First Call: What About Tiki Bob's?

The Pioneer Square hotspot mellows out midweek.

The Watering Hole: Tiki Bob's Cantina, 166 S. King St., PIONEER SQUARE The Atmosphere: Tiki Bob's, which bills itself as "the number-one nightclub beach party in Seattle," is like what island-themed dances in teen TV dramas look like, only with approximately five bajillion pieces of alcohol-brand decor. The furniture and accents are mostly fake-bamboo-based, save a few table legs that have been replaced by gigantic plastic Red Bull cans. Garlands of Coors Light flags line the ceiling. Inflatable sharks hang above the bar, and a hula Santa Claus stands by to keep things festive. Lining the wall are framed black-and-white portraits of sports figures, sometimes posing with ladies in thong bikinis for that special touch. But despite looking like an overdecorated frat party, Tiki Bob's is really mellow and comfortable at 6:30 on a Wednesday night. One bartender manages a few quiet tables of people, no one's drink is Jell-O colored, and there's not a single cocktail umbrella in sight. It's just another mild-mannered happy hour—a stark contrast to weekends and game days, when the petite bartender carries a whistle around her neck that she blows when she needs people to get out of her way. The Barkeep: Kelly Hook has been working at Tiki Bob's for almost a year now, mostly mild weekday shifts like this. Occasionally she'll cover a weekend rager or Sunday football shift, but for the most part she fills the role of neighborhood beertender, serving Pioneer Square locals and commuters from the Amtrak station a block away. She says she likes "the more down-to-earth feel" of the early weeknight shifts, when she can talk to people more—especially those just getting off the train, like one Swiss customer recently who had been traveling all over America. "I've lived in Seattle my whole life," she explains. Having people coming in from so many different places, she adds, "lets me experience different parts of the country without going there." It's no surprise that Kelly likes her shifts down-to-earth—that describes her in a nutshell. Constantly smiling and wearing a fedora, jeans, and a gray sweater, Kelly is a welcoming face, and seems genuinely interested in her customers without being overeager. She's the perfect bartender to have a conversation with. The Drink: Kelly's drink of choice, Jameson on the rocks, is as versatile, understated, and easy-to-get-along-with as she is. It's the perfect drink to grab on your way to a lonely train ride. At the same time, it's a great way to start at a party. The Verdict: Seattle takes Pioneer Square for granted, but we forget how much stuff happens there. It hosts a robust First Thursday scene and skirts the edge of the football and baseball stadiums, making it an underrated neighborhood constantly in motion. Overshadowed by the weekend party crowd, the party bars that stay open during the week are just your neighborhood bars: less mai tai, more Jameson on the rocks. The sentence "I'm going to Tiki Bob's" will always sound a little silly. Despite its change from island-themed party to the bar by the train station on certain days, it's never going to achieve any kind of bar-for-the-lonesome-traveler, On the Road vibe with its thatched roof and Jägerbomb posters. But strictly speaking of weeknights, Tiki Bob's was a pleasantly surprising, relaxing experience.

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