The back bar at Ballard Annex Oyster House is pretty cool. Don Draper once held an imaginary assignation here, and before the seafood restaurant opened in March, the space housed Fu Kun Wu, companion bar to Thaiku. Soon it will be reborn as a 48-seat bar that’s entirely separate from the front restaurant.
The only problem with having such a great space, says Joe Rieke, is that restaurant patrons would gravitate back here as the night wore on, making the dining room a little too quiet. Rieke is the operations guy for owners Nathan Opper and Zak Melang, and the one who rides herd on his bosses’ new concepts. Right now he’s busy turning the back bar into a freestanding entity. It will be called The Grog and have its own menu, its own drink list, and its own entrance that’s actually a bit more visible from Market Street.
Opper and Melang liked the idea of a rum bar, but somehow tiki seemed an odd match for the New England nautical style happening out front. Talk of rum led to talk of sailing the seven seas, and spice merchants, and the different cultures and food a bunch of sailors might encounter along the way. And so was born the idea of the Grog.
Both food and drink will change up regularly, as the menu rotates from one corner of the seafaring world to the next (and each menu changeover will be kicked off with a party). Rieke says everyone here is especially geeked out on spices.
The bar will have about eight food items—six snacky things between $3 and $6, and two full-on plates, all from the BAOH kitchen. Rieke mentioned a chip butty, a sandwich consisting of fries slathered in curried mayo inside of a soft roll, and threw out ideas like Thai-spiced pulled pork tacos or popcorn chicken dressed in fish sauce. Though seasoning will vary, a deviled egg will be a permanent fixture.
When I stopped by, the staff was in the throes of cocktail testing, and debating whether a drink made with chai and yohimbe-infused aquavit was unusual in a good way or a weird way (for my money, it was the former). The drink list will include some punchbowl-type concoctions you can order for groups of varying size. And yes, there will be actual grog—a drink made with rum, hot water, lemon or lime, and various spices.
The Grog is shooting for a November 1 opening. Hours will be 5 to close Thursday through Sunday; the rest of the week it will function as an event space. While the buildout largely consisted of adding a few taxidermied animal heads, there are still a lot of variables at play, so stay tuned for more specifics.