The pair behind Northeast Alberta Street's Radio Room have converted the former King neighborhood key shop into a midcentury rumpus room that tastefully toes the line between swank and kitsch, decked out in wood paneling, Persian rugs and booths of deep red leather. Abandoned keys left over from the previous tenant are encased in lacquer around the bartop, while animated Rainier and Olympia signs hang above a massive wall of vinyl overlooking a booth where, on a recent visit, a DJ spun international psych from the likes of Dungen and Can.
The indoor fire pit was packed with bartenders from nearby establishments, a few of whom voiced their allegiance to the Classic Burger—a third-pound patty doused in house mayo, chopped onion and iceberg that's essentially a high-end Big Mac. Offered for $6 during happy hour—which runs from 3 to 7 pm and 11 pm to 2 am—it's well worth the trip on its own.
Wash it down with a 22-ounce stein of Olympia ($4) or one of Keys' many cheapish cocktails. The Bootsy Collins ($7) is a play on the classic vodka, lemonade and soda drink that's served over crushed ice and topped with a float of Lillet Rouge.
Located on a decidedly quiet block of Killingsworth, Keys' strongest suit may be the fact that it's out of reach of itinerant Alberta bar crawlers. Rather than providing yet another venue to get blotto with the bros on a weekend, Alfrey and Gadberry have created a den of casual comfort with a patio, stiff drinks and a retro vibe deserving of its "lounge" designation. Aside from stray conversation coming from smokers on the alleyway patio that's lit by glowing triangles, the chances of Keys blowing up the block seem slim—and that's a compliment.