The Turf, a remarkable seedy little dive down by Pike Place Market, is being pushed out of its space by its landlords. (A number of low income housing units in the same building will most likely also be cleared out soon as well.) There’s something about that place, I can’t quite put my finger on it. It’s unnerving.
The fragments I’ve been piecing together don’t really do the place justice. To really fill out the picture, read the hard-boiled portrait of an evening at the Turf that the Stranger published a couple of years ago along with this more balanced obituary of the Turf’s former owner from Real Change.
I ate lunch there once. I dragged a reluctant coworker with me, telling him that we had to at least try it once. The less than mediocre meal left us both with sour stomachs. I remained upbeat, happy to have had at least tried the place out. My friend didn’t feel the same way.
I took a long walk in the morning on January 1, 2000. I walked past The Turf on my way down to the waterfront and saw an old acquaintance, Brian, sitting in a booth by the window. He was sitting with a woman and a little boy. Brian glanced out at me; and there was a quick flash of what might have been both recognition and irritation on his face before he turned back to his companions.
Continuing down Pike, I tried to decode the scene. Brian and his friends seemed out of place at the Turf – perhaps they’d settled on the Turf because everything else was closed on the first day of 2000. Brian was talking to the kid, moving his arms in wide animated gestures. The kid sat stiffly, playing along, but clearly not comfortable with either his surroundings or Brian. The woman sat silently beside the boy, politely biding her time.
The Turf is moving into the space left open by the recently closed, equally divey, Olympic Broiler. There’s a little packet of strawberry jam stuck up against one of the windows at the Olympic Broiler. It seems to have fallen from the adjacent booth. I’m fairly certain it’s been there for at least a year. That packet of jam sits there in the window, at eye-level to pedestrians walking by; its label fading and its contents cooking in the dim sunlight. I’m curious about whether the Turf management are going to leave it there.
Also, paper towels. There are old paper towels stuck in another window at the Olympic Broiler.