Gary Merlino's occupying army spent weeks wreaking havoc on Belltown, showing no mercy as the city's dark lord dispatched his ungodly machines into every square foot of Second Avenue. Now the filthy, fire-breathing trucks have moved further south, leaving behind a fresh patina of black tar to remind us that urban living is under constant threat from Those Who Would Pave Paradise.
Like spring flowers or fall mushrooms, some unlikely signs of life follow this apocalypse: watering holes of unusual aspect whose patrons seem like thirsty refugees from some distant, unreported conflict. How else are we to explain a nightclub named Vela Pizzeria, which has yet to serve a real pizza, let alone activate its website menu, in the basement space of the Labor Temple most recently vacated by Mira? And how else to explain the Copper Cart Café, not a café at all but yet another nightclub-cum-pool hall, on the order of Belltown Billiards (and complete with bullets, even)? And how else to explain Broad Street Pizza & Pasta, rising from the ashes of Cucina De Ra (actually not on Second but not new either, though with the same owner rebranding and downshifting from fine dining).
Where Saito once wielded his sushi knife, V Noodle Bar now lights the block between Blanchard and Lenora. It's two bars, actually, plus a kitchen that turns out a perfectly respectable bowl of rice noodles, topped with a giant piece of bone-in chicken and a similarly sized battered shrimp. For $9 at midnight, not a bad deal.
The most curious find is also the most obscure, a speakeasy in the alley between Second and First, known as Bathtub Gin & Co., (no website; that would spoil it) with a tiny upstairs bar and downstairs lounge. Two dozen brands of gin on offer, with Bellringer as the house pour. We might have preferred a bit less of it and a bit more Campari in our $9 Negroni, but we made do.
V Bar & Noodle Lounge, 2122 2nd Avenue, 206-441-8227
Copper Cart Cafe, 113 Bell Street, 206-239-0830
Bathtub Gin & Co., 2205 2nd Avenue, 206-728-6069
Broad St. Pizza & Pasta, 2807 Western Ave. 206-728-9600
The International Kitchen
Cooking school vacations in Italy, France & Spain.