The Story Behind West Seattle's Shadowland
A guy at the next table at Shadowland leans over: Is that the Smokey martini? How is it? It tastes like what it is, which is 15-year Glenlivet scotch diluted in Absolut vodka with an orange twist. This guy seems to recognize that it may be a bad idea. Nonetheless, he's "feeling adventurous," he says: "We'll commiserate later." (His post-drink report: "One is enough.")
Ordering a questionable $9 cocktail is about as adventurous as it gets at West Seattle's newest lounge. Shadowland is entirely pleasant, but it's contemporary with quotation marks around it, like the product of a roster of binary bar-decor choices. Clean lines: on. Dark color scheme: on. High ceiling with exposed ductwork: on (really on, considering the four vents protruding down into the middle of the room, looking poised to vacuum the hair off your head). Cylindrical light fixtures in a row above the bar: on. Flat-screen TVs: on times two, beaming basketball (which two guys watch, slack-faced, while everyone else is conditioned to ignore the brightest, movingest spots in the room). The sole oddity: a dimpled little white vase on each table holding yellow daisies with purple accent sprigs, as if the West Seattle of yesteryear hobbled across the street from the doomed Hallmark shop and said, "This place needs some cheering up!"
On the cocktail list, the Smokey is joined by the usual favorites and slight variations thereof (a tangerine cosmopolitan, a Prosecco mojito, something called a Farmer tini). In the comestibles department, the late-night menu of upscale comfort food is on (quality: uneven). Mac and cheese is made with "New York cheedar, macaroni, love," the latter apparently consisting of butter and cream (a dash of Tabasco, some dry mustard, or even just pepper in the sauce would give love a needed kick in its obviously ample behind). A small Wagyu cheeseburger is nicely medium-rare on a firm and fresh ciabatta roll, with fine fries of the skinny-crispy variety. Prawns are a little chewy and dry. Beef ribs come with an outstanding creamy red-skinned potato salad with parsnip chunks, but their "cola demi-glaze" is merely sticky. Everything's $6 to $8 at happy hour: worth it for a snack or two, vexing if allowed to add up.
The server is unfailingly nice, timely, and appropriate. The story behind the name Shadowland is provided: It's a biography of Frances Farmer, the West Seattle native and classic beauty who became a 1930s movie star. (She's also a legend of tragedy: Highly intelligent, she was demonized as an atheist/Communist, suffered from alcoholism/mental illness, may have received a lobotomy at Western State Hospital, made a comeback, and faltered again.) The owners of Shadowland are big fans. There's a photo of Farmer relegated to the kitchen; they don't think it goes with Shadowland's aesthetic.
Shadowland, 4458 California Ave SW, 420-3817.