The Toronado devotees, they study the beer menu the way fantasy football fans obsess over stats. Two weeks ago, they even lined up outside in Roosevelt, waiting for the bar to open at 11 a.m.
There are bar openings and then there’s Toronado. The original is in a bohemian ’hood in San Francisco, credited with introducing barleywines, Belgian ales and craft brews to a region known more for cabernets. For beer geeks, the Toronado in Lower Haight is one of the must bars to drink at before you die.
Lucky for Seattle, one of those beer geeks was a local boy, Matt Bonney, who struck up a friendship with Toronado’s renowned owner, David Keene, on his pilgrimage there. The two opened the Seattle cousin on Aug. 4.
The dim, echo-y space looks unremarkable. If you stumble in, not knowing the Toronado back story or if your beer diet consists of Rainier and PBR, you won’t get what all the buzz is about. But it’s nirvana for beer geeks. Before each pour, the bartender rinses the pint with purified water — no chloride or impurity to compromise the taste. After the precious liquid is dispensed, the foam is shaved off with the back of a knife.
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Toronado goes through up to seven kegs a day. Patrons, even after ordering a beer, gawk at the beer menu on the flatscreens, just for kicks.
Bonney cut his teeth at beer palaces like Brouwer’s Cafe and Bottleworks. He put his vast Rolodex and the Toronado name to good use.
Some of the world’s best and rare ales were tapped at Toronado two weekends ago: the acclaimed The Lost Abbey’s Duck Duck Gooze and beers that aren’t available in the state, like Surly Brewing Co. in Minnesota.
Beers from Portland’s acclaimed Hair of the Dog to the last keg of Woo-Tang Kettle Sour from Elysian Brewery Company also made cameo appearances.
It was one of the best tap lineups I’ve seen in Seattle in recent years, an eye-catching way for Toronado to flex its muscle and announce its arrival in the Evergreen State.
It’s unlikely Toronado can pull off such a strong 40-tap lineup every week. There’s only so many rare kegs to go around. But there have been one or three must-try beers every time I’ve visited.
The bar food is head-to-tail eating, with beef heart tartare and entrees featuring 21-day dry-aged beef.
There was a substantial grilled beef sandwich, served medium-rare. But better was corned beef hash topped with a fried duck egg. Fork that yolk and let that cheese-like gooeyness coat the potato confit. Pair it with a Firestone Double Barrel Ale. Heaven.
Notably, Toronado didn’t put a burger on the menu. (They had a whole cow to work with, so it’s doubtful it was a beef shortage.)
Bonney holds beer in reverence and wants to raise the bar for pub food. Bar snacks are mostly charcuterie, with meats smoked and cured in the kitchen. No fried food. The menu changes frequently based on what animal the kitchen butchers. Expect a pig and goat-centric menu in the near future.
For beer geeks who must know what brews Toronado has on tap while they’re at work, the owner now has made the “real time” beer list available on its webpage.
Toronado, 1205 N.E. 65th St., offers happy hour daily from 3-7 p.m. with $1 off on beers and well drinks. Bar food happy-hour menu pending (206-525-0654 or http://toronadoseattle.com/).