At Daphne’s in downtown Edmonds, bartender Desmond van Rensburg fills the 250 square foot haunt with cheer, laughter and expertly-crafted cocktails. The intimate space encourages patrons to talk with each other and mingle between groups. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

At Daphne’s in downtown Edmonds, bartender Desmond van Rensburg fills the 250 square foot haunt with cheer, laughter and expertly-crafted cocktails. The intimate space encourages patrons to talk with each other and mingle between groups. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Daphne’s is the happy hole-in-the-wall of Edmonds

With a convivial clientele and a bartender who’s always “on,” the tiny tavern is the place to be.

EDMONDS — It’s 5:30 on a Tuesday evening. Sinatra’s playing on the overhead speakers, and bar customers are shoulder-to-shoulder.

All 15 of them.

Welcome to Daphne’s, the hole-in-the-wall that’s the toast of Edmonds.

“It’s like being at a cocktail party at a stranger’s house,” said the ever-so-popular bartender, Desmond van Rensburg, in his hard-to-place accent.

At just 250 square feet, Daphne’s may be the smallest bar in Snohomish County. (The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board doesn’t keep records on square footage of establishments.)

The size of the bar, however, is its strength: The square, one-room bar with tiled ceiling, at 415½ Main St., forces patrons to mix.

“Everyone just talks to each other,” van Rensburg said. “They mingle around when it’s busy. Many times I’ll look at people and I’ll go, ‘This is why we love this place, because this guy will be talking to these people across the bar, and these people will get up and move over here.’ ”

Frank Gaborik of Edmonds has been coming to Daphne’s for three years and hits the spot at least once or twice a week.

“People pay $300 a month for storage units that are bigger than this,” Gaborik said.

It’s where he met his girlfriend.

“Let me see if I get this right — Nov. 6, 2015,” Gaborik asks Andrea Flynn, also of Edmonds.

She responds by high-fiving him.

Flynn made her first visit to Daphne’s on the night she met Gaborik. It’s still one of their favorite watering holes, a place to unwind and talk with other people. It’s too small not to engage with others around the room, and there are no televisions to distract.

“Look around, people can’t be on their phones,” Flynn said. “They actually have to socialize.”

Another of the strengths of the bar is van Rensburg, who has been making cocktails at Daphne’s for 7½ years.

“He understands the importance of connecting people,” Gaborik said. “You can’t roll in and sit over there and not talk to anyone.”

That’s how Judy Palm of Everett became a Daphne’s regular. She was walking around downtown Edmonds one day when she opened the door to take a peek. Van Rensburg called her in with a wave and a greeting.

Now, she’s back every other week, calling it her therapy. Part of the charm is van Rensburg.

“He’s friendly and energetic, and he makes you feel wonderful,” Palm said. “Without him, it isn’t the same. I come in here and he just puts a smile on my face. It has nothing to do with the alcohol.”

Van Rensburg, 61, is the maestro behind the bar, orchestrating the evening by greeting newcomers, introducing strangers and posing for pictures with patrons.

“You need to have people skills when you’re in a little bar like this,” van Rensburg said. “I’m basically on show.”

He grew up in South Africa and immigrated at 18 to the U.S. He landed in the Puget Sound area and started selling clothes at Nordstrom.

He’s spent most of his career as a bartender. He names places, some of which are still around, and others that have new names. He went to work at Daphne’s because it’s close to his Edmonds home.

“This little place fits like a glove for me,” van Rensburg said. “I absolutely adore it. Every day of my life, I just thank God that I work here. I don’t know how I managed to get in here. It’s the best gig in Edmonds.”

He acknowledges that this bar isn’t for every bartender.

“We’ve had people fill in here who are lead bartenders when people are sick or out,” van Rensburg said. “They phone me up and they say, ‘It’s not for me. I thought I was here to make cocktails. I didn’t think I was here to entertain,’ ” van Rensburg said. “These are guys who know what they’re doing.”

For the most part, it’s a one-man show.

“I tried to have help on Fridays, because Fridays are so busy, but basically the help just gets in the way,” van Rensburg said.

The bar, which is attached to the Edmonds Theater, was a barbershop for years. Then, several stores came and went. Van Rensburg credits bar owner Brian Taylor for seeing what the place could be.

Taylor lives in New York and owns two bars there called the Pencil Factory and Onderdonk & Sons. He was visiting his family in Edmonds when he saw the space. After his father died, he spent time in Edmonds helping his mother and wanted to take up a project.

Daphne’s wouldn’t be the same without van Rensburg, Taylor said.

