I have a weird obsession with anchovies. Ever since I’ve been a little kid, I’ve loved them. Indeed, my mother puts a tin of them in my stocking every Christmas, and I eat the whole tin while everyone else snacks on cinnamon rolls—a tradition that predates my being diagnosed with diabetes. It’s all about a fascination with those small, oily fishes.
As an adult, I discovered the magic of boquerones, or white anchovies, the bulkier, less briny cousins to those tiny brown filets we all know and some of us love. I've paid DeLaurenti’s lavish price for them more times than I’d care to admit.
So while it might seem crazy to pay $13 for Jarr Bar's anchovies and piquillo peppers, a dish that is precisely three anchovies arranged atop three slabs of pepper, I'm always happy to. My own obsession with anchovies aside, I really do think you're getting your money's worth with this dish.
While it’s true that you could buy an entire packet of boquerones at DeLaurenti's for your $13, if you're willing to compromise on quantity you get to eat your oily fish in an intimate, well-appointed bar with friendly service. You get to enjoy it on lovely stoneware and cute little cutting boards. Better still, you get to do it at almost any hour of the night you please.
Indeed, after skateboarding my entire evening away, I recently found myself next to Pike Place and in need of a snack and a nightcap. It was nearly midnight. El Borracho, a favorite for restaurant industry workers looking to eat after they’re off, was just closing up, and I didn’t feel like navigating the always crowded bar at Il Bistro. Jarr, however, felt just right, and it was.
Jarr has a late night happy hour (10pm-2am)—a welcome mat for weary industry folk—and it’s a good one. Indeed, besides a solitary tourist in search of the Highway 99 Blues Club, I was perhaps the only person at Jarr that night who isn't currently working at a bar. That’s always a good sign.
I ordered my fancy anchovies and peppers, which weren’t on the happy hour menu, but I was also thrilled to get a $2 ramekin of Marcona almonds and an ample helping of cured Spanish meats for $6. And as incongruous as this might sound, nothing caps off an exhausting skate session like bubbly, and a nice glass of bubbly is just $6 during Jarr's late-night happy hour.
My splurge plate, the anchovies, was a delight. Technically, it is supposed to be served with oil-cured anchovies, which I was assured are much better by my bartender, Jesse. Regardless, I was happy to have boquerones. They came wrapped in wonderfully unctuous peppers, and each of those three bites was one of those moments where the world slows down and you find yourself fully, viscerally present in the flavors you’re experiencing. At that hour, the environment is fairly conducive to losing yourself in the moment, too. I had one of their two tables to myself, free to alternate between reading, savoring my fish, and eavesdropping on the juicy bartender gossip going on around me.
While it was nice to hear what bar people think of super-buzzy Neon Boots, it was nicer still to be reminded of what it’s like to get off work, have a few drinks, and talk a little shit.
I often wondered, when I first started working in restaurants, why industry people spent so much money at other restaurants. Why didn't they just scarf down the "family meal" served to the staff, go home, and not be in a restaurant for a while? Then, after doing the work myself and realizing how emotionally exhausting it is, I soon learned that the best antidote to the emotional exhaustion of serving others is being waited on yourself. Plopping down in a bar stool, having a drink, and ordering up your own fancy snacks restores the bit of the human dignity you’ve ceded kowtowing to self-styled big shots and dodging dietary restrictions for eight hours.
The best late-night bartenders know this. Jesse seemed to be hosting a party more than tending bar—and he was quite the host. Whether he was hearing out his friend’s Neon Boots rant, sitting down to next to his buddies at the other table for a bit of banter, or stopping by my table to make informed chit-chat about the book I was reading, he did it all masterfully. I don’t miss working closing shifts at Hooverville, as SoDo is an exceptionally bleak place to be at 3 am, but goddamn if I’m not grateful to Jesse and the other men and women who work them all over town.