Search & Distill: Post-Modern Pubbin’

Roosevelt’s Café Racer exists on its own island of Midwestern friendliness.

I just reassigned myself to the more grown-up Green Lake after a year of limbo on Capitol Hill. (To quote Danny Glover, "I'm too old for this shit.") I was in need of a new pit stop for my days working from home, and I found it indisputably at Café Racer, where Roosevelt spills down from Whole Foods and slightly higher home prices into the beer-caked grit of Dante's, the Monkey, and the U District. You can't be everything to everyone, but Café Racer comes pretty close, uniting the three neighborhoods it straddles with good coffee, killer dogs, a full bar, and no judgment as to when or what you eat or drink. It's goddamn refreshing.The entrance to Café Racer puts you in the thrift store–appointed bar, with a short and sweet liquor selection and an espresso machine. To your left, the all-ages side, is where Racer hosts live music; it's covered in paintings of someone else's pets and relatives mixed with plenty of creepy renditions of clowns. This art culminates in a small section known as the Obama Room, dominated by one giant purple-vinyl-upholstered booth. During the day, the bar is usually taken over by regulars, who (mostly) sip coffee there the way other regulars might nurse a beer.The food is so simple even the bartender can prepare it. Café Racer converted me to the open-faced hot dog; it's best with Racer's chili and a side of Fritos, as the menu suggests. With a BLT, a grilled cheese, and a French dip, the menu is stacked with bar food's simplest hits—with a few curveballs, like the grilled yellow mustard, peanut butter, and pickle concoction called the Woodring: horrific, yet delicious.A visit at 3 in the afternoon can show just how many neighbors get Racer's appeal, when the young and old, blue-collar and collegiate, tattooed and buttoned-up all sporadically converge. What at first glance might seem too cool isn't. On my first visit, the bartender actually came over to ask if I needed the wireless code, then he asked me what music I wanted to hear. Maybe it was the cacophony of irony or the aloof treatment I endured in a year on the Hill that took me aback at first, but since then I've found that the people at Café Racer exist on their own island of Midwestern friendliness.Café Racer can, however, feel a little intimidating to the uninitiated. One night, we walked in to complete silence. Breaking the fourth wall of awkward, we continued into the bar area and noticed everyone (all six) focused on the TV. But give the staff half a chance to welcome you, and that discomfited feeling vanishes immediately. As the menu says: "If you don't want to talk to anybody, go to Starbucks."

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