Gabe Wood and Alex King met about 10 years ago at downtown Spokane’s O’Doherty’s Irish Grille, where – throughout their tenure – they did just about “everything.”
Both started in the kitchen. And by the time they left, they were tending bar.
Through it all – 11 years for King and “seven or eight” for Wood – they learned not only how to run a restaurant but that they wanted to own and operate one together.
Now the two friends are making that dream come true. For the past couple of years, they’ve been making plans for their Heritage Bar and Kitchen. A grand opening for the pub-style eatery is slated for Friday.
The name is meant to honor Spokane as well as their own family heritage. Many of the recipes they’re using at their new restaurant come from King’s family, particularly his mother, Nancy, and his wife, Melissa.
“It was a family effort,” King said. “We’ve had family helping us all the way through.”
Plus, he said, “We’re from this area. We love Spokane. We wanted to pay homage to Spokane.”
The logo for Heritage Bar and Kitchen features an image of the Monroe Street Bridge, located just a few blocks away. The woodwork on the front of the bar is also designed to look like the bridge.
And one of the walls in the dining room features a mural done by King’s brother, Ryan, depicting Sasquatch hanging off of Spokane’s Clocktower, King Kong-style, and drinking a beer.
“We said we wanted something that was Spokane-centric,” King said, noting that he and Wood told his brother to make it “cool” but also “put your spin on it.”
Sasquatch, a quintessential symbol of the Inland Northwest, also shows up in the window, where a figurine of the hairy, human-like woodland creature is arranged to appear to be pulling a mini Radio Flyer wagon.
Wood and King liked the space for its relatively small size as well as its location, in downtown and in the same building as Whistle Punk Brewing, which – other than pretzels and snack mix – doesn’t offer food.
Heritage customers can take their food into the brewery, they said. And, Wood and King said, they would like to be offer some Whistle Punk beers on their own taps, too.
Meantime, there’s room for about 50 people in their new space, at a mix of mostly two- and four-tops. There are 10 stools at the bar as well as a table for eight and another for 10.
They want the spot to feel friendly and unpretentious.
“We want it to be a place where everybody feels welcome,” King said. “Like,” he said, “O’Doherty’s. It almost feels like when you’re at O’Doherty’s you’re at a friend’s house.”
Wood agreed: “We just want it to be fun, good people, nice people. There’s not enough of that.”
The partners initially looked at space, previously occupied by a short-lived barbecue joint, last November. Before that, it held Brooklyn Deli, which has since moved around the corner to the first floor of the Montvale Hotel.
“We love the rock wall and the exposed red brick, and the feeling of the wood, brick and rock,” Wood said. “We just had to morph it into a pub.”
They signed a lease in February and went to work on the build-out, doing most of the renovations themselves. They built a wall, separating what would become the back bar from what had been an open kitchen. They painted. They cleaned. They added the mural. They built a counter for the bar. They added shelving. They reupholstered the bench that lines one wall of the dining room.
Both men thank their wives, Katie Wood, a teacher, and Melissa King, who works for her parents’ Kershaw’s office supply and furniture store, for supporting them.
They also thank their parents, particularly their dads. King’s dad, Fred, a retired architect, helped with design.
Today, the pub is dusty blue with black and tan and wood accents. It stretches just more than 1,300 square feet, which King admits is small. But, he said, “This is our first place.”
Wood, 32, and King, 31, worked on their business plan – with help from family members and mentors at O’Doherty’s as well as the Washington State University Small Business Development Center – from fall 2016 to spring 2017. Then they began scouting locations.
They’re still fine-tuning the menu, a mix of classic and comforting American pub grub – with some twists.
“We want to make sure everything we do is really good, on point,” Wood said. “We don’t want to spread ourselves too thin.”
The opening menu is streamlined. It’s “basically all the meals me and my brothers asked for for our birthdays,” said King, one of four brothers.
It’s also about one-third of the size of the full menu, which Wood and King expect to debut sometime shortly after Hoopfest, June 30 and July 1.
Meantime, look for a classic burger, the Heritage Smash, with two smash patties on a brioche bun with American cheese, lettuce, onion, tomato, pickle and signature sauce. Or, opt for the hash-brown burger with one smash patty, bacon, smoked gouda, chipotle ketchup, lettuce, onion and tomato, served between two hash-brown “buns.” Wood and King came up with it together.
“We actually make the hash browns in-house,” King said. “It’s time-consuming. But it’s worth it.”
The Fancy Nancy comes from – and is named for – King’s mom. When he was growing up, she called these hand-held meat pies “cheeseburger surprises.” You get two. They’re stuffed with ground beef, onion, tomato and cheese.
“It’s the first thing that everybody who knows Alex asks if it’s going to be on the menu,” Wood said. “Everybody loves them.”
The tenderloin sandwich – a fried pork chop with a cracker crust, mustard, lettuce, onion and pickles – comes from King’s mom, too.
His wife came up with the Ramen Almond bowl, a cabbage-and-chicken salad topped with crunchy noodles, as well as the chicken bruschetta sandwich, with provolone and a balsamic reduction.
Look, also, for a dipper basket with chicken strips and curly fries as well as the eatery’s signature – and only – dessert: deep-fried peanut butter and jelly.
“It’s filthy good,” said Wood, who graduated from Jenkins Senior High School in Chewelah in 2004 and from Eastern Washington University in 2012 with a degree in natural science education.
King, who graduated from Ferris High School in 2005 and WSU in 2009 with degree in leadership and professional studies, got the idea for the dessert from a trip to Las Vegas about eight years ago.
“We talked about how, if we ever had a restaurant together, we were going to have this as the dessert,” Wood said.
Their version features crust-less bread that’s dunked in pancake batter before it’s deep fried.
The expanded menu will feature more entrees, more family recipes and more sandwiches. Expect a chicken pot pie, chipotle meatloaf and Washington pork chop with apple chutney.
Fries are curly or sweet potato. Draft beers – with the exception of one light domestic – will be local.
“It’s not local like state-of-Washington local. It’s local like Spokane,” Wood said.
Look for offerings from Iron Goat, No-Li, Bennidito’s, One Tree and River City to start. There are eight taps, plus bottled beers. Wine will be all from Washington. Top-shelf spirits – whiskey, gin and vodka – come from Dry Fly.
The signature cocktails are inspired by and named for Spokane’s longest-airing TV news people, such as KREM’s Tom Sherry who provided the recipe for his drink: vodka, soda, a splash of tonic and a lemon twist.
To have a drink named for them, Spokane news personalities must be recognizable. That is, according to the rules printed on the drink menu, “You must be a face of the Spokane media.”
Members of the media must also be currently employed and working in the field. “When you retire or move, so does your drink.”
And, they must have been working in local news media for 21 years or more. “Essentially, your career needs to be old enough to drink.”
The cocktail named for KHQ’s Stephanie Vigil features Bombay Sapphire gin, house-made mixed-berry reduction, soda, basil and lime.
KXLY’s Nadine Woodward and Robyn Nance, KHQ’s Dan Kleckner, and the team of Dennis Patchin and Rick Lukens, who have a radio show on ESPN radio, also all have cocktails named for them.
Wood and King said they’re looking forward to adding KXLY’s Kris Crocker, who’s been here since 1998.
They idea to recognize local, longstanding members of the news media came to them a couple of months ago. “The result,” Wood said, “of a late night.”
He joked the competition to be included “cutthroat.”
After all, he said, “We can’t be putting everybody on there.”