Sunday, January 25, 2015

King of the Hill

Tacoma's cocktail master steps out on his own


We're about to tell you to drive to Tacoma for cocktails. Here's why.

Bartender Chris Keil gave the City of Destiny its first top-flight bar in 1022 South. But when he found himself in a managerial disagreement with the bar's owners, he made the tough choice to walk away from the empire he created.

Now he's back, with Hilltop Kitchen. And you need to get a seat at this bar as soon as possible.

The cocktail menu here is a work of art, with two distinct categories: "Goes Down Easy" and "Boozy & Odd." We've never tasted anything like the Duncan Idaho before, with rum, overproof rum, Drambuie, lime oil and mole bitters.

And, of course, there's the bartender's choice. Tell Chris or Wendell behind the bar your mood and they'll construct a drink just for you. Hell, they might even name it after you.

The food is equally bold. Small plates with Mexican influences are the order of the day, including "upgraded corn," a take on the street classic of grilled whole ears topped with chipotle crema, manchego, smoked paprika, scallions, and lime juice. 

So set aside some time to drive on the 5. At the end of the road is a bar so good you might want to get a hotel room and make a night of it.

Hilltop Kitchen
913 Martin Luther King Way
Tacoma, WA 98405
(253) 327-1397

Price: 2 (out of 4)
Noise: 2 (out of 4)
Best bets: Duncan Idaho; Oaxacan tesseract; upgraded corn
Nearby: Peterson Bros; Southern Kitchen; The Matador

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