Food & Drink

Bar Exam

Home Away from Home at the Roanoke

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If you love the Roanoke, the Notice of Proposed Land Use Action on the corner of its block comes as a terrible shock. But never fear: "The construction'll go to about three feet outside our house—I mean, wall," Dennis the bartender says. His slip of the tongue is an understandable one, as the 'Noke has been home away from home to many since 1980 (and before that, in various drinking-establishment incarnations, since around 1935).

On a recent night, the staff's red-and-white stockings are still hung without particular care behind the beer taps. The potbellied stove glows through the slits of its eyes; firewood is supplied by customers with downed trees or access to job-site scraps. The big heater suspended in one corner—"that hairdryer," Dennis says—stays quiet, and the place is toasty. In better weather, there's ping-pong in the backyard.

The Roanoke is also known as the Chia Pet, in honor of its exterior coat of ivy. From the inside looking out, each window has an extra frame of encroaching twigs and leaves; it's dim and friendly and worn, like a tree house with drinks and pinball. Three TVs show three kinds of sports, with related announcements and exhortations often featured on the outside reader board (interspersed with various congratulations—on birthdays, coupledom, babies—and, once in a long while, a heart-wrenchingly terse RIP). The front door bears a directive to neighborhood teams to leave muddy footwear elsewhere, and the back room has photos through the years of those teams. In the men's room: some retro, sporty, good-natured photography of the NSFW variety. In the women's: vintage Life magazine covers (Faye Dunaway, "The pocket calculator craze," etc.).

Every man on the premises save Dennis wears a ball cap, visors oriented forward. There's disgusted discussion of the proliferation of bowl games ("too fucking many of them") and the virtues or lack thereof of cement mixers (the drink, not the heavy machinery). It's entirely possible to ignore the TVs, as two women drinking beer and talking by one of the hobbity windows do.

One weekday afternoon a long time ago, I was drinking beer at the Roanoke, unemployed. I got to talking to a friend of a friend, who turned out to be one of the owners, and by the time I left I had a job as a cook in the Roanoke's tiny kitchen. I had no experience. This is the kind of thing that happens at the Roanoke. The menu seems exactly the same—sandwiches, burgers, nachos—but the food is surprisingly good. The embroidered names on the stockings are unfamiliar, but Dennis knows Tom, the barkeep way bar when. "You'll find nothing much has changed around here," he says, at our house. recommended

Roanoke Park Place, 2409 10th Ave E, 324-5882

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I used to live a block away from the Roanoke, and I still miss it. It was charming and good-natured and had really tasty burgers. Sigh...
Posted by Abby on January 7, 2009 at 3:37 PM · Report this
This is my neighborhood bar. I watched the election results there. I never thought I'd have so much affection for what is essentially a sports bar, but it's worth noting that it's the kind of sports bar frequented by people who play sports, not just people who watch sports.
Posted by flamingbanjo on January 8, 2009 at 9:09 AM · Report this
The ivy that covers the building came from my parents home in Tacoma, transplanted back in 1981. When I had an ownership, we used to bake oysters (from Mutual Fish) over that little pot bellied stove, until they popped open from the heat and then a little tabasco and butter on top. The place smelled like the beach with clams and mussells steaming on the Wolf Range (purchased used for $400). It was the first place to send back a keg of one of the first microbrew beers "Red Hook" because it smelled like bananas. We were right in doing so, but at the time Paul Shipman wasn't too happy about it. he was the delivery guy at the time. I still love going there and playing Beer Pong out the back with my office mates and clients. RPPT has a huge list of alumni...maybe a reunion is in order?
Posted by Tamara on January 8, 2009 at 9:36 AM · Report this
Happy memories from the 'Noke'. Yes, the ivy DID come from our house in Old Town Tacoma. Guess I'm puzzled as one of the comments seems to indicate that it'll be closed. Say it isn't so! That little kitchen turned out some great stuff and included our first domestic model Cuisanart. How did IT get there? When Tammy sold her share, we were able to get two art pieces before she legt: one was a lithograph of the Frisko Freeze and the other, a watermelon collage. Alas, the Freeze pic was damaged beyond restoration but the watermelon piece is still extant at Tam's Coast house.
I took several Boeing foreign airline students as well as some Aussie visitors and they all thought it was the U.S equivalent of a 'real' pub.
Ah. happy memories and if you can judge a good bar by its beery smell (and the stale cigarette smoke) this is definitely a great bar.
Hope it stays forever. Hmmm, maybe they'd let me scatter my ashes on the floor?
Boggabri Bill,
who now in the Old Pueblo where the only equivalent bar is in the Congress Hotel.
Chekitout, mate.
Posted by Boggabri Bill on January 8, 2009 at 11:06 AM · Report this
This is my neighborhood pub as well. It's the greatest little spot with great peeps and great vibes. Dennis is the greatest bartender i have ever known-kind of reminds me of how a bartender would have been back in the early 1900's. He gets it. I just randomly came across this story at work today which is ironic as I still have a slight hangover from Wednesday nite tacos and pbr's.

Mike M
Posted by strungout1 on January 8, 2009 at 3:17 PM · Report this
We own the Roanoke - thanks for the kind words. Just to be clear, NO! We are not closing! We plan to be around many more years, though the construction (if it ever happens) will surely be a challenge! Hope you'll keep on coming in!

Jeff & Chris
Posted by Jeff & Chris on January 9, 2009 at 12:24 PM · Report this
P.S. For you Facebookers, become a fan of the under pages for "Roanoke Park Place"...
Posted by Jeff & Chris on January 9, 2009 at 12:39 PM · Report this
Eep! I hope I didn't make it seem like it was closing, or had intentions to. I just live somewhere else now and can't make it over like I used to, and I miss it.
Posted by Abby on January 9, 2009 at 6:48 PM · Report this

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