To All the Whos in Hooverville

In Seattle in the 1930s, hundreds of shacks stood from Harbor Island to First Avenue South. The men who built those scrap lumber, cast-off tin, and flattened oil drum shacks were casualties of the Great Depression—formerly upstanding blue-collar workers whose options quickly ran out. Depleted of savings, these broken men converged in shantytowns that grew like barnacles around major cities across the country. The name of the camp that once encompassed Seattle's SoDo neighborhood is now the historical moniker for them all, "Hooverville." The name is a nod to President Herbert Hoover, who is famous for awkwardly inserting foot in mouth just before the 1929 stock market crash, having said, "[W]e are nearer a final triumph over poverty than is any other land." Ooof. Billy Kincaid and Todd Gean's bar on First Avenue South, Hooverville (formally "A Bar Called Hooverville"), slyly and quietly plays tribute to this area's saddest decade. Everything about the place looks purposely casual. The fixtures could just have easily been salvaged as custom-made. Peanut shells litter the floor, pinball and Asteroids lurk in the back, and one daily special makes up the entire menu. You eat what they've got, and gladly (especially when it's a chili cheese dog for $4). This is a shot and a beer or cocktail with a lower-case "c" kind of place. Feeling high-hat? Go for a Manhattan. The whiskey and bourbon selection is impressive, and includes Old Whiskey River, a higher-end Dickel 12, the very unique Buffalo Trace, and Bulleit—a bourbon with a distinct note of what can only be described as Cheerios. I suggest an old-fashioned with Old Ezra 7 year; its atypical sweet and bitter flavors make nice with the cocktail's sugar, bitters, and orange. If you're not a firewater fan, the bar boasts 16 taps and at least as many beers by the bottle. Looking around, you'll note that the breadth of selection mirrors the clientele, from the well heeled to the dirty fingernailed. Now that SoDo plays headquarters to one of the most recognizable companies in the world (with its omnipresent mermaid logo) and two deluxe sport stadiums, is it extra ironic to sip $6 spirits in a bar named after a place once lousy with tin shacks and noble, desperate men? Whatever. I shake off my attempt at pop sociology, take a sip of my Bulleit, and silently toast to Hoover in his own words: "About the time we can make the ends meet, somebody moves the ends." I'm sharing one of my favorite places with you. So if you go, be nice, drink brown, and tip fat.

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