Former Westward chef Will Gordon’s pop-up Tio Baby’s grew a loyal following during his seven months cooking at Capitol Hill bar Rose Temple. Last summer, it was easily one of the best spots to grab a snack after a night of drinking or smoking weed in the neighborhood.
Now, Gordon is ditching high-end dining altogether to make the kind of food he’s loved since he was a teenager: wings, nachos, fries, and other bites you crave when you’re too tired or inebriated to care about fine dining plating or Michelin-starred service, and all you want is something that has salt, grease, and a satisfying crunch. Gordon recently opened Tio Baby’s as a full bar on Stone Way in Fremont in the 45-seat former Bar Charlie space, bringing the same food he became known for at Rose Temple to another part of town.
Gordon describes himself as “kind of a line cook” who drinks a lot of White Claw and whiskey, and he says during his years working in fine dining (as the sous chef of How to Cook a Wolf, among other places in Seattle and San Francisco) he always felt like he was cooking food he should be cooking, not what he actually wanted to cook. Though he says he enjoys going out to fine-dining restaurants in Seattle, Gordon started his culinary career as a dishwasher at a Mexican restaurant on San Juan Island, where he grew up. And nothing has ever topped his staff meal from that restaurant — a plate of cheesy nachos eaten out of a cardboard box after a long shift.
After nights plating food with tweezers at expensive restaurants in Seattle, Gordon would often hang out with his friend and former roommate Andrew Nienhaus, now his partner in Tio Baby’s. “We’d smoke pot and watch TV and talk about how we just wanted to have this bar with killer nachos and wings,” Gordon says.” “Tio Baby’s is the bar we’d always dream about.”
Beyond the wings and nachos, the bar offers snacks like candied peanuts, escabeche pickles, chips and queso, chips and salsa, and marinated Castelvetrano olives, and vegetable dishes like salsa macha green beans and a butter lettuce salad with plums, nigella seeds, mint, and a whipped tahini dressing. There are also some fast-food-inspired dishes like a spare rib sandwich “intended to be a really good version of the McRib.” (Fast food is another one of Gordon’s loves, and he previously served his version of a Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme in a collaboration with Seattle pop-up Chachi’s.)
The drink menu, created by bar manager Russel Berry, are mainly summery and drinkable, like a White Claw, and focuses on classics like margaritas (all are under $14). Gordon says he wants his bar to be an affordable neighborhood spot people can come multiple days a week. As a whiskey drinker, his favorite cocktail on the menu is the Louisiana Spring, made with Four Roses bourbon and strawberry lemonade.
The decorations in the space, which were previously fairly subdued, with concrete floors, high ceilings, and exposed pipes, are now just as fun and loud as the menus. A gold-framed portrait of Danny Devito as Frank from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, by Seattle artist Craig Cundiff, hangs behind the bar. Two eagles fight over an El Camino in a mural on another wall. And the hall to the bathroom is covered in wavy orange and red wallpaper. There’s also a fire pit and several seats outdoors on the sidewalk.
It seems like Gordon has found his calling as a chef with Tio Baby’s, and he has no plans for new businesses or big changes to the concept in the future. But as he gets settled, expect burritos and rotating specials on the menu soon.