommend grabbing dinner at the nearby Icon Grill (1933 Fifth Ave.; 441-6330; icongrill.com) lest the champagne hit you on an empty stomach.

In preparation for November 2012, which will be the next opportunity to attend, we found two reviewers who had never been to the Icon Grill. We sent them on a recon mission.

At the door, our reviewers found the host’s greetings friendly and rapidly followed by significant visual stimulation. The decor is, to say the least, potentially distracting. Peach and orange hues dominate, with much to look at, including glass sculpture and myriad light shades.

“The food was good. We tried two specials that are not on the menu: a Dungeness crab risotto and an asparagus and chevre salad. The menu certainly had enough on it for us to want to come back again to try more,” the reviewers said.

The political food operatives plan to return for “hog-wild mac n’ chz” (macaroni and molten cheese sauce with barbecue pulled pork and caramelized sweet onions). They were also taken by the dessert menu, which featured a very oversized Texas funeral fudge cake (a seven-layer cake, large enough for four to split, that comes with both ice cream and a bottle of milk).

The service was friendly and attentive upon entry and departure, but not especially prompt in between. This can be good or bad depending on your schedule, but overall our reviewers plan to go back.

The Hunt for “Red” October Burgers

If your favorite color is red, or even purple, then a trip to the PumpHouse Bar & Grill (11802 NE Eighth St., Bellevue; 425-455-4110; pumphousebellevue.com) may be for you. Known for being the location where former Republican Rep. Jennifer Dunn would take her staffers for a treat, Washington State Republican Party members can frequently be spotted there.

Our political food operatives heard word of a recent sighting of Washington State Republican Party Executive Director Peter Graves and Democrat rising star Cyrus Habib, so the political food team took a trip to the PumpHouse to see what all the fuss was about.

The parking lot smelled of bacon and the air was filled with cheers and testosterone when the team visited this sports bar during Monday Night Football. The fried foods were addictive and delicious, the mugs frosty and the beer poured just right. The burgers were greasy and tasty.

Frankly, for a few moments, in the neon light, the team forgot that they were less than a minute from The Bravern in Bellevue, Washington, and not in Bellevue, Kentucky. We approve.

New Money Meets Campaign Finance

Fundraisers can be stuffy, but not at recent political hot spot The Nabob (819 Fifth Ave. N.; 281-9850; thenabobbar.com). Former City Council candidate Maurice Classen is part owner in the bar, which has seen a high volume of events this year. From the Classen race to a young professional’s fundraiser for gubernatorial candidate Rep. Jay Inslee in late September, this spot is on the rise for the younger political crowd, especially for young attorneys investing in politics.

The Nabob is a fun neighborhood watering hole. The food menu is limited, but it offers some good options for sharing and snacking.

“Really, this is a place for drinking and relaxing. There are lots of tables, and the atmosphere is comfortable and inviting,” our political team said.

You can also entertain yourself with traditional bar games such as pool or darts, and The Nabob has a wide variety of board games available. All in all, The Nabob is a great place to sit back and spend an afternoon or evening, or both.

Get Out the Vote

When deciding to delve into the spots in King County to get political, we could not help but give a shout-out to Neumos (925 E. Pike St.; 709-9442; neumos.com) and adjoining MOE Bar (1425 10th Ave.; 709-9951). These neighboring and jointly owned venues were the location for several fantastic events encouraging civic engagement.

In July, Neumos hosted Candidate Survivor — a Seattle City Council candidate forum organized by civic engagement nonprofit the Washington Bus (washingtonbus.org). The event gave 400 younger voters the chance to get to know Seattle City Council candidates. It pits candidates against each other, and asks them questions about subjects from transportation policy to skinny-dipping in Lake Washington, and it gives the audience the power to send text messages to vote for their favorite candidates.

Oddly, City Council Member Jean Godden showed her talents on stage by giving the crowd advice on “sexting.” When it’s not filled with elected officials dead set on scaring young voters for life, Neumos is a great spot to see a band with reasonably priced drinks and a fun ambiance.

Next door is MOE Bar, where Washington Bus and The Stranger held a “State of the Union” watch party in January. Any day of the week, MOE Bar is a fantastic spot to grab a drink and a snack before heading to see a band next door.

We recommend starting the night off with a “So Fresh, So Clean,” a drink made with Hendrick’s gin, Batch 206 vodka, lemon juice, cucumbers and 7-Up. Pair it with an order of halibut from Pike Street Fish Fry (925 E. Pike Pl.; 329-7453; pikestreetfishfry.net) and have it delivered to your table. We also go wild for the grilled asparagus and the smoked chili mayo.

Days of Yore

Vito’s Restaurant & Lounge (927 Ninth Ave.; 397-4053; vitoseattle.com) is frequently described as possessing a certain amount of Rat Pack glamour with an undeniable history for power deals and misdeeds. During its heyday of the 1960s and 1970s, it would certainly have made this list.

In January 2009, Vito’s closed its doors shortly after an allegedly gang-related killing took place in the restaurant. But the doors reopened in April 2010, and at least one political event has taken place since then — the co-birthday party and fundraiser for Port Commissioner Rob Holland and the 101st birthday of former Gov. Albert D. Rosellini. While Gov. Rosellini did not attend, instead saving his energy, a good time was had by all.

Gov. Rosellini passed away October 10, and in his memory you can check out this Seattle landmark. We recommend pairing the “Gnocchi Verdi” with an episode of “Mad Men.” The bartenders are very knowledgeable and can direct you to some nice bourbon.

Fringe Movements

Several days after protesters with the Occupy Seattle group began camping out in Westlake Park, Big Mario’s New York Style Pizza (1019 E. Pike St.; 922-3875; bigmariosnewyorkpizza.com) came to the rescue, providing pizza to the protesters and setting up a special. Anyone wanting to feed those camped out in Westlake could buy a discounted pizza and Mario’s would deliver it to the protesters.

More than 100 slices were reportedly delivered on the third night of the protests. One of our favorite pizzas in Seattle is the Big Mario’s mushroom, pesto and caramelized pear pie.

While this article hits the presses on the fringe of the election season, by visiting the above locations all year long, you can keep the election excitement alive all year-round.

Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt is a multiservice, Northwest regional law firm with offices in Seattle, Vancouver, Portland and Bend. For comments on this article or to share your favorite places to eat or drink with the Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt attorneys, contact Jamila Johnson at 206-407-1555 or at jjohnson@schwabe.com; see also www.schwabe.com/dining_out.aspx.

Originally published in the November 2011 issue of the King County Bar Bulletin. Reprinted with permission of the King County Bar Association.

 
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