A toast: Brinnon's Geoduck Tavern holds spot on national magazine's list of ‘best'
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Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
Geoduck Tavern owner Melissa Baker, right, and her daughter, Hope Herlocken, peruse the master list of Esquire magazine’s best bars in America. The Geoduck is rated at number 163.

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

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BRINNON — The regulars at the Geoduck Tavern compare it to “Cheers,” where everyone knows your name and makes you feel welcome if they don't.

“This is a great bar, with a great view, where everyone is friendly,” said Selden Glebe of Brinnon. “I come here every night because it's where my friends are.”

It is also, according to Esquire magazine for the last three years, one of the best bars in the country.

The tavern at 307103 U.S. Highway 101 in Brinnon is a gathering place for hunters, bikers and sportsmen of all stripes, including connoisseurs of beer.

It is also a comfortable family restaurant, where anyone can enjoy a reasonably priced meal while gazing over a football-field sized wetland situated between the restaurant and the Hood Canal.

This month, Esquire added 10 more bars to its master list, all in metropolitan areas, with Portland's Spirit of 77 the closest to the Northwest.

Every year since the men's magazine's review was first published in 2008, it has been reprinted with some additions — and the Geoduck is always right there, at No. 163.

It is one of only seven of the magazine's “best bars” in Washington state, along with the Zig Zag Cafe, the Vessel, Sambar and Fu Kun Wu in Seattle and the Parkway Tavern and Doyle's Public House in Tacoma.

Esquire commends the bar for its own salmon derby and the Burger Dip, a burger served on a French Dip bun.

The review also quotes owner Sue Perley, who died in 2009. The tavern now is owned by Perley's daughter, Melissa Baker, who is running it as a family business.

Baker's 19-year-old daughter Hope Herlocken, who has worked at the tavern since she was 7, waits tables and hopes to run the bar someday.

“There are things I want to do, like become a writer,” Herlocken said.

“But I'd like to manage this someday because I think it's important it stays in the family.”

Herlocken's 16 month old daughter, Jayda, doesn't know it, “but she'll be working here someday,” Baker said.

“I want to keep the family dream alive,” she said.

Like all businesses, the economy has taken its toll, but the business is kept alive by a large cadre of regulars as well as the steady trickle of tourists.

Taking the cue from her mother's Burger Dip, Baker has expanded the menu to include Italian food and other dishes.

The tavern also has its share of quirks.

Some patrons like to reach under the bar and pull out a microphone that controls the mounted deer on the opposite wall and speak into it.

The words come out of the buck's mouth and its head moves around expressively.

This may be a shock to some patrons who find the fake head to be indistinguishable from some of the other trophies on display.

While this is one thing that makes the bar memorable, the buck's head isn't really unique.

You can find it at Walmart, said regular Janice Bergstrom, right next to the mounted fish that sings “Take Me to the River.”

“You can buy that for about $100, but I've never seen them anywhere else,” she said.

Ask the patrons what makes the Geoduck special and they all mention the same things — the people, the view, the food and the management.

It all boils down to feeling welcome.

Gelbe said anyone will be made comfortable, even if they were to show up in the un-Brinnon-like attire of a suit and tie.

“This is a great place,” he said. “It's as good as it gets.”

For more on Esquire's best bars, see www.esquire.com/bestbars/complete-list.

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Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or charlie.bermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: May 30. 2011 2:44PM
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