Loretta's in South Park is named after the owner's mother. He's here sitting at the bar, and when the bartender gets a little busy, he takes orders, too. He also owns Georgetown's 9 Lb. Hammer; the two places both feel like they've been around forever, even though they haven't. Loretta's is nearly brand-new, but it's comfortable to a degree that could be hazardous to your liver's health if you lived nearby. The word that keeps getting applied to Loretta's: cozy. It's true: It's cozy like crazy, with its low, dark-planked ceiling, dim old light fixtures, wood-burl clocks, and record player in the corner. Drinking at Loretta's is like drinking in a cabin in the woods, or maybe inside a wooden cigar box. When summer comes, a back deck that's as big as the entire interior will be open, with its own bar and Airstream trailer.
Loretta's has also been called a steak house, which seems like a bit of an overstatement. You can get a steak—in fact, you can get exactly two steaks, a "tavern steak" for $13 or a rib eye for $18. The tavern steak is a chunk of meat with a small heap of French fries on a plain white plate; it looks like a drawing of food from a book called The Illustrated Workingman's Supper. The steak is good, and so are the fries, and that's about all there is to say about that. The rest of the menu is an exercise in brevity—burgers, a couple sandwiches, salad with or without meat or salmon. Skip the pork-tenderloin sandwich ($6) unless what you're picturing is a breaded-and-fried pork-patty type of affair.
Loretta's used to be a dive called Kelly's. Other South Park nightlife: the County Line, infamous among neighbors who grouse about "suspicious" activity in its parking lot. (According to South Park lore, a vagary of cartography landed part of the County Line's property outside Seattle city limits; depending on whether the SPD or the county sheriff showed up, carriers-out of suspicious activity would just walk from one side to the other.) Another bar, appended to Mexican restaurant Juan Colorado, has not been disposed to welcoming outsiders. People at Loretta's are pretty happy about Loretta's.
The guy at the next table knows something about the magically shimmering sky-blue waters of the vintage Hamm's beer sign that hangs behind the bar. No, it's not how the water is made to appear to ripple and flow; that is a mystery for the ages. It's how the artist creating the panoramic natural idyll depicted on the sign became disgruntled and inserted a message to Hamm's: "a little eff-you," he says with unexpected delicacy. Some guy showed it to him once; it's near the campfire. You have to look really carefully.
Loretta's, 8617 14th Ave S, 327-9649.