Durkin’s Liquor Bar
When I was at the Left Bank Wine Bar enquiring about a local bar that had a large variety of whisky is when I first learned about Durkin’s Liquor Bar. When you enter Durkin’s through the front door and walk all the way to the back of the long narrow restaurant, you will find a stairway to go down to the basement. In the basement you will find a dark windowless bar that is reminiscent of a prohibition speak easy.
In this dark basement bar you will find a large selection of whiskies. The first time I was there Ben, the bartender who was very friendly and knowledgeable, helped me select a new whisky to try. In describing my taste preference leaning towards the Islay Scotches, he suggested the Japanese whiskies. The left end of the top shelf had a nice selection of about 8 or 10 Japanese Whiskies. I have the Hibiki 12 and Yamazaki 12 at home and have also tried the Hakushu 18 once at the Wandering Table, ben asked if I had ever tried the Nikka Taketsuru. When I responded that I had not, he pulled down an unopened bottle and letting me know that he had not tried it either, we tried it together.
It was not until my third visit to Durkin’s that I actually tried their food. In a conversation with my neighbor about the best burger in Spokane, he mentioned Durkin’s as a contender. Last Friday my wife and I went to Durkin’s and had a burger, fries and a couple beers. Because we had to wait for our table, we went down to the basement where I started off the evening with a dram of Lagavulin 16; my favorite.
Besides a great Liquor selection and a pretty good draft beer selection, Durkin’s Liquor Bar has outstanding food. Many of the ingredients are made right there. Not only was burger bun made there but the cheese and bacon were also made right there in house. After the addition of my house bacon and fried egg, my burger with fries was over $20 but well worth it. Even the fries were cooked to a crispy perfection.
The best burger in town? Maybe. Because of the vast differences in gourmet hamburgers I will need to do additional research. At this time the contenders are Durkin’s, the Tamarack and Prohibition. The next time I go to Durkin’s though, I will be trying other menu selections.
In 2014 when Madeleine’s Café’ & Patisserie moved from its location diagonally across from the old Macy’s building at Main and Wall, to their new location; three blocks east on Main across from Auntie’s Book Store, their lease was for a much larger space that would include room for a bar/restaurant. Owning Casper Frey in the South Perry district, this is a business model that they were already familiar with.
When tearing out the drop ceilings in the space that would ultimately become Durkin’s Liquor Bar the discovered tall ceilings with ornate tin tiles that were commonplace for saloons in the pre-prohibition. More discoveries during the demolition process and some additional research revealed that this was the location of one of three saloons owned by Jimmie Durkin in the early 1900’s.
Keeping the look and feel of the early saloon, Durkin’s Liquor was a logical name choice. Up on the top shelf of the bar, they actually have some of the old whisky jugs sold by Jimmie Durkin over 100 years ago. While the basement liquor bar at Durkin’s is made to remind you of a prohibition era speakeasy, Jimmie Durkin never sold bootleg booze at this location or any other. Washington State initiated prohibition in 1915; five years before national prohibition. Durkin sold off his entire liquor supply by the first day of prohibition. Durkin stated that prohibition would be repealed someday; which he would witness before he died in 1935.
written by:Todd Hays