The Marco Polo: Fried Chicken, Jo-Jos, and Free Ice Cream

Chicken and beer is the new pizza and beer.

A dramatic departure from "$2 wells" and "half-priced pitchers," "free ice cream" is not a marquee phrase normally employed by drinking establishments to reel in customers. And at the Marco Polo, a workaday saloon on the western fringe of Georgetown, it's a bit of a misnomer: The free ice cream comes not in a large bowl with chocolate syrup oozing over the brim but in the form of a small Dixie cup. But still, it's free—and ice cream isn't the reason why you should visit the Marco Polo anyway; the way-above-par-for-a-bar food is. (And about that marquee: Its neon green, Route 66–chic design is pretty cool, too.) Unlike its humbler Middle American counterparts, Seattle is not a city that teems with great chicken 'n' beer joints (sorry, Luda). While they all offer some solid fried bird, the Alki Homestead is a family restaurant, Ezell's doesn't serve booze, and Luau Polynesian Lounge is, well, a Polynesian lounge. Meanwhile, the Marco Polo is unequivocally a working stiff's haunt, and serves incredibly tasty fried chicken alongside another rarity: jo-jos. But the Marco Polo, with a schizophrenic interior that features a fireplace, pull tabs, pool tables, multiple TV screens (many of which are devoted to a peculiarly popular trivia game), and occasional karaoke, is no one-hit wonder when it comes to mean cuisine. The chili, for one, is homemade, and the chili-cheese fries are, in turn, delicious, if not easy on the arteries. That goes double for the pepperoni grinder, which is like eating a pizza sandwich, only with herb mayonnaise, a French roll, and lettuce instead of tomato sauce, crust, and excess grease. So here we have, within the confines of one kick-ass kitchen, the roots of a great debate. Specifically, which is better: chicken and beer, or pizza and beer? For years, pizza and beer have been touted as the drinking man's equivalent to peanut butter and jelly. But now I'm not so sure. Pizza and beer go well together, but can leave heartburn in the wake of their union. Chicken and beer make for a smoother pairing, making the potential proliferation of establishments serving them in tandem a mouthwatering prospect for the year ahead.

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