It's Sunday evening at the Mirabeau Room in Lower Queen Anne. It isn't very crowded—yet—but the few people propped on barstools are unusually, irreparably drunk. A woman shouts in my general direction, and it emerges that she's making a request: "CHEWING GUM?!" The jukebox is a little loud, and she's a lot inebriated. "NO, SORRY!" I scream back. She and her male companion proceed to make out briefly, then she dispatches him into the rainy, dark, horrible night, presumably for gum, while she orders another round of cosmopolitans.
The drinks look pretty, pink, and poisonous. The room is dim—black banquettes, a candle on each low table, burnished dark wallpaper—and the cylindrical retro lights hanging over the bar make a series of glowing spotlights for the action. The Mirabeau makes people, even really drunk people on the day of our Lord, look great. The place is known for hosting political events—the 2004 election night party featured an array of Seattle luminaries weeping together—as well as Bollywood nights, bachelorette parties, and a spectrum of patrons ranging from hipsters to yuppies to old-school regulars from the days when the place was the piano bar Sorry Charlie's. Ivory tickler/local legend Howard Bulson still entertains during weekday happy hours, but right now the only show is unhinged, impromptu improv.
The snacks are good. The spinach and artichoke dip is indeed "Baked and Delicious" as promised by the menu, a wedge of iceberg lettuce is inundated with an appropriate amount of blue-cheese dressing, and the fried calamari's grease quotient is so low that you can pretend it's health food. The male companion returns triumphant from his gum mission and wonders loudly what time it is. "It's like seven," answers his paramour. "REALLY?" he bellows. "It feels like midnight!" It's actually 8:22. Meanwhile, the only other person at the bar has drifted off into a slumped-over slumber. When awakened by the gum chewer, his response to being reintroduced to the world is to give it the finger.
An inordinate quantity of people begins flooding in around nine. The doorman, newly installed on the club side of the premises, says Sunday's an all-female soul vocalists night, only in its third week but "excellent." Judging from the turnout, he's likely right; either that or Sunday night is the new Friday night.
It seems wise to stop by the Hideout on the way home for a quiet nightcap. On the sidewalk in front of the velvet-curtained windows, I predict out loud that it'll be empty. The door swings open and, surreally, a full-on jazz club is revealed. Every seat is occupied except, fortuitously, a couple spots at the bar, and the John Alton Trio is wedged into one corner emitting smoky tenor sax. The bartender is making a round of cosmopolitans.
Happy hour at the Mirabeau (529 Queen Anne Ave N, 217-2800) is every day from 4-7:30 pm. The Hideout (1005 Boren Ave, 903-8480) will feature the John Alton Trio the first Sunday of every month henceforth