“It was a great little bar before Desmond, but Desmond has taken it to a whole different level,” Taylor said.

Daphne’s seems to be gaining in popularity. The Seattle Times has written a couple of stories on the bar in the past few years, and the Edmonds Beacon featured van Rensburg in a story.

The coup, however, is a story written by actress Anna Faris in Delta Sky Magazine that names Daphne’s as one of her favorite places on her favorite street in her hometown of Edmonds.

“It’s the press, you know, the place, the cocktails and the dysfunctional bartender,” van Rensburg said. “It’s one great blend. That’s what it comes down to. When you mix it all together, it makes for a wonderful experience.”

If you go

Daphne’s Bar is next to the Edmonds Theater at 415 1/2 Main St.

Hours are 4 p.m. to midnight daily.

No telephone. Email daphnesedmonds@gmail.com.

More at www.daphnesedmonds.com.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Business

The Westwood Rainier is one of the seven ships in the Westwood line. The ships serve ports in the Pacific Northwest and Northeast Asia. (Photo provided by Swire Shipping)
Westwood Shipping Lines, an Everett mainstay, has new name

The four green-hulled Westwood vessels will keep their names, but the ships will display the Swire Shipping flag.

A Keyport ship docked at Lake Union in Seattle in June 2018. The ship spends most of the year in Alaska harvesting Golden King crab in the Bering Sea. During the summer it ties up for maintenance and repairs at Lake Union. (Keyport LLC)
In crabbers’ turbulent moment, Edmonds seafood processor ‘saved our season’

When a processing plant in Alaska closed, Edmonds-based business Keyport stepped up to solve a “no-win situation.”

Angela Harris, Executive Director of the Port of Edmonds, stands at the port’s marina on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024, in Edmonds, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Leadership, love for the Port of Edmonds got exec the job

Shoring up an aging seawall is the first order of business for Angela Harris, the first woman to lead the Edmonds port.

The Cascade Warbirds fly over Naval Station Everett. (Sue Misao / The Herald file)
Bothell High School senior awarded $2,500 to keep on flying

Cascade Warbirds scholarship helps students 16-21 continue flight training and earn a private pilot’s certificate.

Rachel Gardner, the owner of Musicology Co., a new music boutique record store on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024 in Edmonds, Washington. Musicology Co. will open in February, selling used and new vinyl, CDs and other music-related merchandise. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
New Edmonds record shop intends to be a ‘destination for every musician’

Rachel Gardner opened Musicology Co. this month, filling a record store gap in Edmonds.

MyMyToyStore.com owner Tom Harrison at his brick and mortar storefront on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Burst pipe permanently closes downtown Everett toy store

After a pipe flooded the store, MyMyToystore in downtown Everett closed. Owner Tom Harrison is already on to his next venture.

Melrose and Vine Collective owner Kara Langus in her vintage collection room at her store on Friday, Jan. 5, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
New and vintage women’s boutique aims to dazzle in downtown Everett

Add some sparkle to your wardrobe: Melrose and Vine Collective opened inside a former bank building on Pacific Avenue.

Garry Clark, CEO of Economic Alliance Snohomish County. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)
CEO steps down at Economic Alliance Snohomish County

Garry Clark, who has led the nonprofit chamber of commerce for three years, is leaving to “seek new opportunities.”

Dan Bates / The Herald
When Seattle Genetics founder, Clay Siegall lost his father while in college, he switched from studying for an MD to studying for a PhD., and a goal to treat cancer patients.  His efforts are paying off in lives.
Ex-Seagen CEO to return to Bothell to lead newly relocated biotech firm

Clay Siegall, who resigned from Seagen over allegations of domestic abuse, is now CEO of cancer therapy developer Immunome.

Molbak’s Garden Cafe in Woodinville, Washington. Photographed in 2016. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)
‘Shocked and heartbroken’: Woodinville garden store Molbak’s to close

After 67 years, Molbak’s Home + Garden, a mainstay just across the county line, will cease operations early next year.

Good Cheer’s two thrift stores are great places to find Christmas decorations and other knick-knacks. (File photo by David Welton)
A guide to gift buying on Whidbey Island

Consider these unique gift idea suggestions from the South Whidbey Record and the Whidbey News-Times

Senior Hailey Jardine uses the new heat press for DECA to make school apparel at Snohomish High School in Snohomish, Washington on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023.  DECA is a national nonprofit for students interested in business. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Hot off the press! Snohomish High School students create custom swag

New heat presses allow teens to make T-shirts, hoodies and gear at the school’s merch store, Panther Pause — with the copyright.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.