Bull Pen Pub, Bar and Grill, 20011 Pacific Highway S., SeaTac, 824-4070. Hours: 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Visa and MasterCard accepted. Takeout available. Pool, darts, live music and dancing. Smoking throughout. -------------------------------------------------------------------
Five easy minutes from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, The Bull Pen restaurant and tavern offers a comfortable place to savor an ice-cold brew and enjoy one amply portioned, juicy $4 hamburger and fresh fries.
Simply stated, the down-home pub, grill and bar puts forth a relaxing, unpretentious atmosphere.
"A lot of regular people come in here," said Mike McGlothin, a big fan of the SeaTac establishment. "Most people come in here to relax and have a few beers. A good group of people work here. I've never seen any trouble here."
Inside, you find such barfly essentials as dart boards, pool tables, a dance floor with live music five nights a week and television in view of every seat.
Other real features include one boisterous but friendly staff and even louder football fans.
From the bar area, you can watch the cook grill your choice of burgers, sandwiches, steaks, fish and chips, seafood, chicken and pork chops. Breakfasts, soups and salads are also served.
Like every sports bar worthy of its liquor license, The Bull Pen entices fans on game days. Free hot dogs and chili accompany every Seahawks game.
One recent Saturday, about two dozen men and women came in to cheer the Huskies. If they stayed after the game, Saturday night's menu special featured a T-bone steak with potato salad and garlic bread for $5.95.
Friday night diners feast on a complete prime rib dinner for $7.50. The mid-week Tuesday night special is a 10-ounce ribeye with baked potato, salad and garlic bread for $5.95.
Sunday's and Wednesday's special grabbed my attention: 60-cent tacos, two for $1. These tacos taste terrific. They were served hot, had good size, weren't greasy, with ground beef (not shredded) and real cheddar cheese.
Next to the front door, patrons can view a display of plaques and photos from The Bull Pen management honoring airline companies and employees. Obviously, the place draws many customers from nearby airport-related industries.
A popular in-house dart tournament also draws customers and skilled players.
Bartender Paula LaPlant boasts that The Bull Pen fields winning dart teams, as well as baseball and football teams.
"You get real close to people here - local, neighborhood people, retired people," she said. "We've got one guy who comes from Gig Harbor for the $4.95 steaks."
Don and Margaret Liberty have owned the place for 14 years. At one point, they branched out and opened a second Bull Pen in Burien but sold it a few years ago. They formerly owned Liberto's, a 15,000-square-foot restaurant and banquet hall in Tukwila.
"We do a tremendous amount of food" at The Bull Pen, Don Liberty said. "We are a very busy place. We cater to our customers. A lot of our regulars treat this like their second home. We have close relationships with our customers."
Here are three final things to think about before dropping by The Bull Pen:
-- Hint No. 1: You probably want to leave the kids at home if the Huskies or Seahawks are playing. (It gets raucous.) Also, no children are allowed after 8:30 p.m.
-- Second clue: If cigarette smoke bothers you, don't go.
-- Final word of caution: If you go, don't take an attitude. It's a nice place and the management won't take any bull.
Restaurant reviews are a regular Thursday feature of the South County Life section. Reviewers visit restaurants unannounced and pay in full for all their meals. When they interview members of the restaurant management and staff, they do so only after the meals and services have been appraised.