A modern food hall in Hillyard preserves the past while creating new relationships over coffee, beer and tacos

click to enlarge A modern food hall in Hillyard preserves the past while creating new relationships over coffee, beer and tacos
Young Kwak photo
Find good food and good company in Hillyard.

When Dave Musser walks to work, he knows just about everyone living along the three blocks between his house and Bellwether Brewing.

Back in 2015, Musser and his wife, Brianna, opened the brewery, hoping it would help neighbors get to know one another. A happy commute to work proves that it did.

So after eight years of success in the Emerson-Garfield neighborhood, the Mussers started looking for another "hole in the wall" spot to build a spin-off taproom and make new friends.

Instead, they found a 100-year-old bank building — converted into a vintage shop and overflowing with dusty antiques and slat board — for sale on Hillyard's main strip along Market Street. The facade was beautiful and the history was iconic, but it was way too big for a single taproom. So the Mussers started calling some old pals.

Together, Dave, Bri and a few loyal partners created The United Building, a collaboration between Bellwether Brewing, Derailer Coffee and Locos, a new Southern comfort food extension of the Grain Shed by chef Victor Lewin. The building's first floor is a modern food hall featuring all three businesses. Each has its own kiosk facing a bright, open seating area ready for anyone to eat, drink and meet new people.

Eventually, the upstairs floor will feature Sword & Board, a Dungeons & Dragons-focused game store, and Pigasus, a children's toy store, run by Seth and Rebekah Miller, another husband and wife duo.

If it seems a little chaotic at first, the owners agree. But they also think it's worth it.

"It would have been easier for Dave and Bri to put a taphouse somewhere," says Michael Kotsala, co-owner of Derailer Coffee. "But they've taken a huge risk because they've seen what investing in a neighborhood looks like — what it's done for their neighborhood — [so] that they're willing to invite other people into this crazy adventure."

click to enlarge A modern food hall in Hillyard preserves the past while creating new relationships over coffee, beer and tacos
Young Kwak photo
Smoked pulled pork

When rumors spread that Grain Shed was opening another location in Hillyard, excited patrons from North Spokane thought they could buy fresh Grain Shed bread without going all the way to South Hill.

But Locos is completely different from the bakery in Perry District. It's the delicious full-dining creation of Victor Lewin, a former Grain Shed baker who wanted to do more than make bread.

He calls the food at Locos "modern redneck cuisine," a love letter to comfort food that stretches the comfort zone, just a little. He's the grandson of a Scottish patissier who was raised on Texas barbecue.

"If Victor would have opened with his food in Kendall Yards, you would not be able to get into that spot for like a month," Dave Musser says.

click to enlarge A modern food hall in Hillyard preserves the past while creating new relationships over coffee, beer and tacos
Young Kwak photo
Texas-style chili

Locos' kitchen is exactly where the bank vault used to be, and its cache is just as tantalizing. Racks of ribs ($20 for half or $37 for full), burgers with bacon-onion-mushroom hash ($18), Kalua pork sandwiches ($16) and barbecued shrimp BLTs ($16) pour out from behind the secret door. Tuesdays are Taco Tuesdays. Lewin also experiments with other limited edition items like gourmet nachos, corn ribs, and chicken torta. Plus, all bread products are sourced from Grain Shed.

It's a happy spread for meat eaters and non-meat eaters alike. Even some self-proclaimed carnivores, like Dave, now salivate over Lewin's portobello steak.

"It's just about using something that's a simple ingredient and giving it the dedication and the respect that it deserves," Lewin says. "You don't have to put a lot of lipstick on it to make it look a bit more appealing."

Lewin is relaxed and intentional, both with food and people. He frequents the antique shops around the United and buys gifts for Derailer Coffee. He even found a full-sized saddle to sling over a partition wall. He'd prefer being called something like "food whisperer" instead of a hierarchical title like "executive chef."

Lewin is continuing to develop community partners, hoping to source more food from local growers at Green Bluff, Vinegar Flats and Vets on the Farm.

"We want the food to have integrity on its own," he says. "That comes from hard work. That's the only secret."

click to enlarge A modern food hall in Hillyard preserves the past while creating new relationships over coffee, beer and tacos
Young Kwak photo
A native Texan, chef Victor Lewin calls Locos' menu "modern redneck cuisine".

When Bri Musser goes on vacation, she just wants to stare at buildings. The interior designer nerds out so much that her husband jokes, "Sometimes I'm like, 'I can't even walk by you, I'm so embarrassed.'"

It's the kind of passion that made her tear up at the original blueprints of the United Hillyard Bank building. It's also what helped her design a space that both honors the past and invites new opportunities.

In 1920, Henry Bertelsen designed the United Hillyard Bank building in the Beaux-Arts style, an ornate combination of Renaissance and classical architecture typical of many Gilded Age buildings.

Bri included homages to the bank's hundred-year-old style in her redesign, like scrolled gold frames, raised trim molding and vintage wainscoting. (Most of the wainscoting is actually slat board repurposed from the previous antique shop owners, an extra nod to the past.)

Un-plastering the walls revealed bricks made by J.T. Davis Brick Co., a brickyard originating in what is now Cannon Hill Park. Bri and her father also decided to refurbish the bank's original vault door, which they found in pieces under the stairs.

Finally, Bri wanted to preserve the building's name, which turned out to be surprisingly poetic.

"I just wanted to honor the building, so we are calling it The United," she says. "It works perfectly because it's also a uniting of businesses in one space."

Renovations took two and half years, about five times as long as Dave hoped. But the result is a gathering area where people want to linger, for beauty as well as beer.

"A lot of people come in and go, 'This building's way too nice for this area," Kotsala says. "And my response is, 'Says who?' These are great people who need great places to hang out."

And although people are starting to come from all over the city to eat and drink, The United wants to keep a local identity. Its neighbors are helping.

A new customer came in to eat at the same spot where she opened her first bank account, telling Dave how strange and exciting it was. A gentleman sat across the bar from Lewin and told story after story about Hillyard's glory days in the 1940s. Another man brought in a whole binder of family history for Kotsala to read, tracing multiple generations through just four or five blocks in Hillyard.

This is exactly what the crew at The United hoped for.

"This is your place, this is your living room — it's not ours," Lewin says. "We've said all along, we want this to be a place where people can make up or break up or anything in between." ♦

The United Building • 5016 N. Market St. • Open Tue-Sat 7 am-8 pm (individual business hours vary) • instagram.com/theunitedbuilding

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Eliza Billingham

Eliza Billingham is a staff writer covering food, from restaurants and cooking to legislation, agriculture and climate. She joined the Inlander in 2023 after completing a master's degree in journalism from Boston University.