I'm somewhat obsessed with the bar at Waterfront Seafood Grill. It's fantastic. The bar itself is sinuous and underlit with slowly changing color. It's padded along the edge (edges, in general, are absent at Waterfront). It's inordinately long, anchored on one end by a monumental wall of ice imbedded with perfect-looking lobsters and their friends. Live piano music shifts slyly from jazz standards to Muzak-style Led Zeppelin. The sun sets. There's an improbable view of the Space Needle, alarmingly close.
Waterfront's bartenders are so suave, they seem to be of another era; they make you feel invincible, intelligent, deserving. Businessmen hit on you obliquely; they are easily rebuffed. This is probably what it feels like to be a Republican—smug, buffered, with a flawless drink in front of you. Whoever would deny you this clearly hates freedom.
I dined here properly once, marooned at a table in the sea of a dining room. The presence of money was manifest, as tuxedoed waiters with Love Boat-style gold nautical braid at their wrists ferried out glasses of booze so expensive it's kept in a glass case under lock and key. Everything about that dinner was all wrong—fish was freezing cold in the middle or tragically overcooked, another dish was forgotten—so much so that they ended up comping the entrées.
At the bar, everything's always all right. The cry of your pocketbook is only a muffled one, and you're only stranded there for three hours if you choose to be. I like to construct a little surf and turf from Waterfront's bar menu: oysters Stella ($7)—creamy and cool and briny underneath, crumbly and warm and savory on top, presented on a bed of sparkly rock salt—and steak frites ($14). Waterfront's owned by the El Gaucho people, so they know their beef; here, slices sit on top of fries in a bowl angled such that it all appears to be looking at you invitingly. Frites of the classic French stripe, skinny and crisp, are better, but these hot planks are perfectly salted, and the little dish of ketchup lodged among them sure is cute.
I like things to be set on fire at restaurants, so I stray to the dinner menu sometimes for the spinach salad ($12.95). This involves the wheeling out of a cart with a Sterno burner and an enormous wooden salad bowl; if you're me, you'll turn around all the way on your cushy barstool and oversee the proceedings with barely contained glee. First mushrooms and piquillo peppers are sautéed, then ﬂambéed with Napoleon brandy; then three big prawns meet the same fate; then it's all tossed with spinach leaves, bacon, Gorgonzola, and Spanish almonds, precisely plated, and set in front of you. It beats the hell out of dinner and a show anywhere else.
Waterfront is at Pier 70, 2801 Alaskan Way, 956-9171. The bar is open until midnight.