Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Seattle Weekly Critic Jonathan Kaufman "Savors the Highlights of a Million-calorie Year"

The best of 2009 is out. Kaufman's picked his top ten "dishes" of 2009 and included is Tavern Law's Gun Club cocktail by David Nelson. Kaufman writes, "I've drunk too many of these (damn that six-block walk!) to omit the Gun Club at Tavern Law, Dana Tough and Brian McCracken's new cocktail bar. Of course, you can make a reservation upstairs and get a customized cocktail designed to your tastes, but I've preferred to pick through the arcana listed on master bartender David Nelson's menu downstairs. Made with gin, Lillet, Maraschino, and a few drops of Scotch for smoke, the Gun Club tastes like a downed electric wire, crackling and throwing sparks. It's a dangerous and compelling drink, as several mornings-after have proven."

Thanks Jonathan:

Friday, December 11, 2009

Critic Maureen Clancy Writes Up Tavern Law

Clancy stopped by the bar a few week's back and sipped some of David Nelson's creations. Today she writes, "Seattle’s Tavern Law successfully invokes the glory days of American bartending while also offering the best food, drink, talent and know-how of the new millennium."

In addition to diving into the allure of Becherovka (which she describes as "a prized alcoholic drink, made in Karlovy Vary (aka Karlsbad) in the Czech Republic, from anise seed, cinnamon and a secret mash of 32 herbs") Clancy also sips Nelson's Eastern Waterfront. Of it she says: "a fragrant mingling of gin, Peychaud’s Bitters, Martini & Rossi white vermouth and Becherovka. It’s one of the many fascinating cocktails dreamed up by the eatery’s talented bartender/mixologist David Nelson (pictured here, photo by Clancy). On the same night that he splashed Becherovka into my son Nicholas’ cocktail, Nelson swirled together for me two types of rum (Rhum Agricole and blackstrap), allspice liqueur, lime juice, Chartreuse and Demerara sugar. Though it didn’t have a name yet, the “work-in-progress” was an aromatic and warmly satisfying cocktail, perfect for sipping while the rain drummed the sidewalks in front of the atmospheric new saloon. (Since that night, Nelson has christened the drink The Indecent Monk, a reference to the French monastery where the liqueur was originally produced and the green-brown color of the monks’ robes.)"

To read the entire review, please visit her blog Matters of Taste:

Thank you for coming by Tavern Law, Maureen.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Tavern Law in the Seattle Times

Thursday's Seattle Times takes a look at our neighbors along 12th Avenue, everything from this street's great restaurants, to shops and martial arts schools. Tan Vinh described us as "The city's premier speakeasy-style cocktail lounge and worst-kept secret. It's located upstairs through the bank-vault door. Pick up the rotary phone to get buzzed in."

Thanks for including Tavern Law, Tan.

Photo by Kristin Zwiers for Tavern Law.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Seattle Times Reviews Tavern Law Today

What a way to start the weekend! Restaurant Critic Providence Cicero reviewed us in today's paper, peppering her article with words like "phenomenal" and "perfect" to describe our food and calling us "the thinking drinker's watering hole". She wrote, "Drinks include a thoughtful selection of cider and beer, plus a wine list commendably long on half-bottles, but the cocktail is king and the chief courtier is David Nelson, also Spur's talented bar manager.
Libations are crafted in the wood-paneled, book-lined downstairs as well as in the secret lounge above by a cadre of professionals in silk vests and ties whose passion for and knowledge of spirits equals their prowess at blending them.
They are conjurers bent on surprise; virtuosos who mix and stir with precision, shake with vigor, then pour the results into just the right vintage vessel. The most high-tech tool at their disposal is a hand-operated juicer.
Come here to learn the difference between a rickey and a buck, a daisy and a smash. Can't decide? Let the bartender take your measure, and tailor a drink to your preferences."

To read Ms. Cicero's entire review, please visit the Seattle Times website at Photo of Tavern Law's Death Before Sunrise for the Times by Cliff Despeaux.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Imbibe Magazine Says Tavern Law is "Where to Go Now"

In the magazine's Scene Scout section, Imbibe magazine has featured Tavern Law in their November/December issue. "Behind the tall, frosted glass windows at the intersection of Madison and 12th Avenue streets in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood, bar manager David Nelson is re-creating long-forgotten cocktails at Tavern Law, the bar recently opened by Spur Gastropub owners Brian McCracken and Dana Tough. Inspired by Nelson's affinity for vintage bar manuals, the cocktail menu is cleverly built like a book divided into chapters of Sours, Flips, Slings and Punches, while the bar's interior is equally vintage in style."

