Hollywood Tavern may be Woodinville’s newest hot restaurant in the city’s growing culinary scene, but the building that houses the eatery has been around for nearly 100 years. It began as the Hollywood Corner Service Station in the 1920s, but locals now know it best for turning into Mabel’s Tavern in the ’40s. A change of ownership brought it to its current name, in the ’90s. Its latest iteration has come under direction of the Huxley Wallace Collective, the restaurant group founded by Seattle chef Joshua Henderson of Skillet Diner fame. His business partner, Brian O’Connor, has been with Henderson since Skillet’s beginning and is the chef at the new Hollywood Tavern.
Opened late last year, Hollywood Tavern went through a lengthy transformation, adding a full kitchen and seating area next to the existing tavern space. The restaurant’s designers left much of the actual tavern intact, opting to maintain nostalgia while creating something completely new. The dining room is lit with hanging bulbs covered with lamp shades. A shelf above the window facing Woodinville Redmond Road holds a collection of old thermoses. The walls are lined with artwork depicting various beasts (a bison, bear and stag, to name a few). It’s almost as if a garage sale exploded (tastefully) onto the walls and the ceiling.
Perhaps one of the most exciting amenities to Hollywood Tavern is its neighbor to be. Woodinville Whiskey Company is in the midst of building out its new location, which sits directly adjacent to Hollywood Tavern. Good food and good whiskey go hand in hand, and the partnership is sure to make this bend in the road a popular attraction amongst locals and tourists alike.
Hollywood Tavern’s excellent menu should be able to draw a solid customer base, even if there wasn’t an influx of visitors to the distillery next door. Enjoy starters like Scotch eggs and a land and sea charcuterie plate, which is one of the more colorful and unique shareable plates we’ve seen on the Eastside. O’Connor hopes to offer at least four meat choices and four seafood choices on the plate, most of which are made in house. Large plates include a classically good cheeseburger (chuck and brisket grind, American cheese, pickles and tavern sauce) and an incredibly well-seasoned and moist half-chicken, which is served with house-whipped ricotta cheese, aged sherry and salsa verde.
O’Connor maintains that Hollywood Tavern shares the hallmarks of other Huxley Wallace Collective restaurants — quality, consistency and genuine service. He believes that flavors here are a little more elevated than what you’d see at Skillet, but it’s not fussy.
Like many other tavern-style restaurants, you’ll see plenty of meats available for the voracious carnivore. O’Connor is a self-professed meat lover, but his culinary goal for 2014 may surprise you, and a section of Hollywood Tavern’s menu gives clues to his devotion to this goal. Amidst items like dry-aged rib eye and Smokey’s fried chicken, and the house-made charcuterie items, there is a special section called “Dirt Candy.” The veggie menu is sure to be a hit with meat eaters and vegetarians alike. O’Connor wants to make sure diners don’t overlook vegetables — these bountiful items have much to offer in the way of flavor.
“I’m about good food. I love flavor. Salt. Meat. But my biggest focus this year is going to be vegetables. Every year I put goals up for myself as a chef, I ask ‘What have I not been great at?’ In the past it’s been rice, or cooking beans properly. I want to do a market menu, from produce within 25 miles of this area, using all local vendors. I think it’s really important that people don’t overlook vegetables and the bounty of Woodinville,” he said.
Even with restaurants like The Herbfarm and Barking Frog as destination restaurants in their own right, Woodinville seems to fall short of expectations for dining on the Eastside. Slowly but surely, newer restaurants like The Commons and The Station Pizzeria are helping bolster the city’s dining profile. O’Connor hopes the new Hollywood Tavern will help reinvent Woodinville’s restaurant scene so that the whole region is considered a dining destination. With Woodinville’s world-class wines, beers and spirits already in place, and with more tasting rooms, breweries and distilleries popping up seemingly every day, it’s about time restaurants followed suit.
The new chapter in Woodinville’s dining story makes it worth sticking around to see the ending.