Tucked above the Pike Place corner market clamor and across the hall from Matt’s in the Market, Radiator Whiskey (94 Pike St., No. 30; 206.467.4268; radiatorwhiskey.com) is a destination for whiskey lovers and a welcome respite from the bustle below. This paean to moonshine was opened by Matt’s owner, Dan Bugge, and chefs Charlie Garrison (also from Matt’s) and Tyler Palagi (formerly of Spring Hill, Smith and Kurtwood Farms).
One Big Barrel and Many Small Ones
When walking into the bar, it’s impossible not to focus on the huge whiskey barrel top mounted behind the bar, which contains seven smaller barrels, each holding white, or unaged, whiskey (think of it as being in the moonshine vein) crafted specially for Radiator by local distillery 2bar Spirits (2barspirits.com). Each barrel’s spirited contents have been aged a different length of time, providing customers with the chance to taste whiskey as it ages—which, as far as I know, is a unique program in Seattle. Bar manager Sara Rosales has created a bar menu that combines specialty cocktails she’s created, classics and classics with twists, and a “The Manhattan Project” section with five variations on the legendary whiskey drink, including a White Manhattan (also called The Bohr) that mingles 2bar Moonshine, dry vermouth, gomme syrup and Bittermens mole bitters.
A Focus on Freshness and Fire
Radiator Whiskey was originally going to be focused on drinks and occupy a smaller space. But when annexing an adjacent room, the owners decided to offer food, too. The menu takes full advantage of Pike Place Market and changes with the season, as well as spotlighting nontraditional cuts of meat and carnivore tempters, such as a burger made of meat ground with bone marrow and a pork cheek stew accented with smoked cheddar, scallions and Fritos. The décor has a cultured logging camp appeal, with the sturdy chairs and parts of the woodwork hand-scorched with a blowtorch. The wood furnishings are all locally reclaimed, with the bar and tables made from old Nathan Hale High School bleachers, and floor beams from a 1906 building that housed the first boiler in Seattle. All that char provides the perfect atmosphere for sipping whiskey, slowly, while gazing out the tall, half-moon windows over First Avenue.