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Mischief on Canal

A secret to be shared

When Fremont Mischief Distillery owners Mike Sherlock and Patti Bishop first saw the property on Canal Street in Fremont, it was not pretty. But they saw what it would be when they were finished. Indeed, they have transformed it into an amazing, welcoming place where spirits are made, tasted, and appreciated. In addition, they have realized their dream of hosting fundraisers that give back to the Fremont neighborhood which has given so much to them.

Chef John Walhle

Part of their vision from the beginning was to have a restaurant on site. They both love food, cooking together, and creating recipes and menus that could be used at the restaurant. "My vision was to hire someone to make our recipes - local and delicious food," says Patti. "We are definitely risk takers, but newbies to the restaurant industry. So we looked for someone who could help us hire a chef. It became clear that we needed someone who really knew the business as well as how to cook. It would have been so much work for us to figure it all out ourselves." Jill Carter, their Design/Graphic person and jack of all trades, interviewed candidates with Mike.

"Along with others, we interviewed John Wahlke. He was more skilled [see John's background here] than we could afford," recalls Jill. "Interviews can be stressful, but it really struck me that when he went onto the rooftop deck, he completely relaxed. It was like he was home. We talked with others but kept going back to John. I wrote to him saying 'how can we afford you?' and he wrote back right away. He is open, honest, and happy, and brings creativity both to the food and business model." Mike liked that John is joyful and jovial. "He looked at the small kitchen and said, 'I can do this.' He has good ideas on food, incorporating all senses." John has taken Mischief on Canal beyond what Mike and Patti envisioned. They've said, 'this is yours' and he has control over food direction, vision, people, cocktails.

John accepted the job but was still working at Hotel 1000 in March when Mischief on Canal opened during Seattle Cocktail Week. "I was working at Mischief on my days off the first part of Cocktail Week," recalls John. "It was the first time Mike and Patti saw my food. With two days left in the week, everything shut down due to the pandemic. I had two weeks off without work, then asked them if they still wanted me. Fortunately, they loved what I'd done, so we negotiated a new arrangement. I was helping bottle spirits and hand sanitizer, and painting. When I said I'd love to have a garden, Mike jumped on it, so I helped build the planters for the herb garden and herb wall on the roof. It gave me enough time to plan the menu for our June opening. Normally I'd make everything from scratch and go high-end. We are doing that, but I can't make all the things I want to. I have to think about what cool things I can do with the equipment and space I have. I want to have people come to the distillery and enjoy a fantastic drink, then be blown away by the quality of the food that comes out."

John ensures that the food fits with the spirits, along with the ideals that Mike and Patti espouse. "Making sure the two fit together is important, not only for pairing but also to match what they believe in - sourcing sustainable ingredients. One of my favorite things about food is that there's always a story behind a dish, ingredient, cookbook. At Mischief, there is a story behind everything, right down to where the grains come from. I want to create more stories. One of our items is a mushroom "cappuccino" bisque. It has locally-foraged mushrooms, mirepoix vegetables, madeira, spruce foam, and is served with a hazelnut mushroom biscotti. You can't get much more northwest than foraged mushrooms, spruce, and coffee! I want things to be eye-catching and delicious. We all want to support local businesses as much as possible. Those practices are what keep me interested."

John loves using foraged items to make things like a Spruce Tips Vesper, spruce and chive butter, and nettle butter. His new project is growing his own mushrooms. "I haven't heard of a place that does this. I'm still experimenting because there's a lot to it. Your tubs have to have vents, you have to keep them in the dark, and have a sterile room. We have the room here plus we can use the spent mash as fertilizer. All this creates another story - we'll be serving urban-foraged mushrooms from the closet!" He uses Mischief whiskey in his barbecue sauce and chocolate mousse, and spent gin botanicals in olive oil. "After it sits for a few weeks, you strain it and have a really flavorful gin olive oil to dip bread into."

The courtyard space, Canal Room, and rooftop deck are also available for private events (up to 400 when it's possible again). John can handle a seated dinner for 100, but once it goes beyond that number, the kitchen is just not large enough. "We have about four catering firms we use for large events," notes Patti.

Looking ahead, Patti wants to be able to have live music on the stage in the courtyard daily. John wants to see the restaurant become self-sustaining. "We all have so many ideas, I want to use them and see this grow. The ideals and passion are here, everything is hand-crafted. I want everyone to know we're here and what we're doing."

Connie Adams/January 2021

Mischief on Canal
Fremont Mischief Distillery
132 N Canal Street
Seattle, WA 98103

Canal room and bar

Restaurant: 206-402-5755
Tasting room: 206-632-7286

Mischief on Canal offers takeout. Please check website for hours and days.

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