The new incarnation of the Twilight Exit is not as full of ugly couches as the old one. The hanging colored orb light fixtures, however, seem to have multiplied in the move across the street, and the '70s décor of the original location was not lost along the way, either. Things to be found here: a motocross trophy, a flagstone wall, a huge wall-hanging of a golden-tone beach at sunset, a dried blowfish, a depiction of a grandfather clock rendered in shaggy yarn, a lamé mannequin body with an umbrella around her neck. The Twilight is still the perfect place to sing Pat Benatar at its justly famous Sunday night karaoke.
The Twilight is now also the perfect place to sit in a booth eating fried chicken while looking through a tinted window at a lady of the evening with "bebe" spelled across her posterior in rhinestones. Despite the advent of an enormous Safeway topped with several hundred thousand hideous condo units, the gentrification and densification of the 20th Avenue and Madison Street interchange is not yet complete. The scene outside this window—a streetscape of furtive and not-so-furtive activity, the boarded-up windows of Deano's, the lonely Firestone shop—remains unchanged. The placement of the booth invites voyeurism onto a part of Seattle that the city itself ignores, where economics are forcing the issue.
The Twilight moved this past summer to make room for yet more condos destined to occupy its former grounds; the new bar is at the former location of Oscar's II. The space is expansive, with different levels and areas and counters; a central raised platform corrals the few transplanted ugly couches, creating what's clearly the best place to sit. If the old Twilight had any snacks, no one knew about it; now there's a full kitchen turning out some amazingly good food.
The chef, named Ryan Puls, is originally from Nebraska, where his dad owned a restaurant. He wears a sumo-style band around his forehead and is entirely amiable. When asked about the quality of his fried chicken, he answers with Midwestern modesty that it's pretty good, meaning that in reality it's great—crispy skin full of savory flavor, moist meat, the right amount of grease. When his menu promises chicken wings "just like Oscar's," it's believable. The burgers are excellent, with fat, home-style patties of lean beef and extras like bourbony onions. And the club sandwich is a miracle—smoky turkey and superior ham thin-sliced to order, with peppery bacon.
The clientele at the old Twilight was pretty much just white hipster kids, but now in the early evening black people and white people sit at the bar and eat dinner or play pool. It feels like a neighborhood place, somehow, in a neighborhood that doesn't even know what it is.
The Twilight Exit is now located at 2051 E Madison St (324-7462). The kitchen's open until 11 pm weekdays and midnight on weekends.