The Watering Hole: The Nickerson Street Saloon, 318 Nickerson St., 284-8819, QUEEMONT
The Atmosphere: The Nickerson Street Saloon sits on possibly the most convoluted corner of the city, neighborhood-wise: that of Dexter, Nickerson, Westlake, and the Fremont Bridge. It's not really clear whether it's in Fremont, Queen Anne, or South Lake Union (some call it Queemont)—but if this neighborhood had an anchor, it would be the Nickerson. Surrounded by a sizable parking lot, the saloon is a butte rising from a low-rise concrete desert, with a large patio sprawling out of one side.
Affectionately referred to as the Nick, it's not glaringly boring or anything, but it was built for good, unencumbered, old-fashioned hanging out. The minimal, overwhelmingly wooden decor makes for a warm, inviting feel—mostly unintrusive booze signs, but there is one small, uncharacteristic wall full of blues posters, and another full of vinyl tree decals. The food is standard pub fare, but each item indicates just a couple of extra steps of giving a shit: The veggie burgers and sauces are housemade, the burgers hand-formed.
The Barkeep: A barkeep by night, sculptor Jason "Pelon" Stauffer has been at the Nickerson for more than seven years. "I had bartended across the country for 12 years before, from Alaska to New Orleans," he says, never working at any one bar for more than a year. At the Nick, however, he is master of his domain. "I have a lot of liberties here," he said with a grin, explaining that he "worked for tons of corporate bars . . . and never imagined this kind of freedom . . . cutting people off, kicking people out, making things fun for other people."
Posing for a photo, Stauffer went for looking like as solemn and badass a motherfucker as he could, but between questions he joked with regulars, enthusiastically pulled pints at record speed, and was generally the life of the party. He takes pride in the Nickerson's position as a staple of its non-neighborhood, and revels in how "it's not a scene," proudly admitting, "I don't think I would last a year on the other side of the canal.
"If you come here to the Nick," he notes, "you came here to the Nick. You didn't get here on accident."
The Drink: Jason's drink is a 7 and 7, "otherwise known as a 14," he jokes. For those who have never been to a bar, a 7 and 7 is Seagram's Seven Crown whiskey and 7-Up. Stauffer's not fiercely dedicated to the drink, but after a long day, or when he's at a loss for what else to get, it's definitely his go-to. "It's never a bad option for me," he says, later adding that "it goes down easy—too easy."
The Verdict: Stauffer, the 7 and 7, and the Nickerson are all wrapped into one big package: friendly, welcome, versatile, and ready to fuel good times.