Lower Queen Anne: The New Herpes Triangle

A brave coed bellies up in the trenches of “Hetero Hill,” Seattle’s least gay pickup scene.

With a nickname famously coined by a Seattle Weekly restaurant critic in the '90s, the Herpes Triangle refers to an area of South Lake Union that now comprises Joey's, Daniel's Broiler, Hooters, the BluWater Bistro, and Stix (Cucina! Cucina!, R.I.P.). At some point in the past decade, however, this scene has made a perceptible shift westward to Lower Queen Anne, made clear by the flow of young, attractive Joey's bartenders to Peso's on their nights off.Tasked with the assignment to go out and get picked up in Herpes Triangles old and new, I immediately recruit my two roommates as wingwomen. We put on our darkest jeans and flirtiest heels, leave our boyfriends at home, and venture first to Joey's and Daniel's, where we're surrounded by guys in their mid-to-late 20s in business suits. We begin to gravitate toward them, thinking, "It's 11 p.m.; they could not have come straight from work." Clearly, it's a ruse. Like male peacocks, they think this show—the "I've got a grown-up job" suit—will secure them a mate.They're right: The "whole suit thing" definitely has appeal, says a 23-year-old blonde who's making eyes at Kyle, a suited-up employee of Budget Car Rental. To be frank, it does seem somehow more worthwhile to chat up a dude in a suit than anyone else; could this hint at some sort of biological attraction toward a mate who at least looks like he'll better provide for one's future family?Though Joey's is happening, the rest of South Lake Union seems rather dead. After posing for the requisite picture with the Hooters girls, we finish our sangria and head out.A week later, we find ourselves at First and Roy on Lower Queen Anne, lined up for ladies night at a dueling piano bar called Chopstix. Stepping carefully over the empty mini-bottles rolling down the sidewalk, we peer through the windows to see girls draped in lots and lots of penis jewelry (Chopstix is a favored locale for bachelorette parties), swaying drunkenly to the piano version of Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me." As the bouncer checks the IDs of the two WSU guys in front of us, one says, "Let these ladies in with us, too," before grinning and adding, "That felt cool."As we fight our way to the bar, we catch snippets of conversations. One girl confesses to her friends that she'd really like to go home with the bartender. A young guy in a hooded sweatshirt grabs my elbow and asks if I'd like to do a shot. When I decline he says, "Damn, you're the driver? We met on the wrong night."In general, we have a hard time sizing up the crowd at Chopstix. There are two guys rolling around the room in Heelys (those stupid wheeled sneakers banned in schools across America), while a girl named Dani dances sexily onstage. On the other side of the room, two middle-aged couples are on a double date for dinner and drinks, right next to a guy who grabs my roommate's waist. "I think we're playing footsie," he says, "with our eyes."An alarm is raised when two sporty bros yell, "Fuck, they're out of Red Bull!" This battle cry is enough to spur the night onward, and we pick our way through the lines of cabs to cross the street to Peso's.In the early evening, the scene at Peso's is pretty laid-back. The remnants of the dinner crowd pay their bills, while small groups of drinkers keep to themselves. Later on, though, Peso's heats up. A bouncer looks me up and down, opining that "the crowd is usually a little older." My tender age doesn't seem to bother one blazer-clad dude at the bar, who says, "Yeah, plenty of people come here to hook up—you lookin'?"Another Saturday night, we find ourselves down the street at Ozzie's, where the scene unfolds before you're even inside. While bouncers check IDs, they debate whether the girl in front of us is drunk or high. This young lady, who is leaping from side to side while she waits for her friends, cries, "But that's my ID!""She's on crack," the doormen determine, and wave us inside. Inside, there are random sinks and cupboards poking out of every corner. There's an elderly man named Bob in blingin' diamond earrings, who the bartender tells us is here every weekend to karaoke "New York, New York." There's also a shower—yes, a shower—in one of the upstairs bathrooms.Everything about this place screams college house party, from the cries of "OMIGOD, Pikes are here!!" (as in UW's Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity) to the girls being piggybacked out the door by their boyfriends. There's no line for the bar, but that's because there are five of them, spread over two stories. The crowd appears to be split between regulars and out-of-towners, none of whom seem to know why they're here, except that a friend told them it was a "chill" place to meet people.On the whole, the crowd is unpretentious, and virtually everyone who makes an appearance is guaranteed to be chatted up by someone. In the bathrooms, one toilet doesn't flush and the other is covered with crusted puke from earlier in the evening. As disgusting as they are, that doesn't deter the guy who invites me to make out with him in the bathroom. I decline. (Best line of the night: "Have you ever been in a perfect day in a perfect world? I'm going to call you, and then we'll go there together.")Then there's Brian, a short Texan in a tucked-in beige sweater with a mock turtleneck, who introduces himself by telling me he knows where my tattoo is. Uncannily, he is dead-on (left hip). That alone might be enough to keep me engaged, were he not spraying saliva on me with every word. Also raising a red flag is the fact that he graduated from Baylor University more than half a decade ago, yet still carries his student ID around. Undaunted, he steals my notebook and writes, "Give us one more hour. We are the best thing you have going." (Sorry, buddy, not quite.)The appeal of Lower Queen Anne is the idea of something for everyone. It doesn't matter if you're a barely legal frat brother or a 70-year-old karaoke nut, you're either going home with someone's digits, a beautiful stranger, or, at the very least, a good story. That's the joy of the new, more egalitarian Herpes Triangle, henceforth to be referred to as "Hetero Hill." Just don't forget a condom.news@seattleweekly.com

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