Let’s first address the deeply stylish sea creature in the room: Yes, Manolin is just down the street from the Whale Wins. And yes, owners Rachel Johnson and Joe Sundberg worked at Whale Wins and Walrus and the Carpenter respectively. The bar they are about to open on Stone Way serves raw seafood in an airy room accented with French blue.
Though the bar certainly doesn’t feel like a Renee Erickson establishment, the similarities are there. “We share a lot of experiences with them,” says Sundberg of the crew at Walrus and Whale. He and Johnson made a few decisions to keep overlap in check—like not serving raw oysters.
And yet Manolin (named for the young apprentice fisherman in The Old Man and the Sea and pronounced Mahn-o-lean, in Spanish fashion) assuredly has its own persona—decidedly Northwest, but with overtones of ceviche, open flames, and the Yucatan road trip where Johnson and Sundberg hashed out their plans over a tequila or two.
The procession of 10-ish share plates on chef Alex Barkley’s menu might begin with plaintain chips and a few ceviches or crudo and progress to octopus, beef, or even a chicken thigh from the wood-fired grill, with a few vegetables or salads in between. Is it possible for a wood-burning kitchen implement to be pretty? Because this is one of the most attractive I’ve seen. Barkley was most recently the sous chef at Whale Wins, but his friendship with Sundberg and Johnson is what lead him to that kitchen.
Behind the endlessly curving counter—fir, whitewashed and varnished to a sheen that looks almost like metal—the bar island is filled with southern hemispheric spirits like tequila, rum, pisco, and cachaca. Juices are fresh and cocktails are often sparkling. Same goes for the wine. Awesome side note: Drinks on the opening cocktail list will be named for motels along Aurora Ave.
Watch for Manolin perhaps the second week of December. Meanwhile, the Manolin Facebook page is a good place to keep an eye on more specifics. And as for Erickson, she doesn't exactly seem concerned about any confusion with Manolin. Last I saw her she was urging me to check this place out, and her company is having its holiday party here in a few weeks.