The owl on the sign for the 13 Coins' Night Owl Lounge has a funny look on his face. Is he half-asleep? Is he drunk? Is he cranky about having to wear a bow tie and carry a miniature version of the city of Seattle on a tray?
And: Is the sign itself, on Denny Way and Fairview Avenue, new? The owl and the font spelling out the name of his bar appear to be classic 13 Coins, which opened in 1967 and has been resolutely stuck in time ever since. Stuck, that is, except for the prices: 13 Coins serves old-school American food 24 hours a day, with bacon and eggs costing $12.95 and daily specials going up to $26.95. The restaurant is famous for its seating—the row of high-backed cushy swivel chairs at the long counter and the booths with their cushy walls. Sitting at the counter is sort of like piloting a '70s spaceship. The booths are like good versions of padded cells, dark leather ones that you're committed to voluntarily.
The Night Owl Lounge, the barman reports, has always been there, but it got a renovation recently along with the entire place. (The sign on Denny is new.) What was it like before? "Kind of dirty and run-down," he says. "It's a lot prettier." It is pretty, in a shiny-dark-wood-and-leather way. The button-tufted upholstery of the banquettes goes halfway up the wall, dwarfing those sitting there; if the whole thing reclined, it'd be like a quilted, velour mattress, perfect for a nap after a martini. The rows of liquor behind the bar are intensely, enticingly amber-lit, with a green bottle of Midori looking like the only bad idea. A glassed-in gas fireplace fights for attention with a flat-screen TV directly above it: the only bad idea in the remodel of the room, which is notable for not being noteworthy. It looks like it's been here forever, and it's all soothing and dim and feels better than fine.
What's not better than fine: According to the P-I, employees lost their inexpensive medical benefits when 13 Coins was sold in 2006. This Christmastime, a group of them wearing Santa hats sang a version of "Jingle Bells" to 13 Coins investor and former Sonics coach Lenny Wilkens. Their new lyrics asked for their benefits back. This did not work. (13 Coins management declined to comment for this column.)
The employees at the Night Owl wear bow ties but are awake, sober, and of calm good cheer. With or without health care, they are serious about their work. "Oh my God, where did all the Chivas go?" one of them is heard to quietly exclaim.
The Night Owl Lounge at 13 Coins, 125 Boren Ave N, 682-2513.