by Adam Sawyer | Photo © Waterfront Restaurant
Named after a catchy euphemism for moonshine, Radiator Whiskey is similar to the prohibition standby: all substance and no flash. Don’t take that wrong. The selection and quality of potables are top-notch, and the space is rustically sophisticated. But there’s nothing about the place that cries out for attention. On the contrary, even though it sits on the third floor of a building that looks down at the Pike Place fishmongers, Radiator Whiskey is hidden. There is no neon sign or sandwich board announcing its presence. Rather, it hides away from the public like a speakeasy, relying primarily on reputation and stalwart patrons. It has become a second home for those that covet meat and libations.
The reputation that has Seattleites clamoring for table space was forged on more than drinks. The cuisine produced in the open, two-chef kitchen in the center of the establishment could bring teetotalers out of the woodwork. Co-chefs Tyler Palagi and Charlie Garrison have constructed a menu that may appear spartan with regards to the overall number of offerings, but each dish sings with soul thanks to pitch-perfect flavor profiles.
In particular, omnivores that aren’t afraid to push their boundaries will find this place with much to favor. Non-traditional anatomical regions of some of your favorite animals are creatively curated to the plate by Chefs Garrison and Palagi. Small plates like the Fried Beef Lip Terrine with Dijonnaise or the Cornflake Crusted Chicken Livers with Frank’s Red Hot and aioli are perfect representations. It’s gourmet comfort food centered around a whole-animal approach that fires on all cylinders.
While the small plates do a fine job of representing the chefs’ culinary ethos, a pair of entrees elevates the concept and drives it home. The Fried Pork Shank is a symphony of textures, colors, and flavors—crispy, fried skin encasing fall-off-the-bone tender meat finished with a vibrant herb aioli and Mama Lil’s pickled goat horn peppers. But the dish that causes the biggest stir is the Smoked Half Pig Head, augmented with crispy fried ear, braised tongue, roasted loin, and a handful of savory accoutrements. The entree feeds two to three people, must be ordered in advance, and is a scene stealer, craning necks whenever it’s ushered from the pass to the dining room. But if all of that sounds like it might be too far from the norm, fear not. You can always get something a little more traditional, like the Turkey Drum Confit. radiatorwhiskey.com, visitseattle.org.