It's a terrific piece and we're honored Imbibe covered our opening.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Matthew Amster-Burton writes about Tavern Law for Gourmet saying, "At Tavern Law, the new Capitol Hill bar from the creators of Spur gastropub in Belltown, you’ll want to go upstairs, and not just because of the rigmarole involving a locked door, an antique telephone, and a dark staircase. No, you’ll want to go upstairs because the speakeasy-style mezzanine is where bartender Miles Thomas is waiting to design a special drink to please you. Into ginger? Thomas might pull out a cloudy vial of house-made gingercello and combine it with rum, simple syrup, and orange juice for a spicy, invigorating, one-of-a-kind cocktail. Then again, downstairs you have full access to Tavern Law’s encyclopedic drink menu, equipped with a glossary in case you don’t know your fizzes from your flips. The food—poached salmon, fried oysters, sautéed pimientos de Padrón—is expertly cooked and appropriately modest, as if devised to keep your mind on beverages.
Tavern Law 1406 12th Avenue, Seattle (206-322-9734;".

a recent menu

Pan seared butterfish. $15
fregola sardi, kale, herb couslis

Cod fritters. $9
sauce remoulade, lemon, Chervil

Foie gras terrine. $15
angostura bitters gelee, warm toast

Pork belly. $14
cranberry beans, autumn plums, mustard

Braised shortribs. $15
spaetzle, fondue, red onion jam

Lolla Rossa lettuce. $7
fennel, picholines, parmesan

Baby beets. $9
chicory, Alioli, pecorino Romano

Truffle risotto. $14
celery, Parmesan, olive oil

Thursday, September 24, 2009

the Seattle Times takes a look at Speakeasy-inspired hideaways

Today Tan Vinh gives lovers of classic cocktails a glimpse into the backrooms and upstairs of a few of our area's Prohibition-era-inspired spots. He was kind enough to include Tavern Law writing,"In Seattle, where some folks seem to embrace all things classic cocktail, now comes the hideaway bars that replicate the hush-hush aura of the Prohibition-era speak-easies... The hotly anticipated Tavern Law — mentioned in The New York Times and on cocktail-geek blogs — debuted in late August on Capitol Hill, opened by the owners of the nationally acclaimed Spur Gastropub in Belltown. At Tavern Law, a vault door leads to a den adorned with Prohibition-era motifs: a flask believed to be owned by Houdini, vintage glassware and custom furniture recalling designs from the 1930s. Above, antique chandeliers. Below, a floor constructed from reclaimed barn wood in Montana. "We wanted to celebrate the classic cocktail and the art of bartending," said Brian McCracken, who co-owns Tavern Law with chef Dana Tough. Instead of a cocktail menu, the speak-easy bartenders craft drinks based on the customers' flavor profiles (a cocktail with smokey notes, for instance).

...Customers also like to dress the part. Dec. 5 is considered Seattle's biggest cocktail party, when cocktail geeks every year don Bonnie and Clyde get-ups to celebrate the end of Prohibition in 1933... Those costume parties are more frequent with the faux speak-easies. Recently, Tavern Law was rented out for a private party at which folks dressed in gangster suits and flapper dresses arrived in a stretched Rolls-Royce."

To read the entire article and more about Maxwell's, Bathtub Gin & Co., and Knee High Stocking Co., click on blog title above. Thanks Tan!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Angele Garbes of the Seattle Weekly Sips w/ David Nelson

...she writes, "David Nelson, bar man at Spur and newly opened Tavern Law, is a man who takes his cocktails very seriously. The bar of Spur is lined with myriad squat, cork-topped glass bottles containing tinctures and bitters that Nelson is crafting and tweaking, and at Tavern Law the emphasis on traditional techniques continues with house-made syrups and freshly squeezed juices. While Nelson's cocktails at Spur are classics reworked with decidedly modern elements (smoky martini with liquid olive, anyone?), Tavern Law is focused squarely on his scholarship of the classic cocktail. Here, Nelson shares his recipe for a Crimean à la Marmora Cup, an 1862 cocktail that he describes as "complex and refreshing." The cocktail contains a homemade almond syrup called orgeat, the recipe for which Nelson also shares."

