The Watering Hole: Chopsticks, 23025 100th Ave. W., 425-776-1196, EDMONDS
The Atmosphere: Chopsticks is the Chinese restaurant our family frequented while I was growing up in Edmonds. Though as a youngster I was never allowed in the bar, I would sometimes peek inside while we waited for takeout. My dad, a building contractor, knew every blue-collar worker in town. And after work, they could reliably be found in the bar at Chopsticks.
The restaurant has been in business since 1963. It is now located across the street from its original location, but the dimly lit lounge, The Cathay Room, looks pretty much as it has since its inception. Vinyl, rolling lounge chairs surround round tables, while swiveling barstools line the faux-wood bar. An electric fireplace flickers on one wall, red lanterns hang from the ceiling, and the carpeted floor absorbs the chatter of regular patrons here for cheap drinks, sweet-and-sour pork, almond chicken, and other Chinese-American staples. Sure enough, when we stopped in for lunch recently, my dad saw someone he knew in the bar. Some things never change.
The Barkeep: Karen has worked at Chopsticks for 35 years. She glides between the lounge and kitchen, delivering plates of lunch specials (just $6.25) to the midday crowd. There are no beers on tap (not to worry, they've got bottles), and she's not quick with cocktail suggestions. She wasn't about to suggest food, either, claiming she doesn't eat Chinese chow. Given how long she's worked at Chopsticks, I can't really blame her—although I don't know how anyone could pass up the pot stickers.
The Drink: a Mai Tai. Karen says it's one of the most popular, in part because "It's really strong." It's made with Trader Vic's mix, three kinds of rum, the juice of a lime, and a splash of orange Curaçao. When asked what other drinks are popular, Karen simply replies, "It's mostly old people in here. So screwdrivers, vodka tonics, and 7-and-7s are mostly what we sell." At least she's honest.
The Verdict: I love a Mai Tai, and while this one was overly sweet at first sip, after I squeezed the lime garnish into the drink and let the ice dilute it a bit, it was damn tasty. It was also only $6.75. You don't go to a Chinese restaurant lounge looking for perfection, but for a strong, cheap cocktail.