November 10, 2009

Double Vodka Rocks: New Owners for the 5 Point

5%20Point.JPG Back%20bar%20at%205%20Point.JPG Meatloaf%20san%20at%205%20Point.JPG

This seems to be a back-to-the-future moment of confluence, when the forces of history, music and government converge into a meatloaf sandwich time machine. It is a triumph of the old gang, the long-haired grungers over the well-coiffed anchors and well-pressed suits. Concert promoter Dave Meinert (Cap Hill Block Party, One Reel, Blue Scholars, The Presidents) and his girlfriend Mandy Park (longtime waitress at the 5 Point Café) have taken over Belltown's longest-running dive bar. The announcement came from music-PR gal Kerri Harrop, who's also tied in with Neumos (and the whole Mike McConnell music-pizza-coffee organization; Caffe Vita will now supply 5 Point customers with bottomless cups of java). Meinert, whose bands perform regularly at Neumos and who also ran the old Mirabeau Room on Lower Queen Anne, was an early and enthusiastic supporter of both Dow Constantine and Mike McGinn.

All this ties to a new-found fondness for authentic dive bars and their raison d'être, the stiff drink. And what's more authentic than a joint that announces in neon that they cheat drunks and tourists? Don't even think about Disneyfication! "We’re re-upholstering some worn out booths," Park admits. "The whole joint has received a good scrubbing, but, other than that, the song remains the same." Same as it was almost 80 years ago, when Preston Smith opened the place, under the gaze of the Chief Sealth statue, in 1929, and sold it to his son, Dick, in 1975.

"Dick Smith was one of those characters you just don’t find anymore, along the lines of restaurateur Ivar Haglund or politician Charlie Chong," Park recalls. "He was outspoken, political, and had a wicked sense of humor."

Says Meinert: "Dick knew how to capture attention, and was a real rabble-rouser. Without him, I probably wouldn’t have met Mandy, so I owe him a lot." Park began working for Smith in late 1996, as a server at the 5 Point. It was there that she met Meinert, while on shift. The couple recently celebrated 11 years together; their first child is due in December.

Smith's tongue-in-cheek marketing slogans are part of the 5 Point's dive bar appeal. Bartenders are outfitted in t-shirts bearing the tagline "Alcoholics Serving Alcoholics Since 1929."

"The last thing we want to do is screw up the menu, or ruin the classic appeal of the 5 Point," Park says. The chicken fried steak will still weigh in at 11 ounces ("the biggest in Seattle"), the meatloaf sandwich is 9 bucks, and breakfast is available 24 hours a day.

On the other hand, there are now a handful of vegetarian offerings, along with an old-time favorite, Liver and Onions, which is now listed near the "Green Cat" Curry Tofu Scramble. A Senior Citizens discount will launch with the new menu, and cocktails will remain generous in their portion. "We call them family-sized," Park laughed.

The 5 Point will officially celebrate its 80th anniversary in December, with a party that's slated to include 10-cent beers and 30-cent Blue Plate Specials. And that meatloaf san (on white, with mashed potatoes & gravy and pickle slices) was just fine.

5 Point Café, 415 Cedar St., Seattle, 206-448-9993    Five Point Cafe on Urbanspoon

Posted by Ronald Holden at November 10, 2009 2:35 PM | TrackBack

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