A Taco Tuesday That Matters

The Old Fifth Ave. Tavern puts a subtle spin on the cafeteria-era classic.

When Tara Burkett bought the Old Fifth Ave. Tavern in 1995, she says it catered to "more of an older crowd, with pull tabs." Like the Reservoir up the road, it served only beer (wine was available, albeit as an afterthought) and didn't concern itself much with decor.Burkett, who'd spent the five years prior to her purchase working for a fish processor in Alaska, set about making subtle changes. She kept the pull tabs and free pool intact, but dimmed the lights and added liquor (the Rez has liquor too now). She also updated the jukebox to reflect her hard-rock tastes.Still, Burkett says, "It took quite a few years to pull in a younger crowd." But she's finally achieved that (granted, it can tend toward a full-scale sausage fest) without scaring off the regulars, a tricky endeavor if there ever was one. And to reward her hungry clientele, she serves 50-cent tacos on Tuesday.Taco Tuesday is hardly a novel concept. In fact for most people it will conjure up memories of grammar-school cafeterias, and bars like West Seattle's Rocksport offer similar specials. But two things are exceptional about the Fifth Ave.'s Taco Tuesday: (1) The Jimmy Carter–era pricing (the Rocksport's tacos cost a buck apiece—a great deal but still twice the price of the Fifth Ave.'s), and (2) the speed with which Burkett serves her shells.The explanation for the latter is easy: Burkett assembles the tacos behind the bar herself. She scoops the meat out of a crockpot, and keeps the (hard) casing warm in a toaster oven. You'll have the essentials of your meal delivered within a minute, and then you'll have a very short walk to the condiment bar. So tiny is the 5th Ave. that you're liable to be dodging pool cues as you shovel tomatoes and cheese atop your ground beef.My brother Joe no longer drinks. When he did drink, the 5th Ave. was his favorite bar. When I ask him what he misses most about drinking, it's not the drinking he misses; it's the 5th Ave., which he succinctly describes as "bromantic.""Where else in the neighborhood could you go to drink $3 shots washed down with $3 pitchers, watch the Mariners back when they mattered, and listen to Radiohead's Amnesiac at the same time?" he adds. "La dolce vita!"mseely@seattleweekly.com

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