Bad Monkey Bistro: Live Jazz in South Lake Union

Posted 5 July, 2010 in Jazz Hang, Live Jazz - Comments Off comments


Situated between the glittering high rises of the downtown core and the busy waters of Lake Union, the South Lake Union neighborhood is Seattle’s new mecca for contemporary urban living. With all the hustle and bustle there, it is the perfect location for a spanking new live music venue; welcome the Bad Monkey Bistro

Last Friday, my teenage son Emmett and I dropped by to check things out. We had just come from the last day performances of the University of Washington jazz workshop and were looking to grab a bite to eat. The room was popping with activity and felt immediately inviting. We landed during happy hour; the bar was full of cheerful, chatting patrons, and a pianist was playing away in the dining room, where we were seated.

The layout of the space allows it to successfully accommodate both sports fans and music lovers; this is certainly not easy to do, and many establishments fail at this particular kind of multi-tasking. As you walk in, there is a sports bar with high tables and stools to the immediate right. Straight on is the dining room with traditional tables and chairs and also the piano. Adjacent to the bar is an enclosed room-the “Socialing Lounge”- with leather chairs and a fireplace. On the other side of the bar is an area with a pool table. Both the bar and the Socialing Lounge have large, flat screen TV’s, which were turned on but with the sound muted. I appreciated the respect shown to Martin Ross, who happened to be the pianist working that set. Although the bar was very busy, it in no way detracted from the music. I felt like the balance was well executed. Hats off to Bad Monkey for that.

The musical setting at the Bad Monkey is a combination of piano bar and jazz joint. The glass top on the table with surrounding stools certainly indicates the former. Martin Ross played a variety of music from “Popsicle Toes” to Tom Wait’s boozy anthem “My Piano Has Been Drinking.” While we were having dinner, a trio of giggling women came in and sat around the piano. Ross engaged them accordingly, mixing song with playful banter. Bad Monkey has live music a few nights a week. They have two sets; a 4-7pm set for happy hour and an 8-11pm set for the dinner service. In addition to solo piano, they present jazz combos from a variety of genres, with or without vocalists, depending on the particular group.

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The owners of the Bad Monkey Bistro are Daniel Poe Gale and Christopher Williams. Even though he was clearly busy taking care of customers, Daniel kindly took a few minutes to chat it up with us. He told us a little bit about the history of the building, which used to be an office for a paper manufacturing company. When they were remodeling the space, they used much of the original wood, especially in the bar area. We talked a little bit about the music; Daniel is clearly a piano aficionado and is very enthusiastic about the potential of the room and about musical things to come. (Sidebar: It came up in the conversation that Emmett plays guitar and performs with his own jazz group. Daniel offered him a gig on the spot. I found his openness surprising yet refreshing.) There is no question that he is committed to creating a welcoming scene for live jazz at the Bad Monkey. You gotta love that.

Our dinner was yummy. I had the smoked salmon pasta, which was creamy and smooth and full of lightly cooked, fresh vegetables. Emmett had the calamari stuffed with artichoke, garlic and crab, which he gobbled up in mere minutes. Our waitress was sweet and laid back. The Bad Monkey experience is probably best done when you’re in the mood to kick back, relax and hang awhile. The vibe seems to lend itself to that, and that’s just fine.

The Bad Monkey Bistro is located at 400 Boren Ave. N., Seattle, WA 98109, on the corner of Boren and Harrison. Please note that it can be slightly tricky to find because there are actually two Boren Avenues that run parallel to each other. Construction in the area can add to the confusion. However, don’t let this dissuade for one minute. There are directions on the website (http://www.badmonkeybistro.com/), and once you arrive, there is plenty of available street parking. The Bad Money Bistro is open daily from 10am to 2am, serving lunch, dinner and late night bites. There is a happy hour menu as well. Phone is 206-467-1111.

By Katy Bourne

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