Food & Drink

Bar Exam

Talk Like a Pirate Day at the Jolly Roger Taproom

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Although it's Talk Like a Pirate Day, everyone seems to be speaking normally at the Jolly Roger Taproom. The piratical is represented by homemade flags (including a skull and crossbones wearing a Santa hat) and a large-scale treasure map painted on the floor (with topographical features named after employees and Ballard landmarks). Talk Like a Pirate Day started as a joke between two guys in Albany, Oregon, in 1995, then spread fairly far and moderately wide on the sea of the internet. Albany is landlocked, while the Jolly Roger is home-away-from-home to actual seamen—local shipyard workers, sailors of small craft moored nearby. (Women are not numerous here.)

The only pirate argot in evidence is on signs alerting patrons—"Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Avast, me buckos"—that the following day is the last "for quenching yer thirst at the Old Jolly Roger!" After 12 years in one location, the brewpub (along with its family-owned brewery, the Maritime Pacific Brewing Company) is moving one block south and three blocks east to roomier quarters, reopening in about a month. No one seems unduly sentimental. The server has worked here only since May: "People keep talking about the end of an era," she says with a shrug. A regular named Jim says, deadpan, "I'm sad. I'm gonna cry." He'll be found anchoring the bar at the new space; he's been on a preview tour and says it looks great. In the Jolly-Roger-free interim, he says, "I may lose 10 pounds!"

Every chair is full, and those waiting for seats eddy near the entrance, standing around and drinking. "Polygamy Porter," reads one gentleman's T-shirt: "Why have just one?" Occasional single fellows come in to fill up their growlers (take-out beer jugs—though on the high seas, a growler is the kind of enormous wave that can swamp your ship and land you sleeping with the octopuses). A sailor tells an improbable tale of finding a treasure map in a bottle on Whidbey Island, then almost (of course, almost) finding the treasure, and, in the meantime, encountering a frightening man with a hook for a hand. Incredulous protests ensue; he swears up and down it's true.

Due to the move, they're out of a number of beers, but the Old Seattle Lager is crisp and bright, while the cask-conditioned ale is so skunkily alive, you feel you'd better drink it before it gets any ideas. Beer this good tastes like it's good for you. It also functions perfectly as a foil for fried food, and the Jolly Roger is known for its towering platters of beer-battered, oversize onion rings ($4.95), mini oyster po'boys (three for $6.95), and fried pickles ($3.25). Almost every table has several stacks of golden deliciousness, and everybody's pretty damn jolly.

Jolly Roger Taproom, coming soon to 1111 NW Ballard Way, 782-6181

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