The Watering Hole: Mission, 2325 California Ave. S.W., 937-8220, WEST SEATTLE
The Atmosphere: Mission occupies a a slender piece of unassuming property sandwiched between two restaurants, making it quite easy to miss. It's where you go when you don't want to run into anyone you know while you knock back a few strong drinks or catch a game. It's not uncommon for the Latin-inspired restaurant to host private parties in its upstairs loft, making the place a haven for boisterous fun and great people-watching.
The Barkeep: Paul Szekely, who's been bartending at Mission for a year. Before that he worked for the Heavy Restaurant Group for six years, lending his skills to Lot No. 3 and Purple Café and Wine Bar, specifically the original Purple in Woodinville. "When I initially started with Purple, it was a husband-and-wife owner and their office was across the parking lot, so it was a very-small-restaurant feel and I really enjoyed that," he says. "If I had any issues or I wanted to talk to them, they were there. They've since grown, which makes it tougher to have your voice heard. [At Mission] there are two owners, one of whom is very hands-on and is in here all the time."
But the main reason Szekely moved to Mission is because he lives in West Seattle. "It's a great place to work. It's a pretty small staff and we've got a good smaller-community restaurant, so we get a lot of regulars, a lot of people who I see in the grocery store. It's definitely got that neighborhood feel."
The Drink: Szekely makes a Bartender's Margarita made with Sauza Conmemorativo tequila, triple sec, cranberry juice, housemade margarita mix, and a float of Grand Marnier. It's one of Mission's best sellers, but since a lot of customers ask Szekely for mezcal, he says it "would be nice to have a mezcal cocktail on the menu."
The Verdict: The margarita was perfectly balanced and refreshing, but best of all, it was strong. You could actually taste the tequila as opposed to the mix. And even though it was pink, it wasn't overtly sweet.