Twisp restaurant aims for ‘unique’ dining experience
The first time Tyler Krost set foot in the two-story brick building at 101 N. Glover St., he knew what its empty retail space on the street level was meant to be. Gazing out the big picture windows facing North Glover Street, the brick walls behind him creating a cozy, intimate atmosphere, Krost told building owner Jenn Tate, “This building makes me want to sip a nice glass of whiskey and eat some barbecue.”
Less than 12 months later, that’s exactly what Krost was doing. Or at least his customers were. Krost was out in the alley behind the building, slow-cooking melt-in-your-mouth brisket, pork and chicken on his custom-made grill, while his wife, Nicky, was in the bar supervising the cocktail mixing. Whiskey-sipping and barbecue-eating was happening on the premises, but the Krosts were too busy launching their new restaurant — 1908 Barbecue & Bourbon — to partake.
At some point the Krosts might get to sit for a moment and savor their creations, but for now they’re proceeding at the fast and furious pace that has allowed them and their partner, Tate, to transform a vacant studio space into a full-fledged kitchen with an impressive bar and a nuanced, carefully curated menu.
Tyler, who served as the executive chef at Sun Mountain Lodge from 2017-2022, and Nicky, who was its wine steward, managing the lodge’s extensive wine cellar, have worked in just about every form of food and wine hospitality imaginable, from restaurant to catering to hotel to food truck.
Both attended culinary school — she at the Seattle Art Institute, he at Northwest Culinary Institute in Portland — and they met while working at Seattle’s Il Fornaio. When they married and had a baby, “Seattle became a lot less fun,” Nicky said.
The couple scouted around for resort towns where they could practice their culinary arts. Nicky took a job as a sous chef at Cave B Estate Winery near the Gorge Amphitheater in Quincy while Tyler accepted an executive chef position nearby in Moses Lake. Soon thereafter, however, Cave B needed an executive chef and Tyler stepped into that role, joining his wife on the chef team.
But as Nicky walked around Cave B’s vineyards, learning how the 18 varietals on the property were grown, taking notes from wine makers, and digging deeper into how soil types affect grapes, she fell in love with wine making. “I found my home,” she said. “I immediately switched gears.”
When the couple moved to the Methow Valley for Tyler’s new job running the Sun Mountain Lodge kitchen, Nicky learned that its wine cellar needed someone to oversee it. “I went for it and enrolled in sommelier school,” she said. “Two years later, I was a sommelier and Tyler and I were doing some really fabulous wine dinners, with exceptional [food and wine] pairings.”
After five years at Sun Mountain Lodge, the Krosts were ready to explore different opportunities. “When we decided we wanted to pursue the restaurant with Jenn, we thought we could do it incrementally,” Tyler said. “Jenn’s cousin had a food truck so she and I drove over to Bellingham to pick it up. Since the building didn’t already have a kitchen, we figured we’d build out the restaurant as seating and cook out of the food truck.”
The state of Washington, however, put the kibosh on those plans. The Krosts and Tate had applied for permitting that covered typical restaurant activities — not for the unconventional solution of using a food truck as a kitchen to supply a restaurant.
Despite being on a shoestring budget — funded privately amongst the partners and one local investor who believed in the Krosts’ and Tate’s vision — the restaurant came together fairly quickly, thanks to a lot of “blood, sweat, tears and exhaustion,” according to Nicky, as well as to the partners’ entrepreneurial spirits and Tate’s business acumen.
It’s not the first time that the businesswoman in Tate found a solution for 101 N. Glover St., which is the oldest commercial building in the valley. When Tate purchased the building in 2005, it housed the Methow Valley News in the main space and a dentistry office in the back, where the restaurant’s kitchen is now. Before that it was an antique store and before that the Evergreen Grocery, where Tate bought candy as a kid. Before that, it served as various family-run mercantiles.
Lachlan, Tate’s younger daughter, was born shortly after Tate purchased the building. “She’s grown up in it,” Tate said, “and now she’s the hostess at 1908 Barbecue & Bourbon. She’s come full circle.” In fact, the circle is so complete that Lachlan’s antique changing table provides a place in the bathroom for parents to change their children’s diapers at this family-friendly restaurant.
When the Methow Valley News moved to TwispWorks, Tate rented the space for yoga and Zumba as well as circus arts like silks and trapeze. But it takes a lot of downward dogs to make a business pencil out, and Tate found herself seeking creative ways to make the mortgage payments on one of the valley’s iconic commercial spaces. “Putting in the AirBNB units allowed me to keep the building,” she said. “It gave this mixed-use commercial building a life of its own.”
The structure itself was built to last, created with bricks fired at a kiln west of Loup Loup Pass. “VIP Cascades Agency, [formerly Melbourn Insurance] was built in the same era,” Tate said. The year was 1908.
Local craftspeople have given the restaurant a rustic aesthetic with a modern vibe. The floor in 1908 Barbecue & Bourbon is the original fir flooring, sanded and polished to a glow about five years ago by Paul Schmekel, who “carted out tons of sawdust,” Tate said. Luke Evans of Methow Valley Builders built a custom bar, using the live edge of an enormous piece of black walnut—“the most beautiful bar in Eastern Washington,” Tate called it. Pianist and piano teacher Michael Kamansky refurbished an old upright piano on the premises. And Tate’s own art graces the walls. (See methowvalleynews.com/2023/01/25/valley-life-twisp-88/ for more details about the restaurant’s artisan touches.)
