A few years back I was sitting in a bar on Capitol Hill with a friend and cracked a joke about how Capitol Hill should be re-named Meinerttown. It was at the height of his ownership, and my friend got real quiet. In hushed tones usually reserved for spy movies he said: “You can’t joke like that around here, man. Come on. He’s done a lot for this town. It’s not cool.”
WELL. Dave Meinert has been accused of rape. He has issued a denial, and a half-apology for past “poor behavior” that doesn’t really get into detail. He’s also lawyered up hard and hired a crisis management pr firm well before the allegations came out.
One recurring theme in subsequent conversations is “well I guess I won’t be going to____ any more.” For those not directly affected– or implicated by association– by Meinert’s actions, this is the most concrete ways this impacts our lives. The fact that spots that have been our favorite, frequents, or simply convenient are now no-go zones for ethical consumers is a bit of an adjustment.
Granted, the issue of boycott has lots of nuances; a lot of people work at restaurants owned by or affiliated the man in question and they’ll suffer if attendance at their spots drop. If you choose to go to those spots to support people you know, that’s an understandable choice. And hopefully Meinert will pull out of at least the businesses he didn’t start. But I am not comfortable paying Meinert’s legal fees.
You don’t have to go to any of those places. There are other places.
One thing Dave Meinert is good at, along with a few other Seattle restaurateurs, is identifying key elements of Seattle culture, streamlining them, and selling them back to Seattle. A specific type of half-divey, half kitschy aesthetic pervades spots like The Comet Tavern, Grimm’s, Lost Lake, and Big Mario’s Pizza (which Meinert is no longer involved with, but did help start). In the past I’ve frequented all of the above, partly because I liked them, partly because I didn’t want to be an Old School Snob (you can drop the “new” and just call it the Comet) but still. . . it’s not really a storied, working-folks dive bar if no one who works (and few who drink) there is over the age of 30.
But I digress. The flipside of this dynamic is that you can still find the best, most authentic, functional elements of this aesthetic in every neighborhood that holds a spot you’re giving up. Let’s break it down by neighborhood:
- Belltown: Belltown is home to the 5 Point, where I ate breakfast hours– hours!– before all this stuff became public. I’ve got friends who work there and this is, for me, by far the one that is hardest to give up. So where will I go instead? If I need delicious diner food during the day, I’ll go to CJ’s. For bars. . . well, Cyclops has been around a hot minute, features solid food (I love their quesadillas) good drinks and quick, friendly service. There’s the whole strip on 2nd and Bell, which features a few spots opened by seasoned Hill vets who wanted to get away from. . . all that. And the Nightlite recently re-opened, with vastly truncated hours, but isn’t much changed otherwise.
- Capitol Hill: It’s late. You want food. You aren’t sure what to get. Did you know there’s an established 24 Hour Diner that’s not Lost Lake? Yeah, it’s called IHOP. Go there instead. If you want a drink and a substantial meal, Harry’s Bar on 15th serves food til 1 a.m and is a lot more of a neighborhood vibe than you’ll find anywhere on the Pike/Pine. The Dumpling Tzar sells it’s dumplings til way late. If you need the insta-dive vibes, go to Montana or Nacho Borracho. If you want solid cocktails but a relaxed atmosphere, go to Cafe Petirosso. You don’t need The Comet or Lost Lake. You just don’t.
- Pioneer Square: One of our antagonist’s biggest upcoming ventures was the groundfloor of the Gridiron Building. While it’s safe to say that his involvement is likely to be . . . adjusted? Hushed up? Believably divested from? But this gives me a chance to sing the praises of all the Old Seattle Vibes you can find in Pioneer Square. There’s The Central Saloon, the Oldest Bar in the World, local music legend, and recently restored music venue. There’s the J & M, which lays claim to many of the same assertions. If you like The Comet’s games-and-chill vibe, go to The Meyer, with it’s pinball and buck hunter. Or check out some real nice cocktails at Deadline.
- Other spots: As a man with limited time, and bills, I’m sure I’ve missed a spot or two, both in the “avoid” and “patronize” categories. However, if you’re on the quest for 24 hour food and can leave Capitol Hill, do not forget the tawdry high school glory that is Beth’s Cafe, or the more recently opened North Star Diner. Both serve food all night, and North Star is connected to Shanghai Room, a karaoke bar with some great beer-and-shot specials. Streamline Tavern is a go-to in Lower Queen Anne, and a rare example of a bar that’s been re-located and looks and feels as real and lived-in as it did for 30 years on the other side of Uptown.
Sometimes as customers, regulars, and humans with patterns, we fall prey to a dependency narrative– I need this place; where else will I go? And trust me, as a bartender, I appreciate loyalty. But you do not need to support businesses that will directly contribute to the (already considerable) funds of someone you don’t want to.
Now you may want to do your own research on the owners of these spots. On cursory look however, none have outstanding rape charges leveled against them, and with the exception of IHOP, they’re all locally owned and run.
Seattle’s a big enough city. There’s always another place.
Also published on Medium.