Click link above to view the recipe. Thanks Angela!

photo by Kristin Zwiers

Friday, September 18, 2009

a story on Tavern Law: KOMO's Julien Perry reports

One of the oldest temptations is now one of Seattle's newest obsessions - the speakeasy. And the one getting all the buzz is Capitol Hill's Tavern Law. "(In the 1930s) it legalized the sale of liquor in public establishments without the sale of a room. It was really a pivotal law in developing what we know as bars and saloons and taverns today," says Brian McCracken.McCracken, along with Dana Tough -- the same guys behind Spur gastropub -- opened Tavern Law in late August. It's a fun, approachable space where you can enjoy some really good food and interesting pre-prohibition cocktails. "In the main bar, we've got a very early 20th century-inspired masculine feeling space with a lot of rich, dark woods and dark leather seats and booths, and a really nice curving mahogany bar," says Brian.

The two were inspired to open Tavern Law after a trip to some of New York City's finest speakeasies last December. "I feel like a few of the different speakeasy-style places were destination spots that after one visit, you kind of got your fill, you know?" says Brian. "I want Tavern Law to feel like some place that you've had a really great experience that you want to recreate and you want to come back and you want to try it over and over again."

Tavern Law is all about classic cocktails, whereas Spur's have a more modern twist. And while the food at Spur leans towards the higher-end, Tavern Law offers up a more humble menu which Dana describes as good products prepared simply. "We have a chicken leg and thigh which is served with some new potatoes, English peas dressed with creme fraiche and grenache vinegar reduction with a little sea salt on top of the chicken; very simple," he says. "One of our more popular dishes is our foie gras terrine which is topped with angostura bitters Chile and served with some warm toast, which basically is a little bit thicker sliced crostini."

There is a hidden speakeasy element to Tavern Law. It's a charming little secret called Needle & Thread. Just look for the telephone. And don't tell them I told you.For more information:

Places Brian likes to Go Eat!: Shiro's

Places Dana likes to Go Eat!: Harvest Vine, La Carta de Oaxaca

Photo by David Kronstad/Trace

Click on blog title above to listen to or read Julien's story.


Friday, August 21, 2009

sweet news: Daily Candy on Tavern Law

It reads:

Barely LegalTavern Law Bar Opens

The verdict is in. In light of recent evidence, your temporary prohibition (which began last night at 2 a.m.) of all alcohol is lifted.

Bust out your desk drawer flask, Don Draper.

Twisted classic cocktails and elegant pub fare continues at Tavern Law, Spur owners Brian McCracken and Dana Tough’s new project, opening tonight. With its curved mahogany bar, masculine leather booths, and bookcase stocked with vintage law tomes, the remodeled mercantile building recalls a privileged private library.

Study up on the short chalkboard menu with rotating specials like carnaroli risotto, braised pork belly, and fried oysters with beefsteak tomato and horseradish aioli.

Cocktails like the vintage Monkey Gland (gin, orange juice, grenadine, absinthe) and the newly fashioned Pike & Pine (rye, rosemary, lemon, kummel, egg) make a case for sticking around late into the night.
Setting a precedent.

Photo credit Kristin Zwiers for Tavern Law.

Tavern Law, 1406 12th Avenue (206-322-9734 or
More In: Food Bar

Bethany from the Stranger writes about our opening

The Stranger's blog gave a countdown to Tavern Law's opening this evening. They wrote:

Tavern Law Opens in Fifty-Two Minutes

Posted by Bethany Jean Clement on Fri, Aug 21, 2009 at 4:08 PM

Tavern Law—in the Trace Loft building at 12th and Madison on Capitol Hill, brought to you by the gentlemen of the massively popular Spur Gastropub in Belltown—opens very, very soon, and people who love good cocktails are very, very excited. Look for anything with cranberry—chef Brian McCracken's family owns a cranberry farm, and barkeep David Nelson knows what to do with carefully sourced ingredients. In terms of food, McCracken and co-chef Dana Tough will be making classics like oysters Rockefeller, the fabled Monte Cristo, clams casino, and more. Tick tock.

Paul Orchard welcomes Nelson's Tavern Law to Capitol Hill

If you're not familiar with the Northwest Beer Guide (aka The Pickled Liver), take a look by clicking the link above. Today, Paul "Fruit Tree" Orchard reports on Tavern Law's arrival on Capitol Hill, offering a look into the history of the Speakeasy and more. Paul first achieved Craft Beer enlightenment in 2003 and is guest columnist for the Seattlest's craft beer column when he isn't reporting elsewhere.

