The doctor is in and a small but loved E Olive Way restaurant that has been looking for an exit has a deal in hand. The prescription has been written for The Doctor’s Office, a new Japanese-inspired, compact 12-seat tasting room and bar with a yakitori takeout.
“Let’s see if we can create that environment where people end up in a conversation about what whiskey they’re drinking,” Matthew Powell, MD said as the first-time bar owner described some of the vision behind the new project that will team him with Seattle food and drink expert Keith Waldbauer, an outgrowth of the relationship the men started over pours when Waldbauer was part of the ownership at Liberty on 15th Ave E.
Blue Stone Bistro owner Chong Kim announced the closure Monday and set off speculation about the “high-end bar” set to replace the 2015-born Korean joint. Powell said he found out Blue Stone was available in a chance conversation over the counter with the owner of a nearby bar. A lunch meeting later a few months back, and Kim and The Doctor’s Office had a deal.
There will, indeed, be plenty of “high-end,” expensive whiskey on hand but that isn’t really the point, Powell said. With the limited seating and small space, The Doctor’s Office is intended to give its patrons detailed attention from hot hand towels to a bit of bubbly to start the night, along with a tighter, more personal experience, and access to rare and special pours. Eventually, the hope is the interest will grow to a point the new bar can become reservation only.
Powell said the result won’t necessarily be hugely expensive. The tiny square footage and limited staff will keep overhead low, he hopes. That’s why the Blue Stone space works so well, Powell said.
“A lot of the spaces that come open are big square footage,” he said. “They’re big concept. But not the kind of place I want to hang out in.”
Speaking of big concept and closing Korean joints, Blue Stone’s exit paired with the closure of Trove has quickly eaten into the neighborhood’s Seoul-flavored options.
For Waldbauer, The Doctor’s Office will put the writer slash bartender slash educator back into motion on Capitol Hill. He became a co-owner at Liberty in 2010 before departing the 15th Ave E craft cocktail bar about five years later as plans for expanding the business were iced.
Waldbauer and Powell began percolating on the project centered around Japanese whiskeys and grilled skewers and watching for a space that could work for the project. In addition to bedside manner, Powell brings experience in whiskey and mezcal education to the project. The two teamed up on a pop-up earlier this year with car collecting venture Drivers Club to gauge interest and further refine their ideas.
The Doctor’s Office will be part of a small trend of smaller scale, more exclusive food and drink experiences popping up around the Hill. Earlier this year, Taneda debuted in the Broadway Alley building with only nine seats. Expect a few more to squeeze in.
Powell said, in part, the desire for a more personal experience is about creating a place he wants to go as he ages. “As I get older, I want to be able to have that conversation,” he says
But don’t expect The Doctor’s Office to be quiet and antiseptic. Do expect elegance. Powell said Hiroshi Matsubara of GM Studio, creator of the gorgeous Momiji space among many more, will be designing the overhaul of the E Olive Way venue.
It’s too early to say when The Doctor’s Office will open. Construction will depend on permits and contractors, of course, but Powell said the hope is to debut this fall.
As for Dr. Powell’s role as a first-time bar owner in his home neighborhood, he says he is planning to keep his day job.
“The reality is, it’s all a hospitality business.”
The Doctor’s Office is planned to open later this year at 1631 E Olive Way.
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