There is perhaps nothing that holds our collective human attention like a roaring fire. Not a smartphone. Not a TV showing a Seahawks game.
This draw—a deep, natural, visceral thing that reduces us to animal instincts alone—is a driving force behind Miller’s Guild, award-winning Crush chef Jason Wilson’s new nose-to-tail restaurant in Hotel Max, which he’s unveiling to Kickstarter supporters this week and the general public next. At the heart of the space, in both design and cooking philosophy, is a custom-built, nine-foot Grillworks Infierno grill—a fire-breathing beast that attracts every eye in the room.
Though Miller’s Guild has been called a modern steakhouse of sorts, what Wilson and his team (including his wife Nicole, ChefStable founder Kurt Huffman, partner/manager/Crush director of operations Jake Kosseff, and chef de cuisine Kelly Gaddis) are doing here is much different than Sullivan’s or Morton’s, both just a few blocks away. There’s a reason why the guys have started jokingly referring to it as the Caveman Grill. At Miller’s Guild, the dinner menu, save for a few reliable mainstays, will focus on what animal was brought in to butcher that morning, and what vegetables were found at the market that day.
In the short time Wilson’s spent getting to know this grill, he’s thrown everything he can—protein and produce alike—in those flames, charring Gala apples and whole pineapples on the top, firing T-bones right on the metal, and smoking quail by hanging them from meat hooks along the copper pipes above. In fact, he and Kosseff have stopped calling it a grill all together—misleading, really, since what you do at home on your Weber is not exactly the same thing—and taken to calling it a hearth, or simply referring to it as “the inferno.” Kosseff says Wilson’s like a guitar player who got tired of playing chords and started messing around with the other capabilities of his instrument. “This is why I’ve always wanted to end up working with Jason,” he says. “We had this thing for three weeks and we’re already not using it the way it’s recommended.”
“The point of Miller’s Guild is that it’s wood-fired cooking,” Wilson says. “There’s an emphasis on using the whole fire.”
The plot housing Miller’s Guild, a high-ceilinged space adjoining Hotel Max at Seventh and Stewart, was formerly sushi joint Red Fin; long before that, it was the Vance Hotel, built in 1926 to house the workers and craftspeople that came here to work at the Vance Lumber Company. Pull your attention away from the fire and you’ll notice details that whisper of the building’s original look: crumbled crown molding rims the main dining room; the bar’s pockmarked floor was uncovered under layers of others; and a window peaks through thick concrete walls to give a glimpse into Hotel Max’s colorful lobby. New touches have been added, too, obviously, like the barrels holding cask-finished gin, vodka, and moonshine that line racks above the bar—another nod to the themes of both wood and craft.
Since Miller’s Guild is a hotel restaurant, Wilson will soon roll out room service, and his all-day-every-day menus for the restaurant are designed to provide different services for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Breakfast, when it starts, will bring requisite coffee, rustic baked goods, and heartier meals for anyone just landing from a trans-Atlantic flight; lunch will be the sort of grab-and-go items like wrapped sandwiches that the neighborhood’s business folk necessitate.
For now, if you didn’t back Miller’s Guild’s Kickstarter campaign, the first public dinners are reservation-only previews starting Saturday, December 7, and running December 11-13. General service will start mid-month.
Congrats, Dorothy Spitzock, who won our contest for dinner at one of Miller's Guild's preview nights. Thanks, all, for playing!