Three Impressions of Thackeray
By AJ Rathbun
February 2, 2017
The latest from the Heavy Restaurant Group (Barrio, Purple Café and Meet the Moon, among others), Thackeray opened on the corner of 35th Avenue and Stone Way in Wallingford—an area that’s now hopping—last December. I stopped in recently with my wife to sample the cocktails designed by Casey Robison, Heavy’s Spirits Director and local bar star, and the Mediterranean-influenced food. Here are three impressions from the visit.
The Drinks: Made by shakers like Philip Thompson (past at Purple Café and Tavolata, to name a few), the drink menu is varied, with cocktails on tap, spirit- and citrus-focused sections, low proofers and digestif and aperitif flights. Don’t miss the Hello Spaceboy, with Ford’s gin, citrus and spice-infused Combier liqueur and egg white, which gives it a serious head of foam. To make it worthy of its name, the heady egg foam is sprayed with Angostura bitters through a David Bowie stencil! (Check out a picture in Chelsea Lin’s recent post, 5 Things You Need to Eat and Drink This Month). The drink is a great homage to the recently-passed Thin White Duke: artistic, inventive and full of frothy flavor and herbal aromas wafting off the Angostura.
There’s also a Gin & Tonic menu, six choices with different gins, tonics and garnishes, served Spanish style in wide mouth stemmed glasses. The Royal Shipyard was our pick. Mahon gin from Spain, a Meyer lemon cordial and bitter lemon tonic gave it a fresh, lemon grove essence alongside its gin botanicals. There’s also beer, cider and a southern Europe-inspired list of wines by the bottle and glass, well-curated by Heavy Wine Director Chris Horn.
The Food: The edibles from Chef John Langley (with Heavy seven years, including opening Meet and Moon and helming Kirkland’s Purple Café) are approachable and inventive. You’ll definitely discover a Mediterranean kernel in mains like the ancient grains risotto, with spiced cauliflower and barrel-aged feta, rounded out with sweet-and-sour pickled raisins and toasted pumpkin seeds. Besides bigger dishes there’s a robust section of starters; it was hard to pick between crisp bruschetta, topped with a tomato-fennel confit, lush ricotta and shaved radish slices, and the heated grapes, dates and bacon (available sans bacon for vegetarians), so we got both! The warm, juicy grapes are unforgettable. There are also soups, salads and spreads served with pita and crackers made at the Heavy bakery. The whipped feta spread was a hit, a creamy cheese blend that includes Greek yogurt and a swirl of honey. There are specials, too (people were raving about the bolognese with house prosciutto), and a brunch menu that looks exciting.
The Space: Occupying a big area on the ground floor of the Brooks running building, Thackeray can seat around 160, but the layout doesn’t seem crowded; the open concept helps, with the bar in the middle, open concrete ceilings with visible gray ductwork, two white brick walls and floor-to-ceiling windows facing street side. There are a lot of seating options—oversized wood tables, smaller round tables, some cozy tables for two—but my suggestion is either to get the table with bench-swing seats, or a couple of the roughly 25 bar stools. The stools are backless, but super comfy, with large round cushioned tops, and spread around the J-shaped bar crafted of burnished metal. A rail fences off the bar from the main dining area, where those with kids are welcome; all are in good company, as families, couples and groups of younger locals are already packing Thackeray.