Dillingers Cocktails and Kitchen speakeasy opens in Olympia

Prohibition-era lounge opens in downtown bank

By Nikki McCoy on February 6, 2014

John Dillinger, the depression-era outlaw whose gang robbed two dozen banks and prompted the induction of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is the inspiration behind the name Dillingers Cocktails and Kitchen, a new business located at 404 Washington St. in downtown Olympia.

And, oh how apropos. Not only was the building constructed in 1926, but the space Dillinger's now occupies used to be a bank. There is an actual vault inside the establishment, and the metal door, decorative in design, is swung open at all times to invite visitors into the historic room to dine and imbibe.

Sandy Hall and co-owners Lela Cross (former owner of Capitale and Cielo Blue) and pastry chef Denise Alonso had been looking for a place to fulfill their dream for about three years.

"I'm really drawn to downtown ... And then we found this place. I love the décor of the security building, and whenever I would come in here, it really felt good and actually smelled good, too," laughed Hall.

The 900-square-foot space boasts prohibition-era décor with a menu designed toward classy eats and craft cocktails. Elegant chandeliers hang from the ceiling, high-back chairs and cozy booths grace the tables and moody mauves and blues set the tone.

The bar looks as if it came straight from the ‘20s, with a graceful, high-arched mirrored shelving system to hold small-batch bottles of booze. The bar itself is made with wood from the original walls.

"We want an old, authentic, prohibition-style lounge," said Hall, "and we wanted to maintain the integrity of the space the best we could."

Another extension of authenticity is in the cocktails. The owners brought in local craft-cocktail experts for the staff, including Sherylin Lightner, Bradford Knutson, Brant Boelts and Andres Jones.

"We have a great team of bartenders," Hall said. "Everyone is very passionate about the project."

Dillinger's first Friday officially open was a success. The place was packed, the bartenders were looking sharp, and there was no shortage of enjoyment as I tried my first Dillingers cocktail, the Hanky Panky ($8). Stirred and served up in a lovely etched glass, the combination of gin, sweet vermouth and Fernet was pleasing. These three ingredients are complex on their own, so to get them in a glass together and have it taste so good is a definite skill.

The small plate I ordered was bacon-roasted blackened pork with herbed goat cheese polenta, winter greens and garlic mustard cream sauce ($9).  This one doesn't need my praise - it speaks for itself. I didn't have room for the whiskey donut bread pudding with Four Roses spiced ice cream, but there is always next time.

Outside of the awesome food, drinks and gangster/prohibition/speakeasy vibe, perhaps what is most impressive is that this bar fills a niche in the community.

"We tried to come up with something different than what we've experienced in Olympia so far," said Hall. "We really want to take the art of the cocktail to places no else has."

Beginning March 4, a Saturday and Sunday brunch will be added.

Dillingers Cocktails and Kitchen, 3-9 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 3-11 p.m. Thursday, 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 404 Washington St, Olympia, 360.515.0650