The matronly lady at the Bohemian seems piqued. Can she help us? she inquires pointedly, heading us off near the bar. Her glasses are gold-tone with deluxe ornamentation at the temples; her bangs are prodigiously puffy; she's got disapproving great-aunt down pat. A little stammering softens her, and she offers a choice of tables: the one by the piano or "the cute one by the window." The one by the piano blocks any potential piano-players entirely; it's in a stretch of the room with a lot of bare floor and an island of one Oriental carpet, upon which it is marooned. Also, while the Bohemian's light fixtures are reproduction period pieces—amber upside-down bowls with scalloped detail—other bulbs provide extra illumination, and one is trained on this table in the manner of an interrogation.
The-cute-one-by-the-window has a view of the entire long room, including a slender wrought-iron table facing the door. On it: an ornate frame holding the calligraphied instruction "Please wait to be seated." Hence the matronly pique. (Also calligraphied: an admonishment in the bathroom to "Please wash your hands with soap and hot water!") In the defense of buffoons who fail to wait to be seated, the sign is small, and the Bohemian looks like a cafe with a bar in the back, which, during the day, it is. Augmenting this impression: a highly egalitarian collection of art, including an exploration of abstract floral themes in a vivid aquamarine palette and multiple canvases overlapping assemblage-style (known according to their labels as Jetscapes®).
The Bohemian is brand new in West Seattle, and it feels like a stage set: freshly applied wainscoting, beams that don't appear to support anything with brackets that don't appear to support the beams, the odd lighting and obstructed piano. The candles in the candelabra atop the piano have never been lit. But if the art nouveau ambitions are achieved only obliquely, the potted palms are pleasing, as are the cut-glass decanters and cocktail shakers lined up above the liquor bottles. Most pleasing of all: multiple choices of wine-by-the-glass for $4 or $5. (That a number of these were apparently chosen by name—Bohemian Highway, a California vineyard—is suspect, but at least they're inexpensive.) Most popular on the Bohemian's menu: the raclette, a little cast-iron pan of cheese melted in the European fashion over potatoes and sausage, or veggies and bacon, or ham and etc. It's hard to go wrong with melted cheese, but the "artisan" breads provided include tragically squishy baguette slices and what appear to be prepackaged store-bought wheat rolls.
The Bohemian also lacks a beer selection befitting its namesake. But if it's beer you want, opening soon right next door is an outpost of Seattle's German pub Prost!.