Swannie’s – Seattle, WA

222 S Main Street
Seattle, WA
(206) 622-9353

Say what you will, and I’m sure many of our Canadian readers could if given the chance, about the believed shortcomings of our neighbours to the south, but you have to admit they really know how to go all out when it comes to combining two of the classic male pastimes – eating/drinking plus sports…

Where else can you start from the early morning, drinking beer and gobble down a hearty, greasy breakfast in a pub while watching sports on giant tv screens amid the company of many others who are there for same purpose as you?

After making the short drive down from Vancouver, a group of us made our way down to Pioneer Square, just a few blocks away from Qwest Field, the home grounds of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks.  With Opening Day kickoff hours away, we thought we could easily find a free (as in not having to pay money to park) spot to watch the early games playing in the eastern time zone, before we made the short walk to the stadium.  Oh how wrong we were.

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The Fisherman’s Restaurant & Bar – Seattle, WA

The Fisherman’s Restaurant & Bar
1301 Alaskan Way
Seattle, WA
(206) 623-3500

“One for the road!” my pal exclaimed as we toured the area around Pike Place Market in the evening hours before we made our trek back to Vancouver (following an afternoon at the ballpark and a light meal at Elysian Fields).

With the still blistery hot temperature of the day (an all-time high for Seattle) prevailing, we soon were desperate for some shade and relative comfort.  It was baffling how the ambient temperature seemed to drop a few degrees as we got closer and closer to the waterfront – much needed relief from the high 30C weather.  With only the desire to be in some more manageable environment and a cold one to kick back with, we stumbled upon The Fisherman’s Restaurant & Bar.  With its open patio, we figured it would suffice.  But a total tourist trap, I know…

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Tonimoes and Shivers at the Mackenzie Hotel – Inuvik, NWT

Tonimoes Restaurant, Shivers Bar @ Mackenzie Hotel
185 Mackenzie Road, Inuvik
Northwest Territories
(867) 777-2861

Sunday Brunch. Nice in theory. Generally over-rated in my personal opinion. You typically pay more than you would pay for breakfast, to eat more than you would, or should, normally eat, with a wider selection of items of a lesser quality. Don’t get me wrong, I do like the “romantic” aspects of brunch. Socialization. A time of gathering. That wonderfully fuzzy time that’s not too early, but still acceptable to be eating breakfast. It’s nice. But the quality can really vary. And then there’s brunch, and there is BRUNCH. At Tonimoes at the MacKenzie Delta Hotel, we’re talking brunch.

The Mackenzie Delta Hotel is the most famous hotel in Inuvik. Which is kind of like saying the Eiffel Tower is the most famous tower in Paris. Not a lot of competition. However, well before venturing to Inuvik, I had heard a lot regarding the Mackenzie. Their “scotch” night. Sunday Brunch. Best meal in Inuvik. Only meal in Inuvik. Really, with a reputation like that, there was only one thing to do – try it myself.


Sunday Brunch is a quiet family affair. The room was mostly empty, filled with a few families, and a few couples. It’s a nice room – clean, well appointed if a little spread apart. There is, afterall, spacious, and then there an uncomfortable amount of space between tables.


My beef with buffets often comes down to the food. Many dishes  sit around for long periods of time, being gently warmed to well done by the red glow of the heat lamp. Most things lack freshness – or a la minute as many breakfast items (like poached eggs) should be cooked at. At Tonimoes, all my worst buffet nightmares come true. Chafing dishes filled with cooked foods, kept warm for hours. The bacon is crispy-soggy, the eggs, inedible. Most of the hot dishes are in fact barely edible. Hollandaise that has separated. Potatoes that do not taste like potatoes. I tried a little of everything, and ended up sticking to safe things that i would not get sick on. Like bacon and breakfast sausage. Eggs are a bit too adventerous for me.


The best thing available? The carrot cake. One of the many previously frozen desserts available, but seemed to withstand freezing much better than some of the other choices. Nothing to write home about, but after biting and spitting out one of the chocolate tarts, this was welcome relief indeed.


I didnt go into this experience loving brunch, and i have to admit, this one didnt convert me either. Food? Poor. Price? Average.  If you need a requisite 12,000 calories before heading into the bush, then maybe this is the meal for you. Otherwise? You’d be better off not eating at all. Not really, but pretty close.

