JJ Wandler, owner and managing partner at Gainsbourg (which he runs with his lady, Hannah Levin), got his service start twenty years ago when he was a waiter at a half-way house for the mentally ill. In 1998 he moved to Seattle for a job at Amazon, only to be laid off after he helped organize a union drive. Since then, he’s worked at such beloved Seattle drinkeries as The Tin Hat, High Dive, El Chupacabra, Tigertail and Jules Maes.
He’s also—I learned from Levin—an obsessive Twin Peaks fan. Stop by Gainsbourg on Tuesday evenings, when the couple screens episodes from the legendary Lynch series on the back wall of their French-meets-Northwest cafe/bar.
Here, five questions for JJ Wandler.
What is the most underrated spirit?
Pernod. It’s refreshing and tastes great on the rocks with a splash of water and a dash of bitters.
What’s your favorite Seattle bar (other than Gainsbourg)?
Slim’s Last Chance Chili in Georgetown. They’ve created a honky-tonk roadhouse with the best comfort food in town. I find myself making up reasons to head south just to stop in.
What drink do you order at that bar?
I drink Diet Coke everywhere I go.
What’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen someone do in a bar?
Years ago, as a customer at the prerenovated Rendezvous, I watched two men who seemed to be friends get in a fist fight across their table. In the ensuing melee, they got tangled up in the cords of a television and a fan on a shelf above their table. They knocked over their table with several drinks on it and pulled the TV and fan down on top of themselves. They kept at it, bloody and bruised, until a doorman literally grabbed them both by their collars and hauled them out.
Name three reasons you live in Seattle.
The view traveling north on the viaduct.
The liberal attitude that permeates our local politics and lifestyles.
Neighborhood farmers markets and access to really fresh seafood and produce.