Radiator Whiskey Debuts...with Pig Head on the Menu

By: 
Leslie Kelly
radiator whiskey pike place market bars in seattle
Tyler Palagi and Charlie Garrison, chefs of the new Radiator Whiskey

Gutsy. Very gutsy.

The much-anticipated Radiator Whiskey opens today (April 17) in Pike Place Market and pig head is on the menu. Yup, your dinner has a face. With this bold opening salvo, Radiator Whiskey becomes like no other place in Seattle. Heck, probably no place on the West Coast puts a pig head smack in the middle of the table.

When chefs Charlie Garrison and Tyler Palagi introduced the lineup of dishes they were rolling out during a recent sneak preview, Palagi described the fare this way: “It’s like the ultimate stoner food.”

Well, maybe. But after the show-stopping pig head was delivered to the table, I couldn't help imagining some high guy freaking: Whoooooooa, dude! That’s a trip, man!!

Yes it is. And that culinary journey began with bombin’ hot cornflake-crusted chicken livers, fried cow’s lips, beautiful spring asparagus with Canadian bacon. All of it was nicely done and seemed created to complement the clever cocktails put together by bar manager Sara Rosales, heavy on the whiskey. (And, you bet, with the view the place has onto First Ave., it should come as no surprise they’ve got a drink called The Showgirl.)

Start off by whetting your whistle with the special Radiator Whiskey Moonshine, developed for the bar by owner Dan Bugge and 2Bar Spirits proprietor Nathan Kaiser using 100 percent local grains, including corn from Quincy. It’s a kick in the trousers and it just might inspire you to join the bar’s Flask Club, where $500 a year gets you a free weekly drink and entry into special events.

OK, back to that head.

We were given utensils, but the best way to attack this graphic dish is with your hands. Kaiser, who hails from San Antonio and knows his way around eating whole animals, showed our table where to find the best bits: the cheek, behind the snout. He mentioned the eyeballs were loaded with Vitamin E. That elicited an “ewww!”

Right. This is definitely not for everyone, especially those who think offal is awful. But for adventurous omnivores, this is quite a treat, the meat ultra tender and flavorful, kind of smoky. There will only be a few half heads available every evening, and it’s going to be very interesting to see how it goes over.

Even without that gutsy dish, Radiator is super cool. Across from Bugge’s Matt’s in the Market, the small space looks as if it’s been there a long time, exuding a retro charm by using reclaimed materials: flooring from Seattle’s first boiler and schoolhouse chairs. The bar, tables and walls are crafted from old bleachers from Nathan Hale High School. (Go Raiders!) The tall wooden barrel behind the bar, holding seven smaller barrels of small batch spirits that will be featured on a rotating basis, was designed and handcrafted by John Muscat of JM Woodworks, with help from the energetic chef team.

Open from 4 p.m. to midnight Monday through Saturday. Pike Place Market, 94 Pike St.; 206.467.4268; radiatorwhiskey.com

See you there?