The Watering Hole: The Chieftain, 908 12th Ave., 324-4100, CAPITOL HILL.
The Atmosphere: Before a typhoon of political correctness compelled Seattle University to change its athletic mascot to the Redhawk, the school's teams were known as the Chieftains. Yet while you'll find a smattering of SU paraphernalia spread about Peter Johnson's new 12th Avenue bar, you won't find any tomahawks or headdresses, as the Chieftain is named in honor of "Irish chieftains," Johnson told former Seattle Weekly intern Sam Kettering back in March, when word broke of the Finn MacCool's and McGilvra's owner's plans for the space, which used to house a martial-arts studio.
Ethnic origins aside, the dark, spacious Chieftain, with a peculiar floor plan that requires you essentially to enter from the rear before descending a ramp to the main drinking area, marks the first true college bar Seattle University's seen for years—decades even (Cellar Tavern, The Party, Forum Tavern, the Blue Banjo, and the original Chieftain on Broadway & James, R.I.P.). Sure, there are plenty of bars in the immediate vicinity, Canon and Ba Bar being the closest in either direction. But those are sharply geared toward cocktail connoisseurs, not co-eds on a beer budget.
The Chieftain already hosts a weekly karaoke night on Thursdays, and although the undergrad term just started, law students have "already claimed [the Chieftain] as their own," reports bartender Kyle Barkus.
The Barkeep: Kyle Barkus, an Olympia native who previously bartended at the Park Pub, the Attic, and Boundary Bay Brewery in Bellingham. Temporarily on the wagon after "a ridiculous summer," Barkus has an uncle who used to work at the dearly departed Olympia Brewery in Tumwater, where he scored Barkus the most treasured garment of his youth: "a bright orange Olympia windbreaker."
The Drink: a Manhattan, but not just any Manhattan. Instead of including the standard squirt of sweet vermouth, Barkus' Manhattan contains Fernet, because he likes his drinks "super bitter." His bourbon of choice is Knob Creek.
The Verdict: You have to boast a palate precisely like Barkus' to enjoy his spin on this classic. But if you do (and I do), it's a gutsy wrinkle that'd be right at home down the street at Canon.