Lately most of my conversations with bartenders or other industry types ends with that person telling me that s/he can’t wait for Damn the Weather to open.
Longtime local barman Bryn Lumsden had some ambitious visions about pairings and flavor profiles. The type that could get overly precious in less capable hands. And while it won't open until next week, his impending cocktail bar at 116 First Avenue S appears to have the soul of a neighborhood joint and the drink list of a hardcore cocktail nerd's dreams. Having longtime Walrus and the Carpenter chef Eli Dahlin in the kitchen doesn’t hurt, either.
Damn the Weather is on the brink of opening; the Facebook page should yield more specifics in the coming days. Meanwhile, here's a primer on what the weather holds.
The Snapshot: Lumsden—a musician turned barman who spent years at Rob Roy—is trying to balance his love of a carefully wrought cocktail with his horror of the pompous and overtly trendy. But mostly he wants his place to appeal to Pioneer Square residents (he lives about three arms’ length from his own bar). He says he's holding off on his pairing plans until he and the neighborhood can get acquainted.
Eat: Dishes are listed under “Bar Food,” which seems a humble term when you’re talking about spot prawn crudo or duck hot dogs or a pastrami burger with housemade sauerkraut. Lumsden’s a big fan of the Caesar salad sandwich, which cradles a fried egg in a hole cut in the brioche. So basically it’s a savory, anchovy-laced cousin to a toad-in-the-hole. This food looks nothing like the menu at Walrus, but Dahlin’s hand is evident in the beautiful produce, the salads, and the fact that he’s not afraid to put raw beef heart on a bar menu. Plates run $9 to $12 and a menu of actual bar snacks—beef fat frites, fried chicken skins, or a dish of marinated olives and green apricots—run $2 to $6.
Drink: Lumsden's starting out with a lineup of "the very best drinks I ever made" through his years tending bar. His take on a margarita involves ramazzotti, blueberry puree, eucalyptus syrup, and lime juice, adding intrigue to blanco tequila. A sugar cane press from Thailand dispenses raw sugar cane juice that scrambles the senses: it tastes exactly like sugar and yet somehow isn't sweet. Try it in the agricultural punch, made with rhum agricole and lime. Lumsden calls it a rum and coke for farmers. The spirits list on the back of the menu weaves in some classic cocktails that play well with each category.
Sit: On a gray leather bar stool and marvel at the pieced oak-topped bar made by local outfit The Woodwork. “We went pretty eclectic,” Lumsden told me, as he moved aside an impressive set of rubber bosoms, destined to hang on the brick wall near the bar but not too close to the miniature chandeliers or indsutrial pendant lights. But "eclectic" can often mean "jam-packed with lots of random crap," and the vibe here is clean and ever-so-slightly masculine. The bar has about 50 seats total.
Bonus Intel: Damn the Weather is named for a gin-based breakfast cocktail that dates back to the ‘20s. But you won't find it on the menu next week. Lumsden doesn't want to get too themey. Plus, he says, "the drink's not particularly good." The name doubles as an exhortation for people to come out and drink, even when it's raining.