Brandon Pettit and Molly Wizenberg chose Delancey, a street in New York, as the name of their now-famous Ballard pizza place as a reference to the New York style. Essex is a street that intersects with Delancey—they share a subway stop and are connected by a tunnel in the same way the pizzeria is connected by a hallway to their craft cocktail bar, so the name was an obvious choice. As the decor was coming together, the architect who was having wallpaper designed (a damask-like pattern with herbs and spices used in alcohol-making) wanted to incorporate an animal and was inspired by a bronze whale sculpture… afterwards, they realized Essex is the name of the ship in [UPDATE: the real-life story that inspired] Moby Dick and ran with the theme.
Essex is a small space with a marble bar and walnut tables and chairs and doors; it resembles a British pub, but with sperm whales. They’re making lots of their own stuff, including a homemade fernet, different bitters, their own version of Grand Marnier with blood orange and grapefruit, tequila, rye, and charred liqueurs made from fruits, herbs, and spices roasted in the pizza oven. (The bar manager came from La Bête and, before that, Licorous.) Essex also offers soft pretzels, chili oil/lemon peppers, and prawns from the wood-fired oven (among other things), and, as a main course, 14-hour pork shoulder with green beans and vinaigrette.
When I spoke with Pettit recently, he seemed busy but not quite frantic, even though they’d be opening in…days? Mere moments? (They're serving their first drink right about now.) Essex sounds like a cool place—the house-made liquors will be fun to try and sperm whales are neat. But I have a feeling they’ll wish they had more square footage.