The majestic seaplane, official bird of Seattle, seen skimming the waters of Lake Union to rest its metallic wings in the perennial nesting grounds near MOHAI.
Bar Charlie—a new addition to the increasingly fruitful Stone Way stretch in Wallingford—calls itself a seaplane-themed bar. This is, to say the least, an accurate description.
If a seaplane were to careen off course and crash spectacularly into the retail space on Stone and 38th, its requisite parts scattering into decor, it would look much like Bar Charlie. The ceiling fans are propellers, the drop pendant lights hang from thick nautical-y rope. On the dominant wall, against a blown-up map of the Sound, a seaplane engine sits like a mounted lion head. The art: seaplanes.
Same goes for the cocktail menu which—are you sitting down?—is full of seaplane word play. I have a strong tolerance for cute cocktail names so long as they jive in the broadest sense with the ingredients of the actual cocktail, and Bar Charlie checks off those boxes. Some are on the nose, like Burn Alert (Engine Out!) with bourbon and habanero syrup. Others have to be tasted to appreciate, like the Punt e Mes and crème de cassis combo in the Smooth Landing.
Yet, sitting on a Tuesday night, a game on the TV, a dozen or so patrons scattered throughout—woman on her laptop flanked by a glass of wine at the bar, a quartet of coworkers in the corner booth, some writer guy taking notes on his phone—Bar Charlie felt very much a regular old neighborhood bar and not necessarily a themed bar. Underneath the comfortable chatter of a day coming to close, the bar's novelties fade into background noise like the hum of a plane at cruising altitude.
The limited tap list also helps, all recognizable brews poured into those beer can–shaped glasses that are everywhere now. As does the thankfully seaplane-free food menu; sandwiches and charcuterie plates made unfussy by the lack of a full kitchen.
To go hard on a motif is to risk becoming a special occasion, not a casual drinking destination. When, for instance, was the last time you wanted a relaxed weekday beer and thought "Unicorn sounds chill." Given its location, Bar Charlie will likely be populated mostly with workaday locals. It's good then that it manages a safe landing (get it?) between themed and cozy.