Radiator Whiskey opens today, bestowing upon the denizens of downtown Seattle a sorta-secreted new watering hole in Pike Place Market. You’ll find it across the hall from Matt’s in the Market; Matt’s owner Dan Bugge converted a former architect’s office into a wood-sheathed, bibliophilic haunt filled with whiskey and platters of meat. At last night’s preview, chefs Tyler Palagi and Charlie Garrison issued a devout guarantee that their food has been thoroughly researched to pair well with whiskey. “We had to drink a lot,” says Palagi. He describes the menu as “enhanced stoner food” aided in large part by a "bitchin' smoker," though I’m guessing that’s not the official tagline. Meaty as Radiator might be, lighter plates like a salad of shaved apples and celery, or asparagus with hollandaise and housemade Canadian bacon would feel right at home across the hall.
Here are five reasons to get excited about Radiator Whiskey, which opens today (hours are four to midnight, Monday through Saturday).
Guys, it’s not a speakeasy. There’s a bit of that prohibition feel, but actually the second-story location and pitched ceiling feels more like drinking in an attic. The real secrets are happening in the back-bar shelves. Pay in $500 to join the flask club and you get your own flask stored in a hollowed-out book (an unexpected collision of my childhood obsession with mysteries and my grown-up love of drinking). Flasks are prefilled with your favorite spirit and there are other perks, too.
Lots of nasty bits. “We’re not going for shock value at all,” says Bugge of the food menu filled with items like cornflake-crusted chicken livers, pork-cheek stew with Fritos, a half a smoked pig head, and deep-fried beef lips. “It’s the only thing that’s affordable these days.”
So. Much. Whiskey. More than 100 bottles of brown liquor hold court behind the bar, but the real focal point is the display of the business end of seven whiskey barrels. Radiator even has its own house "moonshine," made with SoDo distillery 2Bar Spirits out of Washington grains. After just a month of aging it was already a solid specimen.
Zero bartender snobbery. It’s become the fashion to reel off a bar manager’s bona fides and all the impressive places on his or her resume (yes, I’m totally guilty of this). But bar manager Sara Rosales’s most recent gig was at a Holiday Inn. Bugge met her, liked her stuff, and installed her at Radiator to give her a place to build her—and its—reputation.
Showgirls are meant to be consumed, not ogled. Given Radiator’s sweeping views of the, um, gentleman's club across the street, the signature cocktail (made with bourbon, Ramazzotti Amaro, and rhubarb bitters) had to be called the Showgirl. Actually that was the most G-rated of the names considered. Rosales’s cocktail list includes some barrel-aged creations and some adept concoctions that don't contain whiskey at all.