It is a dark and stormy night. A dog with a big head is coming out of the White Horse Trading Company; this tiny pub on Post Alley is the kind of place where dogs with big heads are welcomed, health code be damned. Inside, a staggering amount of stuff is stuck to the walls and suspended from the low ceiling—a saddle, boxing gloves, big golden keys, lanterns, many a portrait of a handsome horse in profile, at least three birdcages, a Thom Jones poster. Of particular interest are 10 hanging silver pails (what, if anything, is in them?) and a number of artificial roses lodged in the complex grid of wiring that crisscrosses the ceiling (why?).

"We keep it simple," says Joe the barkeep. He speaks not of the décor but the beverage selection: four bottled beers, one kind of hard cider, and a wine list (verbal only) that goes unexplored but presumably is modest in scope. This is so simple as to be bizarre, but Joe's distilled good nature makes you want to dwell unquestioningly in his weird little world. The Fraoch ale—brewed with Scottish malt and heather, 8 percent alcohol, "Scotland's native beer... since 2000 B.C."—is flowery smelling but pleasantly dry. It goes terribly with the peanut M&M's Joe brings as I am enveloped helplessly into a springless brown vinyl couch. He also brings a candle.

I'd heard that the White Horse Trading Company had a fireplace, which is not the case. This turns out to be immaterial, as the level of coziness and conviviality at the White Horse is already so high, a fireplace might make your heart explode. Aside from the comfy British hodgepodge, there are lots of books—on shelves, wedged into the ceiling wiring, supporting one corner of a brown vinyl wingback chair. The regulars are busy being cozy (one man naps in an easy chair) and convivial (a woman at the minuscule bar explains she's giving two gifts a week throughout 2006—"I am so happy giving presents," she says). The radio plays KPLU, with jazz and news and ads for Car Talk all at the same volume. A table is made of a door atop some barrels, as is the bar. Everyone knows Joe's name. As soon as he dims the lights a little, accessing the switches by pulling up a painting like a trap door, it's stage-set perfect.

Of course, all the old-fashionedness and Britishness is staged; a sign says "Established 1996," and that was the White Horse's first location. Joe is overheard saying he printed some of the handsome horse portraits from the internet, and the network of wires overhead is from track lighting when the space was a gallery. Joe, fittingly, has the quality of familiarity even if you've never met him. It's a little eerie if you think about it, and just good if you don't.

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The White Horse Trading Company is located at 1908 Post Alley, 441-7767.

bethany@thestranger.com