From humble roadside tavern to major destination. Look for this to be finished in the fall.

We’ve long known that Woodinville’s Hollywood Tavern is getting a makeover as a cheeseburger-and-whiskey-fueled restaurant courtesy of Joshua Henderson. But here's the lowdown on the whiskey component. And it's a big one.

Woodinville Whiskey Co., one of the biggest, most established players in the state's young distillery culture, is moving its operations to a new complex being built around the historic tavern, which previously lived a long life under the name Mabel’s. The plan: Preserve the original tavern, which long predates the wine culture that has sprung up around it, but make it part of a destination that fuses whiskey, dining, and a killer patio where you can play cornhole.

The new distillery will be four times the size of the original. Cofounder Orlin Sorensen says a new still will arrive in October from Germany; the 1,320-gallon pot still will be one of the largest in the western United States.

Sorensen and cofounder Brett Carlile grew up in the area; Sorensen has fond memories of the tavern, from having to keep his distance as a minor to enjoying a Pabst or two inside when he came age: “It was so unique, this little bar right between Ste. Michelle and Columbia and Redhook,” he recalls. So when developer Point 32 (also behind the Bullitt Center) approached the guys, they loved the idea of moving their business to the tavern site. And in the intervening two years, the distillery grew to a point where it actually needed more spacious digs.

The new Woodinville Whiskey will offer tours three times a day, says Sorensen, and the distillery is designed to be highly interactive; visitors can even step onto the production floor, surrounded by corn cooking and barrels being filled. 

The distillery will obviously have a nice tasting room, but to me the disappointment of such venues is the state law prevents them from dispensing anything besides unadulterated tastes of their alcohol (aka no cocktails). So it's handy, then, that the Hollywood Tavern, with its whiskey-fueled drink list, will be just across the courtyard.

Henderson has been talking up Hollywood Tavern’s cheeseburger for a year now. And chef Angie Roberts promises it will be classic, satisfying, and topped with housemade American cheese. But the tavern will also specialize in roasted meats off the rotisserie. Whole-roasted chickens will be a menu staple, and a wood-fired grill will be situated on the patio. Roberts is also planning to make her own pastas, plus fun bar snacks, like a house version of chile cheese fries, and various sweet-salty foods that play very nicely with whiskey. 

Here’s something else exciting: Roberts is making her own soft serve for the Hollywood Tavern dessert menu. “When I think of nostalgia and what I would want in a roadside tavern, it’s soft serve or chocolate chip cookies,” she says. She’ll combine a seasonal flavor, like huckleberry, with crunchy, appropriate toppings. 

Before joining Henderson’s Huxley Wallace Collective, Roberts worked at Hotel 1000. Henderson stayed there one night with his wife (he used the word “staycation,” albeit reluctantly and only after I goaded him) and was amazed at the quality of the room service he ordered. And while the Hollywood Tavern complex isn’t a hotel, Henderson figured that background would come in handy when coordinating a restaurant kitchen with a large patio, plus catering operations for private events at the distillery.

The lovely and talented Maggie Savarino is creating the whiskeycentric cocktail menu at Hollywood Tavern; Henderson says it won't be "too fancy or too pretty" but will showcase the whiskey production happening next door.

In planning the space, Henderson posed his own rhetorical question: "How do you walk the line between being a dive bar tavern while also appealing to families, and we're partnering with a whiskey that really needs to be celebrated?" But one critical aspect of the tavern will remain: "We’ve received a number of notes from people saying, "Please don’t get rid of cheap beer," he says. "And we will not. We will not get rid of cheap beer."

Look for both restaurant and distillery to open in the fall.

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