What do the inhabitants of all midsize cities (Seattle, Denver, Atlanta) have in common? They have almost no resistance against the impulse to show a visitor from a big city a bar or restaurant that is (according to their estimation) just as cool, just as fancy, just as chic as the ones in the big city. I have done this. You have done this. We have all done this. Of course, the visitor caught in this sorry predicament is kind if he/she conceals his/her contempt, and unkind if he/she express it. But to be fair, you too have been in this situation. At one time or another, you visited a big city and were shown by your eager hosts a place or something that was easily enjoyed or gotten in your midsize city.

For example, in 2010, a couple of New Yorkers decided to amaze me with a new Thai restaurant that opened in their Chinatown. They insisted the experience would change my life. I tried and tried to suggest that a French or Italian restaurant might be the way to go. I even made up a sensitive stomach, one that's easily troubled by the unfamiliar spices of Asian dishes. But this is what the New Yorkers kept thinking: He is from a small city and so is scared of the exotic delights of our big city. And this is what I kept thinking (and this thinking indeed proved to be true): No Thai restaurant in the Big Apple could compete with even those on the outskirts of Seattle.

These thoughts came to me soon after I entered Bathtub Gin & Co. from a door in an alley. It was exactly the kind of place I would show to a friend from New York. Its old brick walls, its cool basement area, its creaky furniture, its high ceilings, its lamps, its wood-rich bar, its black-and-white photographs, its intimacy, its respectable selection of cocktails and wine (I had an excellent drink called a Coup D'État and a sound glass of Côtes du Rhône), its handsome and almost whispering urban types, its '90s hiphop and triphop, its dark corners—how could a person from a big city not feel right at home in a place like this? A place that's right in the middle of midsize Seattle? recommended