First Call: Dog Daze

Where "hair of the dog" is not just a metaphor.

The Watering Hole: Norm's Eatery & Ale House, 460 N. 36th St., 547-1417, FREMONT. The Atmosphere: The first word of advice for those walking into Norm's is to look down. Because as perhaps Seattle's most dog-friendly bar/restaurant, there's bound to be a leash or two, if not an entire canine, blocking the path to one's seat. On this particular evening only about a half-dozen dogs are in attendance, split among the 15 patrons posted at either the bar or at one of the red-upholstered, pooch-knickknack-adorned booths. Myself, my girlfriend, and my golden retriever Dublin belly up to the counter near a Mariners fan who's splitting his time cursing his team, nursing his beer, and scratching the belly of his Yorkie/poodle mix ("I prefer the term 'yoodle,' " he tells me). "What'll it be?" asks a tattooed bartender with that most most classic of drinking-establishment greetings. The Barkeep: That barman is Brad Tunell, a five-year veteran of Norm's who loves good food, good beer, and good people. He tells me that he enjoys working at Norm's for three key reasons: The pay is decent, the owners care about the employees, and the regulars are like family. The Drink: Maritime Pacific Imperial Pale Ale. Norm's has a full bar. And frankly, there's no reason that when I ask Brad to make me his favorite drink, he doesn't concoct some elaborate monstrosity that includes a half-dozen ingredients and is possibly aflame. Instead, however, Brad brings me a beer. This is an alehouse after all, he reminds me. Brad doesn't bring me just any beer, though. He brings me a locally brewed Imperial IPA made by Maritime Pacific Brewery in Ballard. "I could make you a cocktail," he says. "But I'd be lying if I said it was my favorite." This beer is Brad's favorite, he says, because unlike a lot of IPAs, it doesn't go overboard on the hops and manages to execute a smooth, sippable flavor and texture. And for me—who generally never orders IPAs for exactly that overhopped reason—Brad's choice proves to be right on the money: The beer is something I can see myself ordering several of. The Verdict: Paired with Norm's battered fish-and-chips, any beer would probably taste good. Still, the hops in the IPA, though subtle, manage to open the taste buds and enhance the flavor of the salty fish-and-chips enough for it to trump most other beer pairings besides, say, a good stout or porter. At the end of the day, though, a good beer is still just a beer. Normally, if I were looking to impress someone other than my girlfriend and dog, I'd probably go to a place that builds impressive cocktails. Then again, why would I do that when I can just impress my girlfriend, my dog, and myself by going to Norm's?

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