First Call: Laredos, a Bar for the Barrio

Don't confuse this Queen Anne hangout with Peso's.

The Watering Hole: Laredos Grill, 555 Aloha St., 218-1040, QUEEN ANNE The Barkeep: When my bartender tells me his name is Robbie Williams, I start with "Robbie Williams, like . . . " He replies: "Not like. Am." Unlike the British singer/songwriter, Robbie is from Minnesota. He's been working at Laredos since its birth in August 2009, and currently slings tequila two days a week. During those two days, though, he learns a lot of faces, as evidenced by his rapport with nearly every person who walks in. "We're closed!" he jokes to a regular who walks in. The regular shakes his head and sits down. On more than one occasion, someone just stops by the bar to chat with him, and Williams juggles a full, familiar conversation while still keeping up with incoming drink orders. The Atmosphere: One could say that the polished Tex-Mex restaurant aimed at discerning upper-middle-class regulars was a very specific niche already filled on Lower Queen Anne by Peso's. In concept, the two are similar. In practice, however, Laredos is not an "experience" bar like Peso's. Over a hip-hop soundtrack, Robbie tells me that Laredos is a "neighborhood bar," and that "80 percent of the bar business . . . is people from the neighborhood." He likes seeing someone walk in and having their drink ready before they sit down. Children also come in, which I cannot personally attest to, having never been to the place before 9 p.m. Apparently, though, this is a common-enough occurrence for Robbie to bring it up; the regulars often have kids, and sometimes bring them. The kids have to adapt to an adult place, however, not the other way around."[The owners] don't want a kids' place," Williams says, but since they have their own, "they just want to be able to bring them." Fair enough. Laredos' crowd comprises young professionals, and most sat on the bar side with drinks or snacks. While Robbie says the food has gotten better as the establishment gets its sea legs, Laredos has built its reputation on the bar side with specialty margaritas like the Avocado and the Sangria Wave. Anti-frou-frou drinkers may turn up their noses at Laredos, but it's hard to find a place that treats sugary crowd-pleasers with the same sense of craft. The Drink: Laredos' Scratch Cadillac Margarita ($8.50) is pretty standard. The menu lists its ingredients as muddled limes, Cuervo Traditional, a splash of OJ, and a float of Grand Marnier. But Robbie likes adding a muddled orange. He serves it to me half-salted, and the muddled orange pops more than ordinary OJ would. It also masks the alcohol pretty effectively. Robbie says that he not only likes the fresh orange, but the Cuervo too. "The only bad one is Gold," he says of the tequila brand, but Gold is "a good moneymaker." The margarita is super-sweet, but that's to be expected. The only really jarring thing was not tasting a tequila edge in such a straightforward margarita. The Verdict: This wasn't the best scratch margarita ever, but only because it had the appeal of lemonade rather than the bite of tequila one usually looks for. The bottom line, though, is that though it's sweet, that's not because it's a throwaway, mix-out-of-the-bottle margarita. Instead it's like a homemade dessert that just happens to give you a buzz, and tastes great alongside some nachos.

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