On Saturday night, there is dancing at La Puerta. The server—kindness embodied—says the music is Latin, hiphop, and reggaeton. Her clear implication is that it's unfortunate that it's not Saturday night right now, instead of a less-than-festive Thursday happy hour. La Puerta is dead as a doornail and twice as quiet, with no music at all. One lone man in a checkered cap sits and reads at the bar, while the television softly advertises a facelift-in-a-jar called Botulex in Spanish. The Botulex spokesmodels, smiling tautly, are the happiest people in the room, and they're not even here.
But where is "here"? La Puerta means The Door. La Puerta's prior location, some blocks away on the corner of 10th Avenue and Pike Street—now the home of Quinn's, Seattle's first gastropub—had a door, plain and simple, that went from sidewalk to interior, as a door is meant to do. Now that La Puerta has moved to the Broadway Market, entry is gained through the pneumatic portals of the world's most confusing grocery store or down a diagonal hallway past a purveyor of gumballs. Then it's the stairs or a glass elevator to the second floor. La Puerta itself doesn't have a door per se: It's a suggestion of a room, made by way of tiled half-walls capped with faux-outdoor lanterns and Plexiglas panels of uncertain purpose. (To guard against the sneezes of the rare passersby? To prevent patrons from climbing out?) When inside La Puerta, the mind wants to believe—to fill in the walls with Mexican bougainvillea and the Pacific lapping at white sand as in a Corona commercial—but the eyes see the entrance to Gold's Gym and a place called Massage Envy, and the brain is plagued by unpleasant abstractions.
There is one proper door, a glass one to the narrow outdoor deck, where plastic tables wet with rain and deflated rainbow-patterned sun umbrellas wait for summer under the eyeball of the Broadway Market clock. Inside, brightly colored wooden chairs—carved with calla lilies, parrots, cacti, and so forth—stand around striving for cheer as the room grows dim. A piece of art depicts the sun and moon creepily cozied up together with lascivious looks on their faces. It's unnatural. They should get a room.
Five-dollar happy-hour margaritas are of the extremely sweet variety, best consumed blended, like an alcoholic Slurpee. Happy-hour snacks are nonexistent. An order of nachos ($9.20) has unmelted squiggles of yellow and white cheese just beneath the surface, while the ground beef precipitates burnt-orange grease down to the plate, where it subsumes the bottom layer of chips. Some tables over by the nonwalls eventually fill with diners here for taco salads or combination plates. Still, it sure is quiet in here.
La Puerta, 401 Broadway E, 324-6211.