Derek Hall is a little embarrassed. When asked how it feels to be named "Best Bartender" by Inlander readers, he ducks his head slightly. "I find that to be funny. There's a lot of good bartenders out there. I could name a good 10 of them -- guys that work a lot harder than I do."
That's hard to believe. During our brief interview, he kept turning away, keeping an eye on his customers and asking to make sure that everything was the best that it could be. "I think a good bartender is made by efficiency. I don't do the bottle flipping and things like that. I tried it, and I'm not very good at it actually. But also a good bartender is able to keep the entire restaurant flowing really well. I think that's really important -- especially here. We used to run three bartenders down here; now we just run one. We streamlined things and got things working smoothly. It's pretty chaotic sometimes, but it works. Other than that, I try to bring good conversation and keep things flowing."
A veteran of the nightclub bar scene, Hall seems happy to be tending bar at one of the most interesting new spaces in Spokane. "I just feel fortunate that I work for the Steam Plant. It's very well known in Spokane, and it's kind of the new place to go. It's really nice working for the Wells and working at a place where you have good people coming. They're not complaining that the drink's not stiff enough. They tip very well, and they're just here to have a good time. It's enjoyable. This is where I'm going to retire, definitely. I don't want to do the nightclub thing anymore. Those guys work way too hard."
So what to order if you visit the Steam Plant? "The Lemondrop is popular. Spokane likes it. We make it different than anyone else. We use lemon rum instead of vodka."
Second place: Brad Jostocks at Thudpucker's
Third place: Dan Kvamme at the Elk/
Mike O'Brien at Hill's Someplace Else (tie)