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"This is the best bar ever," someone said. The bar in question was the Tin Hat, in Ballard; the person in question had never been there before. Hyperbole, yes, and in fact the issuer of this sweeping statement had just been observed smoking marijuana prior to entering the premises.
"Why is this the best bar ever?" I asked.
"It just is," came the reply, seemingly an empty assertion. No elaboration followed. But maybe this stoner had unwittingly hit on something. Taken not as an inadequate answer to a sensible question, but as a philosophical truth, it may indeed express what is so very right about the Tin Hat. It merely exists. It has no theme; it sets out to do nothing; it is unfreighted with pretension of any sort; it is neither large nor small, nice nor icky. It is not a dive. It is just a neighborhood bar. Granted, the neighbors are younger than they used to be, and yes, DJs spin records (on this night, a mix of garage, '60s soul, and punk rock), but mostly, it just is, achieving the status of platonic ideal for a certain type of barness.
Little did the stoner know what awaited him in the form of a snack. The Flatliner ($5.25) comes in a plastic basket lined with a piece of waxed paper slowly losing its opacity under an assault of grease. The basket contains cheese fries topped with bacon, green onion, and diced tomatoes, sided with a little plastic cup of sour cream. Gravy is available for an additional quarter; the menu describes this option as for those who have a death wish. But who would not rush into the arms of death if death consisted of French fries, cheese, and bacon bits covered in gravy? The gravy, clearly an imperative, also dwelt in a little plastic cup prior to being unceremoniously dumped over the fries.
The fries were slightly al dente, but this proved immaterial given the sheer amount of stuff gilding the proverbial lily. The movie Grease played silently on the television in one corner. Five people shared one order of the Flatliner, and this dosage seemed appropriate should one want to continue to exist. Comments included:
"My heart is literally racing, but it might be with joy."
"I'd raise my children on it."
"It makes you feel like you can drink more—a lot more."
One among the party leveled the accusation that the gravy was from a powder or a jar and claimed to be upset by this. Another thought that the gravy was truly a thing of joy and expressed that it should be at least twice as plentiful.
The stoner was moved to say, simply, "I am enjoying everything."
At the Tin Hat (512 NW 65th, 782-2770) hot dogs are always $1. Pinball is free on Mondays.