by Michael Sarko
– The Capitol Hill Times –
Marcus Lalario is becoming something of a simple-food magnate on Capitol Hill. He’s one of the guys behind Li’l Woody’s, the hole-in-the-wall burger joint on Pine that has spent the past year making a name for itself. Recently, he took over the Pike Street building that used to be home to HG Lodge and turned it into the sports bar, 95 Slide.
95 Slide gets its name from the dramatic slide into home Ken Griffey, Jr. took to lead the Seattle Mariners to an upset victory against the New York Yankees in 1995. The win took the Mariners to the American League Championship Series, a victory many fans saw as the necessary push to keep a flagging baseball team in our city. We’re in baseball season again and 95 Slide is counting on Seattle’s sports fans to show their enthusiasm by turning out to watch the game in a neighborhood better known for its rock shows, boutiques and charming eateries.
All the hallmarks of an honest-to-goodness sports bar are there. The street-level bar is dimly lit and adorned with memorabilia, classic rock pumps through the speakers and flat screen TVs hang high in every corner. For a little extra pop, a series of cartoonish likenesses of Seattle athletic heroes painted by local artist Derek Erdman adorn the walls.
For all its sports bar literacy, 95 Slide is still a Seattle tavern. For every Super Bowl sponsoring macrobrew on tap, there are half a dozen craft beers that have become de rigueur everywhere in the city. The bar has classic standby bottles like Old Crow whiskey and a rainbow of sweet mixers in plastic handles, but there’s also a deep stock of Crème de Violette and Fernet Branca. 95 Slide is not your average Midwestern shrine to the ball game gods.
That said, Capitol Hill could use a good sports bar, and one that fits the overall atmosphere of the neighborhood. Patrons are better off pairing their pint of Northwestern IPA with the sweet and spicy Chili pepper chicken wings than a basket of the fairly standard, intentionally uninspired Buffalo wings. 95 Slide is more fish tacos and veggie burgers than Coors cans and onion rings, though all and more are on the menu.
The bar’s greatest potential is lies in its rooftop patio. It could be a great community experience, sports or no, with a little polish and extra character. The deck looks out on Pike and Harvard with a view of downtown and the vibrancy of one of Capitol Hill’s most active plots of commercial space. Currently, 95 Slide’s deck is plain, brown wood, a bar with no taps and just a few big-head statuettes of Mariners sluggers.
As indicated by the politics on the sign out front, 95 Slide has a lot to gain from the controversial SoDo arena proposal currently fueling arguments in City Hall. Seattle took a blow to its sports portfolio when the SuperSonics basketball team bowed out in 2008. The new arena would give a home to a pro basketball and hockey team. There are certainly bigger waves of development and commerce brewing behind the arena proposal, but budding neighborhood sports bars like 95 Slide would certainly feel the ripples.
Just as 95 Slide is sort of a sports bar and sort of not, Seattle is sort of a sports town and sort of not. It’s like a bizarro world version of a stereotypical high school, the artsy kids and literary geeks enjoying a long tenure in the spotlight while those pitiable jocks barely eke out a life in the corner. If our town can light a fire under its interest in sports, maybe Capitol Hill will be ready to foster its own, honest take on the sports bar.
722 East Pike St.