I can still remember the first time I went into Rocco’s in Belltown to have a drink. I was blown away by the dandy cocktail and spirit selection, the overall friendliness and amiability of the staff, and by the fun touches throughout the bar. It’s a great place to have a drink with friends on all levels.
So, I was super excited to hear about Herb & Bitter Public House that's scheduled to open in early June (even sooner if we’re lucky), at 516 Broadway E on Capitol Hill. It's owned by Jesus Escobar (who also owns Rocco's), the swell head shaker Leroy Thomas at Rocco's manages Herb & Bitter's bar. We were lucky enough to catch up with Thomas recently to talk about the new bar.
Seattle Magazine (SM): Describe Herb & Bitter Public House in one or two sentences.
Leroy Thomas (LT): Our ambition is to create an environment where anyone can enjoy great unique cocktails and outstanding food in a positive, pleasant environment. The idea is to have something for everyone to enjoy, and taste things they haven’t experienced no matter what their diet restrictions might be.
SM: From the name, it seems like drinks will lean towards the serious and digestif side of things – would that be right?
LT: We want the drinks to show the diversity of amari and herbal liqueurs – much more can be done than just Brown, Bitter, and Stirred. The drinks will vary from serious and wildly bitter to light, fun and playful. We would like this to be a bar for all types of drinkers.
SM: Rocco’s has some really interesting cocktail combinations (and great cocktail names, too) using a wide, wide range of ingredients, and some interactive things like the Create a Shrub. Will Herb & Bitter Public House’s drink menu follow along the same lines?
LT: The cocktail menu will have a similar layout. Creative cocktails that are approachable, highlighting seasonally available fruits and herbs. Naming the cocktails has been a source of much joy for us, often relying on somewhat silly pop references.
SM: Also, Rocco’s has a really fun personality, from the menus made of old books to the classic animated beer signs on the back wall. What’s the feel at Herb & Bitter going to be like?
LT: Some of your favorite faces from Rocco's will be working at Herb & Bitter. It will be a fun, service-oriented team who we hope will build Herb & Bitter into same welcoming environment – another neighborhood spot where you feel welcome every day. Plus, some more cool menus!
SM: We’ve mentioned the drinks a bunch, but what’s the food menu going to focus on?
LT: The overall menu concept is diverse and eclectic with a nod to Spanish-style cuisine, with seasonal tapas, raciones, entrees, and desserts. We will also incorporate other Mediterranean cuisines and world flavors into such dishes as house-made sausages, croquettas, smoked meat and fish, and pickles; as well as some gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegetarian options.
SM: This is a very anticipated Seattle bar opening, and I’m guessing it’s been a lot of work! Are you pretty excited for the doors to actually open?
LT: Having done the complete build out ourselves, we have shed a lot of blood, sweat and tears. We are taking things day by day and have put the excitement on a back burner for now. We're sure when the time comes to open, the entire team will experience a mixture of elation and relief. It's definitely been a labor of love.