Renee Erickson’s new bar, Deep Dive, will open officially this evening at the base of the Amazon Spheres. It’s a cocktail destination that closely identifies with the city’s singular new landmark, but also transports you to another place entirely: Even when outside is all late-afternoon sunshine and Amazonian bustle, the interior is dim and otherworldly.
Erickson and crew got in the habit of referring to it as The Bar at the Spheres, a moniker that stuck even after they landed upon the official name. The space that’s now Deep Dive came in parcel with the Italian restaurant, Wilmott’s Ghost, now on track to open in October. It also came with some logistical challenges: The enormous quantity of overhead ducting and HVAC equipment necessary to maintain the Spheres’ rainforest-inspired climate isn’t exactly atmospheric. But these limitations inspired Erickson and crew to get creative, with some pretty marvelous results. They brought in Curtis Steiner, a longtime Erickson friend and a virtuoso collector of curiosities, to fill all the display cubbies and niches.
And fill them he did. There are volumes of vintage poetry, an apothecary jar of rainbow feathers, masks, mirrors, a collection of antique carved lotus leaves. One of the first things you see when you walk through the door, after an enormous round fun house mirror dubbed “the bigelator,” is a taxidermied grebe inside a tall glass cloche; awwww, he’s wearing a tiny horn as a satchel. Shelves of curiosities are lit like jewelboxes, all beneath a canopy of billowing steel “ribbons,” a brilliant way to conceal that tangle of ductwork.
The cocktail list, shepherded by Sea Creatures barman Jermaine Whitehead, is large and leatherbound—three pages of classics, a lineup of his own house drinks, and another page of “modern standards.” Jeremy Price, Erickson’s business partner, aptly describes these as “Drinks we think are on their way to becoming a classic, but were created in the last couple of decades.”
This space is a literal dark turn for Erickson, a woman who likes things white and airy. But her sensibilities are deeply apparent in little touches, like the intricate cut glass tumbler that houses a B-Sides, one of Whitehead's house cocktails that brings mezcal into an almost tropical setting. Her influence, clearly, is manifest on the food menu—classic Erickson through the lens of a midcentury Manhattan hotel bar. There are items big and small: A single oversize gruyere gougere, beef carpaccio, seasonal salads, salmon rillettes. Prices range from $5 for that gougere to $22 for caviar toast or a mealworthy Dungness crab tartine. It’s actually amazing that the limited kitchen puts out a menu like this.
“We want it to be the best version of all the bites you want in a bar,” says Erickson, right down to the housemade potato chips with fennel and dill dip. Deep Dive took early inspiration from Bemelman’s Bar in Manhattan, including the menu's “bar snacks” trio.
The Sea Creatures partners hope the hot dog becomes a signature here—a frank made with beef from the farm on Moses Lake that houses Sea Creatures’ own herd of cows, that’s smoked with hazelnut shells. This Ericksonian spin on a Seattle dog comes dressed with whipped cream cheese, pickled jalapenos, a tangle of red onion, and a liberal sprinkle of ikura, all on the perfect seeded bun. It comes, with a touch of irony, on a silver platter.
The compact, 30-seat space has some plush high-backed banquettes, but also an adjacent space Erickson has dubbed the game room. You’d be tempted to call it a library, except instead of volumes, Steiner’s arrangements fill the shelves; and the world's coolest chandelier hangs from above. Steiner even procured a vintage backgammon, checkers, and cribbage board; the Deep Dive staff is procuring pieces so people can play proper games in there. Clearly this is not a place to get drunk and rowdy, though the glass cloches of curiosities that dot the curved bar have been affixed firmly enough to withstand tipsy exploration.
The bar will be open nightly at 4pm, and it's 21 and up; look for a very subtly appointed door on the Lenora side of the Spheres. Price and Erickson anticipate taking reservations in the coming weeks via the Deep Dive website (and a happy hour, too!). And yes, unlike the rest of the Spheres, Deep Dive is open to the public. Says Price, “We hope it can draw a broad swath of people to have, essentially, drinks inside a Curtis Steiner art installation.”