It was pure chance we happened to experience the CHECKERBOARD TAVERN. After stumbling upon their booth at the recent Shrinking Violets Birthday Bash (and networking opportunity), we found ourselves attracted like moths to the flame by any place that would put the words “vegan” and “tavern” together in the same bar concept.
It didn’t disappoint. The Checkerboard sits a block west of One World on East Sprague. The owners of One World have recently taken this place over, hence the vegan friendliness, but the décor is largely unchanged from when it was just another place on East Sprague to spend a blacked-out hour or two. (Many of the patrons from that era were still hanging around with that intent last Saturday night.)
And that was perfect. The modest roots and lofty ambitions create an atmosphere that captures everything East Sprague was and everything it hopes to be.
The Checkerboard claims it has the “longest standing liquor license in Washington state." (It procured its license in 1933, promptly following the end of Prohibition. But the Brick tavern, in Roslyn, Wash., says it's even older.) Ghosts of bygone debauchery linger in the air with decades of history spattered into the floorboards and checkers-themed booths and tables. This is complete, 100 percent genuine drunken history plus vegan food. Hipsters should be swarming. But it’s completely dead on a Saturday night.
We find that unacceptable.
Cheap beer. Cheap grub. Cheap vegan grub. Killer pinball. Nintendo Wii on Wednesdays.
We’re talking SIX DOLLAR PITCHERS of domestic, five dollars during happy hour. There are cheap savories with silly names (get a $3 “Banger in a Bun,” made with sausage from Sonnenberg’s Deli down the street), cheaper snacks with more straightforward names ($2 vegan Chips and Guac) and handful of vegan tasties. The Theatre of Magic pinball machine in pristine order.
It’s easy to see why the folks behind One World took an interest in the place. What’s unclear is why you haven’t checked it out yet.
The Checkerboard Tavern, 1716 E. Sprague, is open daily from 11 am-9 pm. Happy Hour is 4-6 pm. Call 535-4007.