Food & Drink

Bar Exam

Xtreme décor at the Icon Grill

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Icon Grill stands downtown at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Virginia Street, a monument to décor in the extreme. Inside, blank wall space is nonexistent, and innumerable shelves hold globes and candy dishes and baskets and lamps, always lamps. For example, here are the contents of one small shelf at one end of the bar: two magnums of champagne (decorative), one framed photo of a bathtub with large plants growing in it (decorative), one toy truck (decorative), one ladybug rendered in glowing glass (decorative), one tall wood spool with gold things spiking out (decorative), one small tree with hundreds of tiny red berries (decorative), an unidentifiable gold thing wrapped in more gold stuff (decorative, presumably), a glass paperweight depicting a whale (decorative, as it holds down no paper), a cheese grater (functional, as used by the barman during this accounting), and two lamps (arguably functional, but with so many others literally everywhere, arguably not).

In an informal lamp count conducted at a table in the bar, two out of three guests counted 74 (one of those two sat up and then saw five more lamps), while the third reported 86 (this person was counting some lamps reflected in the ubiquitous mirrors). The lamps at Icon Grill often have red or pink bulbs, and the ceiling is nearly deep purple, rendering the whole place a sort of Victorian-brothel mauve. Walnut-ish woodwork and tables of rosy marble reinforce the impression of another era, an era in which décor necessarily involved an assault on the eyeballs.

The line between décor of the quotidian variety and decoration of the holiday variety here is a porous one. Large glass sculptures resembling hard candies, some striped and some spotted, are always present, suspended from various points in netting. (They were made by "Chihuly's assistant," says a host.) The plaid carpet, likewise, though Xmassy, is year-round. The lamps, which are permanent and then some, have apparently spawned; the smaller offspring have made advances on the seasonal Xmas trees, scaling them and creating illuminated encampments among the approximately one billion shiny Xmas balls. The trees themselves are nine in number, large, and forward, fondling diners at certain tables with their branches. Railings are green-garlanded, and everything's got the living daylights beribboned out of it. These halls are, by god, decked.

It's a level of holiday cheer that's practically toxic. Wise people will come in for the lounge's happy hour (Mon–Fri 4–6 pm and Sun–Thurs 10–11 pm) and blur it all a bit with drink specials. And note, per the marquee: "NAUGHTY OR NICE / Santa's here 4you!"—in particular, at brunch on December 23 and 24. He comes in around 11:00 a.m., usually hung-over, according to a smiling employee.

The Icon Grill is closed on the 25th, but for your pre-, post-, or anti-festivity pleasure, these standbys are open on Xmas: the Mecca, the 5-Point, Linda's, Liberty, the Eastlake Zoo, King's Hardware, and the redoubtable Baranof.

bethany@thestranger.com

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