The Watering Hole: Dilettante Mocha Cafe & Chocolate Martini Bar, 538 Broadway E., 329-6463, CAPITOL HILL
The Atmosphere: One could initially be put off by this remaining pillar of smooth-jazz-playing latte culture until one remembers that Dilettante comes by it relatively honestly. They officially hit Seattle in 1976 not too far away from where this cafe is currently located, so sitting at this dark marble bar surrounded by dark, warm wood tones and bulbous chandeliers feels legitimate. Besides, Dilettante caters in the kind of rich chocolate experience that a certain generation of (boring) women equates with sex, so the bar is chock-full of Oxygen Channel eroticism.
The Barkeep: Rob Lehmann mans both the booze and coffee orders on his weekday shifts, and is a man of few words. When I ask if he has a background in both, he gives me a muted head shake. When I follow up by asking which he has more passion for, he discreetly nods toward Dilettante's pristine mountain of liquor bottles.
Though he's been at Dilettante only about six months, Rob says he's worked at Broadway watering holes, which he wishes to keep anonymous, for years. While Dilettante gets regulars, he says, the difference between them and those at the places he used to work is like night and day: "It's a whole new crowd.
"I like the people aspect of [being a bartender]," he eventually adds once he's warmed up a little. It's hard to describe the sheer conversational depth that Rob can convey with just nods and chuckles. But he was able to verbalize about what kind of boozin' he likes to do.
The Drink: "I don't really like sweet drinks," Rob admits. He normally drinks straight vodka. He decides to bring me a Sea Salt Caramel Truffle Martini anyway, justifying it with "If I were out with friends, I'd get that anyway, because you can't get it anywhere else." It contains vodka, but that's about where the similarity to a martini ends: Served in a martini glass striped in white chocolate with a salted-cocoa rim, it contains Ephemere Truffle sauce, caramel sauce, vodka, and Caramel Bailey's. It's a cake in a glass.
The Verdict: "It doesn't taste like alcohol," I say. He responds, "That's why they can be dangerous," and goes off to mix another cake, leaving me to absorb just how rich, sweet, and deceptively strong this drink is. I could see why, as a normal straight-shooter, Rob likes this one among all the saccharine fare on the menu: The salt cuts through the sugar, giving the drink a round, complex taste that's not too overwhelming.
While this isn't the ordinary drink of someone who actually enjoys the taste of alcohol, there is something to be said about it if you happen to like both drinking and melted chocolate. Rob says that one reason he enjoys working here is "the look on people's faces when they first sip a chocolate martini . . . It's like, oh, my God." He adds, "You did it." I'll admit: I totally did.