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Hollywood Tavern

Change can be good

When a place is as iconic as the Hollywood Tavern in Woodinville (built in 1922 as a service station and turned into a tavern in 1947 by Mabel Nieman), you hate to see change. But nothing stays the same forever. When Matt Kellogg and Chris Faul updated the site, they wanted to preserve the tavern tradition.

The tavern itself remains the bar of the revamped building. The biggest change here is the variety of what you can order. Co-owner and managing partner Thomas Self explains, "We want to have something for everyone. We offer a $14 Manhattan with Italian Amaro, a traditional gin and tonic, and hyper-local draft beer PNB for $3 that was created in the Northwest. We also have a rare $15 sour beer in a bottle. We're looking for premium and approachable."

Food-wise, they're sticking with tavern favorites like fried pickles and burgers. The burger specials (Tavern Special) change every few weeks and are somewhat seasonal. The Hollywood Burger features local grass-fed beef, and Mabel's Cajun Chicken Sandwich (photo) uses chicken thigh meat with a house-made spicy honey butter rub. They've brought back a more tavern-like version of Brussels sprouts with pork belly, Woodinville Whiskey Co. whiskey maple syrup, and chili flakes. The mac and cheese sees a return of cauliflower to the mix. "A menu is always a work in progress," says Thomas. "We like to have seasonal entrees, but there are customer favorites we want to keep on. Some favorites may become specials. I like to see menus change. We try to find the balance." Thomas also wants to build relationships with local providers. "It's important to us to find the right partners. We may not always be able to do organic, but if we know the producers, we can provide a great product to our guests."

The dining room and kitchen are new, as is the fire pit outside the front door. A semi-enclosed front bar/patio can be reserved for private events. "Our stance going forward on private rentals is all or nothing," explains Thomas. "We will rent out the front patio, but not the inside bar or dining room. The whole place would need to be rented. It's really a protection for both private party-ers as well as our regular guests." There's also a loft upstairs in the Woodinville Whiskey Co. building next door.

Matt, a real estate developer, drove by the pub in 2012 and saw it was for sale. He called and asked how much. Describing it as "the worst negotiating strategy ever," he said, "I'll take it!" As Thomas says, "He liked the area and the look of it. He had a vision of enlarging and updating it and putting in a building next door, so he could entice a distillery. He coaxed Woodinville Whiskey Co. to partner with the tavern. He and Chris, who has a construction company, did the remodel, then added Huxley-Wallace as the operating partner. They created the original menu and opened in November 2013."

Matt ultimately sold the Whiskey Co. building and land to Moet Hennessy; he and Chris are still owners of the tavern and the property it sits on. The partnership with Huxley-Wallace ended and Matt, who had previously worked with Joe Fugere of Tutta Bella, brought them in as managing partner. Matt remains a partial owner of Tutta Bella. Thomas Self was Tutta Bella's Director of Operations; he was their direct connection to the tavern, helping manage, and meeting regularly with Matt and Chris. "We all have the same vision for the place, which is the original concept. Matt and Chris love this place and give input all the time," says Thomas. As they worked together, it became clear that Matt and Chris wanted an operating manager on site all the time. "I have often thought about having my own place, but the risks always outweighed the benefits. This opportunity had established sales and gracious guests. I already knew the business generally. It seemed like the perfect fit." After 6-1/2 years at Tutta Bella and over four working with Hollywood Tavern, Thomas became a co-owner on November 5, 2018.

Thomas Self by Seattle DINING!

"My early background in restaurants was really about getting a job, keeping it, and advancing (click here to see his experience). As time went on, what I really wanted was to believe in the product I was putting on the table, the concept, and the owners. I had that once, with Tutta Bella. At Hollywood Tavern, it's not just about making money, it's about making great food in-house, people having fun with friends and family in a relaxed atmosphere that's also a place for celebrations. This place has a soul. I want to keep that going and build on it."

As for the future, Thomas says, "I have no real expectations beyond making this place better every day. No matter how well you do, you can always be better. I also want to get closer to our suppliers and learn more about their practices. We want to find the right fit: our brand, culture, and values need to mesh. And once we find that fit, we want to educate our guests. Make it known that we're working to make food better for everyone."

Thomas also sees them doing more event programming in-house. "We did a summer kick-off party that was kind of like people showing up accidentally," he laughs. "We want to do it right, let people know what's happening, have corn hole tournaments, live music, and support a good cause. We're thinking 5-6 a year where we close down for a special menu like oysters on Valentine's Day, a post-Mother's Day winemaker dinner, and post-Father's Day whiskey dinner. And although we're an American tavern, we'll do something on St. Patrick's Day with Irish fare and Oktoberfest with German fare."

All this to look forward to along with their daily menu, hack weekend brunch menu, seasonal cocktails and more, what's not to love?

Hollywood Tavern
14501 Woodinville-Redmond Rd NE
Woodinville, WA 98072

Park anywhere in the lot
Free valet parking available Fri (after 5)-Sun noon-close

Photos courtesy of Hollywood Tavern unless otherwise noted.

Connie Adams/January 2019

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