Nancy Leson of the Seattle Times on our opening day

The Seattle Times reports today:

Tavern Law open. Don't expect a Spur-of-the-moment seat
Posted by Nancy Leson

With all the early press -- both locally and nationally, my guess is there won't be a lot of room to move at Tavern Law when the Capitol Hill restaurant and speakeasy-styled drinks-joint makes its public debut at 12th and Madison tonight. Doors open at 5 p.m. and listen up: it's 21-and-over.
Considering the talent at hand (chefs Brian McCracken, Dana Tough and their barman David Nelson -- who brought us Belltown's Spur gastropub), and the foot traffic alone on this Pike/Pine corridor (they're ensconced in the Trace Lofts complex), chances are you might just have to poke your nose in and head elsewhere. Not that you'd have far to go given the implosion of worthy places to eat and drink within a few short blocks.
Chefs Dana Tough (left) and Brian McCracken want you: to check out their new place.

photo/Kristin Zwiers

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tavern Law is Opening Friday August 21 at 5pm

Our opening day is Friday. We look forward to seeing many of you on Friday, over the weekend and in the coming weeks.

Brian, Dana, David et all

Monday, June 15, 2009

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Seattle Metropolitan mag talks Tavern Law

Jess Voekler was looking for the scoop on Tavern Law and here's what she wrote:

“Booze News: Tavern Law Opening Delayed. A bit about what we're waiting for... Talk about good press. Tavern Law got a fourth-graf mention in William Grimes’ article about speakeasies in today’s New York Times, and the place hasn’t even opened yet. Opening has, in fact been delayed: Chef/owners Brian McCracken and Dana Tough hope to be up and running by mid-July. The Capitol Hill bar and restaurant will have a cocktail menu with more than 70 pre-prohibition and prohibition-era drinks designed by “stone cold fox” David Nelson, who will be a far less frequent site at the trio’s well-loved Spur, though he will continue to manage the Belltown bar as well.

Food, according to McCracken and Tough, will be more “humble” than at Spur. Humble being a relative term: the Tavern Law Monte Cristo ( “around $12”) is stuffed with sliced pork shoulder with maple and smoked olive oil that they’re cooking sous vide for seven hours; a jam of fresh huckleberries; and the gruyere-esque Valentina cheese from Estrella Family Creamery. What they really seem to mean by humble is a certain old-school efficiency. “We’ll bring in a case of fresh vegetables and use them until they’re gone…buy a whole pig and serve dishes with all the different cuts of meat,” says Dana. The simple chalkboard menu with feature 8-10 revolving plates, all under $15.

Happy hour is still in planning stages.

Classic cocktails, seasonal food. Sounds good. But what makes it a speakeasy? Dana and Brian say they were inspired by NY’s throwback bars—they recently went on a 2.5-day Manhattan speakeasy bender, and were especially impressed with Milk and Honey—but they’ve also built in some speakeasy-style surprises.

What those are, exactly, McCracken and Tough want to keep a secret for now, but, they say, word is out among industry types. So if you really want to know, try bribing your bartender. Or just wait until the place opens in July."
Photo by Kristin Zwiers for Tavern Law.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The New York Times William Grimes Includes Tavern Law in Article Today

click on blog title above to read the NY Times article
In an article in The New York Times today, "Bar? What Bar?", Grimes writes about a nostalgia gripping the country for Prohibition era bars. Tavern Law is included in his piece on "new bars going for the speakeasy look".

Friday, May 22, 2009

Food & Wine magazine Spills our Secret Nationally

Assistant Editor Kelly Snowden of Food & Wine magazine wrote today about Tavern Law:

Seattle's Next Speakeasy
By Kelly Snowden, Assistant Editor
Related Categories: Bars, Chefs, Cocktails, Restaurants

It hasn’t even been a year since Seattle’s Brian McCracken and Dana Tough opened Spur Gastropub, but they are already neck-deep into their next project. Piggybacking onto the speakeasy trend that has been sweeping from East to West, they will debut Tavern Law in late June, a joint project with bartender David Nelson. The trio visited many New York City haunts, such as PDT, Pegu Club and Milk & Honey, to get inspired for their next spot, which will be in the city's new Trace Lofts. When Tavern Law opens, expect to see a chalkboard menu with bar-friendly dishes like their take on the Monte Cristo, with slow-cooked pork shoulder on a brioche bun with huckleberry compote. Nelson, who made the tinctures and bitters for Spur, will offer a new lineup of drinks as well, including his interpretation of a Bourbon Swizzle with lemon juice, falernum and chartreuse."

