The only giveaway that something fun might be happening inside the non-descript building in an industrial park just west of Monroe is the three picnic tables out front.
In fact, what was once Clearview Spirits &Wine still bears that name prominently over one of its doors. But I didn’t gather a few friends together recently to pick up a fifth of whiskey. No, Clearview Spirits is now Harry’s on Tye, and we came together to try some beer and eat pub grub.
First, let’s rewind: Soon after the state privatized liquor sales, Clearview Spirits &Wine owners Doug and Bonnie Roulstone decided to sell off their spirits and morph their business into one that focused on craft beer, wine and food.
“We felt like tax collectors for the state,” said Doug and Bonnie’s son, Harrison Roulstone, who was a large part of the transition and is now head chef for Harry’s on Tye.
In early 2014, they opened as a stripped-down taproom, pouring 32 beers but serving up nothing hotter than a hard pretzel. Earlier this summer they opened a kitchen that serves a large selection of pub grub, from pizzas to paninis, and this weekend they’re holding the grand opening for a large wine bar attached to the taproom.
I met two friends on an early Friday afternoon and walked into a near-empty taproom. Our waiter acknowledged us immediately and told us to take a seat wherever we wanted. Besides the six stools at the smallish bar, there are a mix of eight four-top tables and pub tables dotting the taproom floor.
We took a seat at a pub table and were quickly asked what we’d like to drink. The beer selection was great and we had trouble choosing. Our server was happy to allow us each a couple of small samples to make sure we got what we wanted. (I chose the Crux Fermentation Cast Out IPA; Harry’s recently hosted a Crux brewers night.)
The bartender/server on duty was excellent. Attentive and friendly, she bantered with us about beer, sports and whatever else we were going on about. She took our order and offered to show us around, guiding us back to the new wine bar and over to the additional space adjoining the taproom that was once the main retail space when it was a liquor store.
The large wine bar toward the rear of the restaurant is a beautiful, open space with a large, C-shaped wooden bar and hundreds of bottles of wine encircling it.
After the tour, we settled down to our meal. We tried to get at least something from all the sections of the menu, which is sorted in four quadrants: appetizers, paninis, pizzas and sandwiches.
Quick note: Harrison told me that the goal is to make Harry’s on Tye a full-scale, higher-end dining experience. Having attended culinary school at the Seattle Art Institute, Harrison would seem to have the chops to do it.
For now though, Harry’s on Tye focuses on quality pub grub. They get it right too. Our pizza — we picked the Meat Lovers over the Four Cheese and BBQ — had the perfect mix of thin, crispy crust and gooey cheese. The Italian panini, stuffed with salami and provolone, was grilled to perfection and wasn’t overstuffed with ingredients.
As for smaller bites, the tomato basil soup was full of flavor and lived up to the expectations of my friend Steve, a self-professed soup expert. We also tried the Maple and Chorizo Brats appetizer. They’re served with mustard and a red pepper garlic aioli sauces and were both excellent.
The only disappointment was the Roast Turkey Stack deli sandwich. Served with cranberry aioli on plain white bread, the sandwich was as bland as bottom-shelf vodka. If I had to do it over again, I think I’d order the Sweet Li’l Chicken with Brie on a toasted baguette.
We settled up and headed over to Dreadnought Brewing just down the road for another pint and some more sports banter. Driving past Harry’s on Tye a few hours later the parking lot was starting to fill up with craft beer fans.
Passersby no longer needed to see picnic tables to know something was happening inside.
Harry’s on Tye
14286 169th Drive Southeast, Suite No. 3, Monroe, 425-344-4825
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday and Monday
Alcohol: 32 beers on tap and 350 in bottles; full wine bar with 400 bottles