Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Terrible Beauty

I don't write much about my writers' group, the Alliterates, except, of course, to brag about our recent triumphs. It is not that we are a secret society or anything, bent on world domination, but that we do enforce a polite zone of silence on our discussions. Let me lift the lid, however, on one thing about the group.

We are bar-killers. At least, the west coast team is. While the midwesterners have had a very good run at their local bar, we have gone through taverns at relatively quick rate. In one case, we have closed the same bar between four and six times (sometimes it would reopen with new owners but the same name).

The bar in question is located in downtown Renton,201 Williams Ave S. (here's the map for it under a previous name) and should by all intents and purposes be a hands-down success. The location is on the edge of where the town proper meets residential, there is ample parking, and it is situated on the haunches of the new urban townhouses that have been a part of "Rising Renton". The building is a former bank with a drive-in window and high ceilings and the original vault.

The structure had become the Cedar River Brewpub by the time our merry band first arrived, the old lobby dominated by silver tanks. With its demise, it was vacant, then replaced with The Giant's Causeway, its first Irish incarnation, which replaced the tanks with a beautiful bar supposed hauled over from the old country, keeping local and Dublin time. After that it was an Irish-lite pub called Finnegans (perhaps a couple incarnations of this) with a lot more flatscreens showing sports.

And now, in a quick turnaround where one of the former bartenders has bought the joint, it is now A Terrible Beauty.

The name itself comes from a favorite book belonging to the new owner Ireland: A Terrible Beauty, coupled with a chance remark from a friend. And it originally comes from a poem by Yeats, commemorating the 1916 Easter Dublin Uprising:

Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

(Add one more piece of fate as the color green belongs now to another uprising, half a world away from Ireland).

The bar itself is greatly improved in its latest incarnation. It has 75% fewer flatscreens, the old bar is still there, and they have resurrected some of the furnishings from its previous incarnations. Its back patio (outside the drive-in-window) has a pair of gas fireplaces (ours blew out - still a couple bugs in the system).

And the food is wonderful, most of the menu cooked from scratch, and ranges from traditional to experimental. Thick cubes of Camembert cheese deep-fried as an appetizer were delicious. I asked the waitress for a recommendation and ended up with "Death by Mac and Cheese", a five cheese and garlic dish that hit the spot perfectly on a cool Monday night.

Now here's the deal - we, the Alliterates, are not enough to keep this incarnation of our local public going on our own. We meet once a month, and face it, we're writers - that means at least one of us is between gigs at any time and therefore on salads and small beer. So it is up to the rest of the motley crew in the Renton area (including those at nearby, say, Wizards of the Coast) who are looking for an after-hours place to check it out.

"The Terrible" is not so terrible. In fact it's a beauty.

More later,