Thanks Kelly!


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

“Spurred on by success Spur team to open Tavern Law”: Nancy Leson, Seattle Times.

Click on blog title above to read all of the article:

In her column Seattle Times food and restaurant writer Nancy Leson tells the story of our team’s newest venture opening this summer. As well as updating readers on the food and focus at Spur, Leson wrote that “now they're set to do it all over again with Tavern Law -- a "speakeasy bar" expected to open late next month at the Trace Lofts complex on Capitol Hill.

Today, the windows at 1406 12th Avenue stand covered, but what we'll eventually find inside is seating for 80, upstairs and down. "It's going to have a very dark-wood masculine feel downstairs, with a beautiful mahogany curving bar and a vintage cooler behind that," says Tough. A 20-foot Venetian-plaster mural depicting a lovely lady draped in a glamorous gown will overlook bookcases, dark leather banquettes and booths, and we can expect "some little surprises along the way."

It will come as no surprise that these roaring 20-somethings and masters of the memorable menu plan to replicate the formula that's brought them so much praise. Nor that (barman David) Nelson will fuel the fire on the Hill with another classic cocktail agenda. "David's staying true to that era," says Tough.

McCracken describes their chalkboard menu as short and ever-changing "so it doesn't get boring." We might find tweaks on a wedge salad with Green Goddess dressing, perhaps a Monte Cristo sandwich, or clams and oysters dolled up in Casino finery. McCracken insists their fare will be "less fussy" than Spur's but no less appealing. Prices? They'll call $15 the ceiling.

"Capitol Hill is a vibrant, fun neighborhood and there's always energy out on the streets," says McCracken of their decision to hit the Hill with their second location. And given the proximity of colleges and an oft-changing restaurant landscape, "Capitol Hill will always stay young," says Tough. "People go out every night of the week." Unlike Belltown, "it's not so much a destination spot, it's a self-contained neighborhood."

If anybody can capture the zeitgeist of Capitol Hill and its growing collection of go-to eat-and-drinkeries it's these young cowboys of cuisine…”

construction photo of Tavern Law’s future space and mural by Kat.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Seattle Weekly's Voracious writes about Tavern Law

Maggie Dutton of the Seattle Weekly reported this afternoon on our soon-to-open spot on Capitol Hill. She writes:

"Tavern Law, Spawn of Spur, Coming to Capitol Hill in June: I have no idea where anyone is finding the money to open a restaurant or bar in these tough economic times, but more power to them. I will be perplexed and still get excited about chef owner Brian McCracken and co-chef Dana Tough of Spur opening a second joint. Ridiculously talented bartender David Nelson will concoct cocktails rooted in the classics. Tavern Law shoots for a late June opening in the crown jewel spot of the Trace Lofts, at 12th Ave E. & Madison. Click on the link above for the official word from the bar's blog and follow along. In other news, I covet that glass.*"

Thanks Maggie.

*Maggie's referring to the glass depicted on our blog photo here-- part of a collection McCracken's been culling.

Photo by Kristin Zwiers.

We're Opening on Capitol Hill: Summer 2009

Seattle Chefs Brian McCracken and Dana Tough are opening a new speakeasy style bar in Seattle. Last summer the duo opened Spur Gastropub in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood which has already been recognized as one of the country’s six top gastropubs by Food & Wine magazine. This year they join lead bartender David Nelson in opening Tavern Law in late June on Seattle’s Capitol Hill. The 21-and-over restaurant/bar will anchor Trace Lofts, the historic-meets-modern residential and retail project located on 12th Avenue within the Pike Pine Triangle. At Tavern Law the trio will focus on classic cocktails and full-flavored, refined foods served in an environment reminiscent of Speakeasy-era establishments of the 1920’s.

In 1832 the Pioneer Inn and Tavern Law legalized drinking in public bars and saloons. The Golden Age of cocktails thrived for nearly a century until the 1919 Volstead Act almost destroyed the craft by outlawing the production and pleasure of alcoholic beverages. However, in hidden rooms and dark basements, thirsty patrons still sought spirits. And so the Speakeasy was born, booming until the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. Tavern Law is a celebration of this history. To join Tavern Law’s email list for more information, email us at .

Friday, March 6, 2009

to learn more

email us at to get the inside info on tavern law.