When it’s hot outside, Madison Park really shows what it’s made of. It’s made of very skinny girls sauntering in bikinis alongside their be-flipflopped boyfriends, who walk with their key ring wrapped around their index fingers; the keys jangle a little as they walk by.
It’s made of toe-headed children soaking up the sweet perks of summer: high-diving in Lake Washington, slurping soft serve from Tully’s. Their mothers—often wearing polo shirts, always a little stressy (you can see it in the ways their mouths draw up a bit on the sides)—squire them about in large and shiny SUVs.
Madison Park is made, too, of interlopers from landlocked neighborhoods, who spread themselves out on towels and cache their Alaskan Ales behind straw purses.
This is our city’s version of the beach—there is grass where sand might be and the water is mind-numbingly cold. But we are also unaccustomed to so much exposed epidermis, and trying not to stare at all that flesh can conspire with the heat to make us feel feverish and confused and in need of refreshment in air-conditioned environs, of which nearby Madison Street provides a plentiful-enough assortment.
There is Cactus, of course. And a steely new bistro has opened on the corner closest to the water, next to that Italian place. The Attic is an old standby: bad service, not so bad food, sports. Then there’s the Red Onion Tavern, on which I’ll reserve comment.
Finally you have Bing’s, where the furniture (vinyl, chrome) appears to reference the 1950s, while the art—illustrated Interview Magazine covers decorated with sketchy pastel-colored portraiture a la “Take on Me” video—recalls a more recent era.
Bing’s is a hangout for MP’s 70-plus set, but those of tenderer age should not be deterred. Unlike certain sunbathers along the Mad Beach shoreline, the seniors here seem to welcome diners outside their peer group—or tolerate them, at the very least.
Anyway it is never crowded, the staff is friendly, and right now they have a tap of Hale’s Kölsch. Kölsch is a pretty hoppy German-style ale—it’s not as bitter as pilsner but dontgetmewrong, it is bitter. It’s also super refreshing and drinkable, and Hale’s has created an admirable version that’s just right for an afternoon break on a hot day.
Have a pint. Relax. It’s summertime.