When Chino owners Walter and Mari Lee decided to open a restaurant based around the Los Angeles street food they devoured in their youth, they matched those diverse culinary tastes with one of the defining features of L.A.’s liquor landscape: tiki. Honestly, it could have been an overly syruped and sweetened disaster, but luckily, the Lees brought in local bartender Veronika Groth (last of Poppy) to supervise the drink slinging. Groth’s devotion to mingling classics with tasteful modern updates translates well into a partially rotating menu of eight tiki drinks ($9–$13). Some stalwarts, such as Trader Vic’s mai tai, persist alongside changing mixes such as a Singapore sling with fresh pineapple and a rich, rummy navy grog accented with allspice.
TOASTING THE GUA BAO
While the gleaming array of rum, gin and other bottles behind the bar (including local spirits such as Oola vodka and gin) is a distraction, patrons should also sample from the food menu, the highlight of which is the gua bao (three for $8), a steamed bun that’s slightly chewy and topped with pork belly or fried tofu, tangy pickled greens, fresh cilantro and crunchy peanuts. With a bun in one hand and a mai tai in the other, you’ll feel this is the finest street dining to be had in any state.
Capitol Hill, 1024 E Pike St.; 206.860.4238; chinosseattle.com
Cocktail expert A.J. Rathbun blogs at ajrathbun.com