First Call: The Leary Traveler's V-8 Sidestep

Bourbon and milk replace the red scourge.

The Watering Hole: The Leary Traveler, 4354 Leary Way N.W., 783-4805, BALLARD/FREMONT. The Atmosphere: A quiet neighborhood joint in Frelard (halfway between Fremont and Ballard, in the former Harvey's Tavern space) with the unpretentious hipness that countless Seattle bars have aimed for and missed. There's a wavy copper-colored bar and jet-black walls decorated with colorful art and old-school Rainier swag. The crowd is a mixed bag: A mother and daughter share a meal of steamed mussels, an older gentleman at a table in back nurses a beer and reads the paper, and several pairs of 20-something dudes atop barstools sip microbrews. The Barkeep: His name is Dave, and he's been working at the Traveler about nine months, after moving on from a catering gig with McCormick and Schmick's. He lives just up the street from the bar, but though The Traveler has been open almost three years, he didn't frequent the place until just before he got a job there. "When I finally came in here for the first time, I was like, 'How did I miss this place?!' " Dave says. "There's no lights outside, there's not a big sign. It's just a neighborhood pub." The Drink: Informed he can make whatever cocktail tickles his fancy, Dave says excitedly, "I'm going to make you a traditional New Orleans breakfast drink." It's 6 p.m. and my date and I are about to split an order of sweet-potato fries, but a breakfast cocktail sounds good—as long as it doesn't contain any V-8, the red scourge of tomato-averse morning drinkers. What we get instead is a bourbon milk punch: bourbon, half-and-half, cinnamon, and simple syrup shaken with ice and strained, then topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon. The cream makes this drink reminiscent of a white Russian, but it's much sweeter and benefits from the vanilla flavor brought by the whiskey. "One of the owners went to the national cocktail conference in New Orleans," Dave explains. "Of course he drank a lot every night, and one morning he woke up and someone told him about this drink. He said 'Oh, no way,' but he tried it, liked it, and brought it back with him. The first time he described it to me, I was the same way—'No way that's good'—but now I love it too." The Verdict: The Traveler has a mouthwatering weekend brunch menu—highlighted by salmon lox Benedict—that is accompanied by a make-your-own Bloody Mary bar. The food sounds great (our sweet-potato fries, which came with both chipotle and garlic dipping sauces, certainly hit the spot), but I simply cannot abide anything that contains tomato juice. The bourbon milk punch is a rich (roughly equivalent to eggnog) but tasty alternative.

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