UPDATED APRIL 19, 2012
Red Papaya is now open. We were there yesterday when they tapped the first keg. Check out the photos at the bottom of this post. Our original post is below.
Seattle’s Lower Queen Anne neighborhood is about to get a new beer bar. Described as an Asian-themed alehouse, Red Papaya Ale and Spirits will be located at 530 1st Avenue North, near the corner of 1st and Mercer Street. The Signature Restaurant and Lounge, the name of the establishment currently at that location, will soon get a name change and a minor facelift. Most importantly, the owners will be adding a large selection of local and regional draft beer. The transition is hoped to be complete by mid-April.
“We are not going to re-invent the wheel here,” said Jay Fisher, who says he will act as the operational/general manager of Red Papaya. “The Signature already has a great menu largely based on Vietnamese dishes and it already has a great staff. We’ll be making some aesthetic changes around the place, bringing in a lot more beer, switching over to the new name, but we’re keeping the best parts of the existing operation in place.”
Jay Fisher knows a thing or two about beer. He also knows what it takes to open and operate an alehouse. For many years he was instrumental in running the Dog and Pony Alehouse in Renton. Before that, Fisher worked as a professional brewer. He is well-known around the local beer scene.
Fisher says that the restaurant’s interior layout is reminiscent of an alehouse as much as it is an eatery. He anticipates it being perfect for hosting beer dinners and other beer-related events. Red Papaya will be an all-ages alehouse.
Asian food and craft beer are rarely paired. Most Asian-themed restaurants focus on cocktails and light beers. Fisher sees this as a huge oversight in the Seattle market. He believes that the big, bold flavors of Asian cuisine are perfect for pairing with the array of flavors found in craft beer.
“If you’re like me, you’ve found yourself sitting in an alehouse drinking something like a Scotch Ale, imagining how well it would pair with a mango-shrimp fresh roll,” Fisher said.
To bring his idea to life Fisher turned to local restaurateurs Gene Sens and Jacque Nguyen, proprietors of a number of local restaurants, primarily in the Renton area. Sens and Nguyen own The Red House Beer & Wine Shoppe and Tappas Bar; Papaya Viet Café; Tea Palace Asian Restaurant; Blossom Vegetarian, Smoking Monkey Pizza; and Basil Box. Red Papaya will soon be the newest restaurant in their impressive dossier.
“We are going to try to do this as quickly as possible. We plan to close for only a few days. We’ll do some painting, change some signs, and reopen. Hopefully we’ll get it done in three days.” Fisher throws out an expected opening day of April 18, though he says that is not a sure thing.
Fisher explains that the single most important part of the transition is the addition of the new taps. Currently, there are only two beer taps and two wine taps. Fourteen more taps will be added. Red Papaya will offer 15 rotating craft beers on tap, along with one handle dedicated to draft cider and another two handles dedicated to wine.
“Along with great local and regional beer, we’ll be serving wine, cider and cocktails,” says Fisher, noting that The Signature’s bartenders enjoy a reputation as highly skilled and creative mixologists. “We’re going to bring in liquor from local distilleries as much as possible.”
Fisher says Red Papaya’s wine list will be a carefully chosen but not necessarily large, noting that the neighborhood is home to a number of establishments with extensive wine lists but precious few with a thoughtful selection of great local and regional draft beer.
Photos from Opening Day