Best of Olympia 2020: Dillinger’s Cocktails and Kitchen

Readers' Pick: Best Creative Cocktails

By Christian Carvajal on February 20, 2020

Born in Indianapolis, grandson of German immigrants, he ran afoul of the law while still in his teens. After getting arrested for auto theft, he enlisted in the Navy but deserted his ship, the U.S.S. Utah, and was dishonorably discharged. He got married but couldn't keep a job. Instead, he turned to armed robbery. He did nine-and-a-half years in Indiana prisons but vowed, "I will be the meanest bastard you ever saw when I get out of here." Sure enough, he and his eponymous outlaw band were soon dubbed "the Terror Gang." They robbed multiple banks over a year and a week. He executed an escape from jail that experts still can't explain. After a nationwide manhunt, shootouts and escapes, plus a round of plastic surgery that almost killed him, the FBI declared him "Public Enemy No. 1" in 1934. On Dec. 15, he made the fateful decision to catch a movie, the Clark Gable crime drama Manhattan Melodrama, at Chicago's Biograph Theater. Shortly after the screening, he was shot by the feds several times in an alley and died without saying a word. Bystanders dipped newspapers and handkerchiefs, even their skirts, into his blood to retain as souvenirs. That was the life and horrific death, at age 31, of one John Herbert Dillinger.

Who better, then, to inspire the old-fashioned hooch parlor inhabiting the former Security Bank Building, a downtown landmark since 1927? Yes, it's Dillinger's Cocktails & Kitchen, launched in 2014 by a team of dining luminaries including Lela Cross, the founder of dearly departed Cielo Blu. In 2018, Food & Wine magazine named Dillinger's a must-try Olympia eatery. You agree, Volcano readers, as you voted its cocktails the most creative in town. Unconvinced readers should try Dillinger's "Oaxaca old-fashioned," featuring agave, mezcal and tequila instead of the usual whisky. Dillinger's imports complex drink recipes from the Chicago bar scene, so the "Vieux Carré" hails from The Violet Hour in Wicker Park. Still unsure what to order? Tell Dillinger's roster of expert mixers your allergies, workaday woes and a base liquor of choice, and they'll suggest a tipple to match. You may be minutes away from a "where have you been all my life?"-scale encounter.

Have we forgotten the food? That, to steal a phrase, would be a crime. The Portuguese sausage burger's a hearty revelation, while the country board is classic bistro fare replete with foie gras mousse and pâté. Justly famous as well is Dillinger's bread pudding, which soaks donuts in praline ice cream and Four Roses bourbon. For a culinary cornucopia, try the $35, prix-fixe supper affair, which offers three impeccable courses each Sunday at 4 p.m.

Six thriving years in, Dillinger's is destined for a much happier history than that of its namesake.

DILLINGER'S COCKTAILS & KITCHEN, 4-10 p.m., Monday-Thursday; 4 p.m. to midnight, Friday-Saturday; 4-8 p.m., Sunday, 406 Washington St. SE, Olympia, 360.515.0650,