Full moon, or almost. Belltown sidewalks are empty except for a clutch of furtive smokers and cellphones conspirators at corner of Second and Battery. Inside, as Florida battles Oklahoma on wall-to-wall flat screens, Tim Buckley is celebrating his comeback.
When last seen, he was manager of the Belltown Pub, now Belltown Bistro. Some of his crew was lured to Firefly atop Queen Anne (later Lumette, now Sorrentino), but he and his loyal cohort went no further than the former Duke's on 1st West, where they founded a sturdy neighborhood pub called, duh, Buckley's.
Now, almost five years later, Buckley is back in his old nabe, presiding over an eclectic mix of locals in search of cheer. In the 1930s, this was Seattle's Film Row, where studios screened upcoming movies for theater managers, distributed posters, collected reels of film. The poshest offices belonged to Metro Goldwyn Mayer, which eventually ceded the elegant premises to Café Septième (before its move to Broadway), then a stationery store, Blu Canary, a hair salon, and an utterly charming restaurant, Marjorie's. Now Buckley's Belltown has reassembled the disparate pieces under one roof.
There's room for 50 or so on the patio once the weather turns better, and another 50 in two private dining rooms, plus 150 in the bar and dining room, suddenly making the newcomer the biggest living room in Belltown. (Just noticed what it says on the menu: "Where neighbors become friends.") Two dozen beers on tap, almost all $4.25, reduced to $3 for a 3-6 PM happy hour. The kitchen (many Queen Anne staffers pulling extra shifts) executes a menu they've got down pat: meatloaf sliders, chicken salad, burgers, reubens, all topping out at $9. For those who venture into the realm of full-fledged pub-food dinners, there's chicken, ribs, meatloaf, pasta, even tiger prawn scampi on a bed of linguini for $17, and a sirloin steak with bleu cheese for $20. It's probably the only spot in Belltown where you can hear someone order a rum & coke and a PBR without being laughed at.
The problem isn't whether Buckley's will be successful; that's a given. The question is what it bodes for places as disparate as Rob Roy (formerly Viceroy) directly across the street, Del Rey around the corner, Tavolata next door or La Vita è Bella in the next block. Black Bottle, three blocks away, has all the traffic it can handle, and its prices have crept into the double digits. Dinner for ten bucks is a tough, tough business, and right now Buckley's is the only game in Belltown.