“May I have The Jesus?” I asked, pointing at the cocktail menu in Gold Bar, a new cocktail den deep in South Lake Union’s Amazonia heart. The Jesus is a Big Lebowski–referencing White Russian riff: tequila, coffee liquor, Giffard Banane (a banana liqueur), and cream.
“You said it, man,” replied the bartender, affecting the accent of John Turturro’s “Jesus” from the movie. This line (its broad, perhaps pandering appeal) and that drink are indicative of Gold Bar as a whole.
The room is pretty much what you’d expect from a place called Gold Bar. There’s, you know, a lot of gold—most of it fake, which reads as either cheap or playful: pineapples spray painted to sparkle like 24 karat decorate the bar, which is itself cast in glittery gold. A bookshelf above the bottles holds lots of gold bric-a-brac. Edison bulbs burn in gilded chandeliers. The walls are high and painted black, ready to turn the place intimate and candlelit when the sun goes down, and a disco ball spins overhead during Friday happy hour, spitting lonesome beams of light, all of which give the space a weird moodlessness: even though it’s packed, its bustle feels transient—lodged somewhere between cafe and lounge. This is perhaps just a byproduct of the versatility demanded in a bar in this neighborhood, which has proved nearly impossible for the city’s restaurateurs to gracefully conquer.
Gold Bar, and its sibling lunch spot, Oro Kitchen, is co-owned by Manu Alfau, owner of Manu’s Bodega in Pioneer Square, and those same Latin flavors predominate both on the menu: empanadas, “avocado mash,” yucca fries, shrimp ceviche, and tacos. The tacos, which have their own section of the menu, are fine, $6 for a pair, which add up to three to four bites each. They arrive in cardboard tray and their shells are pleasantly greasy. But both of the mushroom and the carnitas tacos were blatantly under-seasoned, and they were accompanied by a salsa verde devoid of heat and personality.
Drinks fared somewhat better, holding to the same regional influence: You can grab a Gold Bar Margarita (it comes on the rocks with a hit of Ancho Reyes Verde), a pisco punch, or a Gold Digger (shot of bourbon and becherovka with gold flakes). The Jesus, tasted like it sounds, a good White Russian bumped with tequila while the day’s slushy cocktail kicked hard (also tequila) but had a balanced acidity and sweetness. Another menu section is devoted to boilermakers: Seapine IPA with Cynar, Red Stripe with Plantation Pineapple Rum.
Perhaps for proof in miniature of just what you’ll get when you go to Gold Bar, the wine list’s peculiar dichotomy is best: You can grab a glass a white, pink, red, or “house bubbs”—$6 to $8 each. Or you can snag Perrier-Jouet at $50 or $150. In other words, here you get spray paint or 24 karat: nothing in between.