Tate and her partners are working with the Shafer Museum to piece together a more complete history of the old building.
From food truck to storefront
During the summer of 2022, the 1908 BBQ & Bourbon partners took the food truck to several events to test the market for future barbecue offerings. “We ended up creating a huge marketing buzz,” Tate said. “That wasn’t our intention, but it ended up having a really nice effect on the opening of the restaurant. I guess it was the mystique of the food truck. We also did some soft-launch types of events, like a private dinner for a tourism conference as well as Mistletoe Madness. When we finally opened the restaurant [in mid-January], people just started pouring in.”
1908 BBQ & Bourbon doesn’t typically take reservations, although it will for special events like their Valentine’s Day fixed-menu dinner and other specific chef-menu offerings. That is pretty typical for barbecue restaurants, Nicky said. “Barbecue is its own culture. In a sense, barbecue can be fast food, since it’s already cooked by the time guests show up. Many barbecue places don’t have a sit-down option — you just take your food and go. But that’s not our valley’s style; people want to stay here and eat.”
The restaurant’s goal with its first-come-first-served approach, Nicky said, “is to feed as many people as humanly possible during the time we’re open.”
The food and drink
Barbecue is not intended to be fine dining, Nicky continued, but Tyler is dancing a line between fine dining and barbecue’s humble origins.
“I’ve lived my whole adult life as a chef,” Tyler said, “and I’ve always tried to make food better, paying attention to details.” It’s why he spends more for quality meats, cheeses and produce instead of using less-expensive, off-brand products. He is even continuing a partnership begun during his tenure at Sun Mountain Lodge, with TwisPasta’s Mike Schiesser, who makes fresh macaroni for 1908 BBQ & Bourbon’s mac-and-cheese dish and provides sheets of homemade pasta for the restaurant’s stuffed shotgun shells.
“I want the dining experience to be unique,” Tyler said. “I don’t want to use bottled coleslaw dressing — I make my own, using real cilantro and peppers. I make my own barbecue sauce with a flair of an Old Fashioned, using bourbon, maple syrup, orange, and spices.” (Does he sell the barbecue sauce in bottle form? Not yet.)
Even Tate, whose experience is in marketing and branding, contributes to the menu offerings. She grows the peppers used in the pepper paste; the eggs in the ramen bowl come from her chickens. She also ties on an apron and busses tables and washes dishes when the need arises.
The high quality of the food is echoed in the superior ingredients found on the bar’s shelves. “Ours are craft cocktails,” Nicky said. “Even our well drinks are more mid-tier than low-tier. Under Nolan Loucks, our main bartender, our all-local bar staff is killing it — they’re making these cocktails with four or five ingredients and they’re complex and layered with wonderful flavors that all harmonize. They’re making these beautifully balanced cocktails.”
Bringing joy to the world
Tate said that about five years ago she made a decision not to say “yes” to anything unless it brought more joy into the world. So even though partnering on a restaurant venture was “scary and nerve-wracking,” she thought that the community needed something like 1908 BBQ & Bourbon and she saw the Krosts as the people to bring that vision to fruition.
“Even though it was going to cost me all my shekels, I saw the opportunity to bring so much happiness to people’s lives,” she said — a sentiment that was recently confirmed by a customer, who said “It’s going to be a long winter, but with 1908 I think we’re going to make it to spring,” Tate said.
The Krosts say they have felt that joy, too, as well as fear and frustration and “every single emotion there is to feel. The harder you try, the harder things hurt,” Nicky said. That’s due in part to the independence. “Tyler and I always worked for other people in top positions, in restaurants and hotels,” she said. “This is the first time we’ve built it for us, and this partnership with Jenn has been crucial. We know the bad days will always be there, but our family and friends have been telling us, ‘This is you, happy.’ It’s true — it’s us, happy.”
The family aspect of the restaurant is fulfilling as well. Tyler’s father hand-carved the bar’s coasters, while Nicky’s father painted the restaurant’s logo. And although the Krost’s son is just in elementary school, they see a place for him in the restaurant in his teen years, just as Lachlan has found her place, and as so many other Methow Valley kids have learned to work in their parents’ restaurants and other small businesses.
Tyler’s mom and pop owned a mom-and-pop grocery store, he said, so when he was growing up he helped his mother with catering and his father with butchering (“and I’ve been playing with fire and knives ever since,” he said). He formed his work ethic in these early years, as well as learning how to communicate with customers and read people, to anticipate their needs. The Krosts say they look forward to having their son develop some of these same skills.
It’s not just about the building, or the menu, or the cocktails, however, Tyler said. The three partners’ satisfaction comes from the sheer “joy and passion” they’ve felt throughout the process of launching a restaurant together. “There’s a little bit of all three of our souls in this.”
Learn more about 1908 BBQ & Bourbon at 1908bbqtwisp.com.