The Watering Hole: Sam's Tavern, 1024 E. Pike St., 860-4238, CAPITOL HILL
The Atmosphere: A quintessential Capitol Hill bar with a Red Robin spin. Sam's Tavern was the original name of the now-national Red Robin food chain, and owner James Snyder's vision is a tribute to how his father (who'd later become the company's franchisee) first remembered the Eastlake flagship. Taxidermy, a deer-antler chandelier, and a meat-heavy menu are just a few of the rugged features that play into the restaurant's mystique. The music is too loud to clearly hear a bartender from across the bar, but a good volume as heard from one of the booths next to the large floor-to-ceiling windows that line the south wall.
The Barkeep: The mononymous Nave has worked at Sam's since its January 2 grand opening. Before that, she'd worked in apartment management and private catering and at a Teatro Zinzanni in California. After applying at several places, she was pleased with Snyder's response, and has enjoyed working in Sam's easygoing atmosphere. Her spunky personality shows as she poses for a photo. Most important, she'll whip you up a mean cocktail.
The Drink: Unfortunately, Sam's has just run out of Absolut Ruby Red, the main ingredient in Nave's signature drink, the Navelicious (with Cointreau, cranberry juice, grenadine, Rose's lime juice, and muddled limes). She makes a Purple Passion instead, which uses all the same ingredients plus raspberry vodka (instead of Ruby Red) and Chambord. Nave explains that it's "served in a martini glass with a lime wedge and a smile." It's a sweet drink that stays refreshing until the last drop, unlike many overly sweet drinks that become tart halfway through.
The Verdict: With creative drinks and a unique burger menu, Sam's Tavern is an ideal place to grab a cocktail and get your grub on without breaking your bank.