Bonus Coverage: Shivers Bar at the Mackenzie Hotel.

So i was told that you’ve not had a true Mackenzie experience until you’ve eaten at Shivers. Im not sure what a Mackenzie experience is, but after my Brunch experience, i should’ve known better. One night, I went in to Shivers to order some food. They have a BBQ half chicken with mashed potatoes and veg as the daily special. Sounds great, so i give it an order. After all, how badly can they mess up roast chicken?

Well, my dining companions order as well. And their food comes. 40 minutes later, still no chicken. Finally, my chicken shows up. A little over zealous in the application of bulls eye (actually, after having looked at the local grocery store, it’s more likely Heinz) BBQ sauce, but looks good. I slice into the chicken. It’s a bit firm. But i manage. Take a bite…and then spit it out. It’s frozen on the inside, and still raw.

Now the service is excellent there. The manager came over and rectified it immediately. Brought me a new order of nachos, which were comped, and quite large and excellent to boot. I feel for the manager. He was not surprised my food was raw. He’s handled this situation before…numerous times i would guess.

So, let me sum it up for you. There is no dining experience like the Mackenzie Hotel. When people tell you this, it really means, it’s generally terrible, but, if you stick to safe elements, you’ll be ok.  Nachos, wings, burgers, beer. These were all quite reasonable, and the only things that should be ordered off the menu. The manager is nice, and a decent guy to talk to. If he isnt spending his evening running around trying to fix raw chicken orders. There really is no where like the Mackenzie Hotel!

The Flair Bar – Seoul, KOR

The Flair Bar
572-2 Shinsa-dong, Kangnam-ku
Seoul, South Korea
+82 2 545 5554

Life imitating art. That’s what I thought the moment the performance show began at The Flair Bar.

At the end of a long night that included a fantastic barbecue dinner hosted by my local business associates at their favorite neighborhood restaurant, followed by a few pints at a local pub, my colleague and I were being walked back to our hotel by our gracious Korean hosts when I could see a look in their eyes as if to say, “do you really want to call it a night?”. I glanced over to my still awake colleague and gave him a “why not?” expression and our friends then proceeded to lead us down another busy street lined with shops still open and welcoming revelers still looking for another place to fuel up on more liquor and socialize.

Now I am sure many of you are familiar with Hollywood actor Tom Cruise, and perhaps one of his movies in which he portrayed a cocky bartender who learned to toss bottles of booze with the dexterity of a circus performer. Clearly, this place had patterned their place after the movie set and had the concept down pat as after we had sat down at a table and ordered a round of drinks, suddenly things came to life. The lights lowered, and a blast of music came on followed by a boisterous voice on the speakers. Looking closer, I noticed it was a young woman on the microphone who was standing towards one side of the long counter bar that anchored the room.

Although I had not a clue as to what she was saying, it was clear that the patrons sure did, and had probably been sitting waiting for the show to begin. It seemed like she began things by introducing her team of flair artists, who came from the back kitchen area one by one and did a short routine of throwing bottles up in the air. They then broke into a larger team routine in which team members juggled together. The MC then shouted out questions and some members of the crowd began saying things back, which turned out to be orders. The flair bartenders engaged in more difficult tricks all the while composing the drinks that were being ordered. Despite not knowing the language, the visuals themselves served to help me understand what was going on and to be that up front and personal to the show, was quite entertaining.

The show then evolved into a sort of auction. Special drink orders, even food items were being put up for bids from the engaged customers. My colleague even got into the action, not even knowing what was up for bid. I think people can easily get caught up in the lively atmosphere that is created – much of the credit goes to the MC, who was commanding the show and getting a lot of audience participation. In the end, my friend lost out on a bid for what turned out to be some special cocktail, but seeing our disappointment, and probably since we stood out as foreigners, we were presented with a 12 inch pizza as a consolation prize.

The flair bartenders were a talented crew. The array of tricks they performed was impressive, and coupled with the energetic mistress of ceremonies, this last stop on our evening turned out to be quite the high. I am quite glad that we stopped in, and appreciate the incredible luck we had in finding such an innovative establishment, that we probably never expected to find in Seoul. In places like this that have a “gimmick”, that alone is not enough though. The level of engagement that the crowd has with the performers, is a critical element in creating the atmosphere that we found so enjoyable. If you ever find your way to the Kangnam district in Seoul, I’d suggest you give this show a chance.