“That is the people’s view. I want them to enjoy it,” said John O’Reilly, motioning towards the blue waters of Puget Sound.
O’Reilly is the proud owner of Steilacoom’s newest restaurant, Topside Bar & Grill, and it opens tonight, Friday, March 23 at 6 p.m.
“It’s authentically Northwest. So is the food,” said O’Reilly.
Topside Bar & Grill is located at 215 Wilkes Street in Steilacoom, in the space which used to occupy Jakes Bar & Bistro. O’Reilly, whose experience in the restaurant industry includes Ramblin’ Jacks Lonestar and Mercado restaurants in Olympia, was a former bartender at Jakes.
“I got to know the people of Steilacoom while bar-tending at Jakes. The locals are wonderful,” he said.
O’Reilly left Jakes in September of 2011, three months before Jakes Bar & Bistro closed. Now he is thrilled to be bringing back a local restaurant and bar that reflects and supports the community.
For the record, O’Reilly is ninety percent owner of Topside Bar & Grill. The remaining ten percent is owned by investors. He pays rent to his landlord, Scott Babbit.
“Scott Babbit has been very gracious throughout this whole process,” said O’Reilly.
For two and a half months, O’Reilly and his crew of volunteers have re-finished floors, re-painted walls and re-built the restaurant by hand. The massive and beautiful oak bar was built by Steilacoom craftsman Chuck Morgan. On the walls are restored black and white photographs of Steilacoom nautical scenes, donated by the Steilacoom Historical Museum Association (SHMA). The framed photographs are for sale, and all proceeds go back to SHMA.
“Those photos bring Steilacoom’s history back to life,” said O’Reilly.
He is also in the process of setting up a SHMA Appreciation Card, where if you join SHMA and you eat at Topside, at the end of the year you will get a percentage back.
Speaking of eating, the menu features pacific northwest fare such as fish and chips, Northwest chowder and wild pacific salmon. Salads, burgers, appetizers and desserts round off the menu, which will be linked to their website. O’Reilly promises that Topside will be family oriented and kid friendly, and they will have a children’s menu. Topside’s head chef, Dave Russell, is familiar to the Steilacoom crowd also. Russell was the former head chef of ER Rogers Restaurant from 1985 to 2005. Behind the bar is Lisa Smith who previously worked at Cicada in Olympia. Topside will feature predominantly Washington wines, and craft beers ranging from specialty imports to domestics. 17 taps are on hand at the bar.
“When residents have out-of-town guests visiting them, I want them to eat at Topside Bar and Grill and experience our culture. That is what this place is about,” said O’Reilly.
Part of that experience is eating on the outdoor deck, watching the boats, trains and birds go by on a sunny day. O’Reilly said the deck is open 365 days a year, with some days having limited service.
“That is the people’s view and I want them to have access to it. When the weather warms up, we will staff tables. But if someone wants to take their food out on a sunny but chilly spring day, they are more than welcome to do that,” he said.
O’Reilly is working on getting more heat lamps for the outdoor deck and looking at ways to block a sometimes persistent westerly wind. “It just takes time and money,” he laughed.
Giving back to the community is something O’Reilly feels strongly about. Not only does it show through his dedication to SHMA, but also through the ‘Wall of Appreciation’ for military members, and the giant community chalkboard calendar located at the top of the stairs before entering the restaurant.
The ‘Wall of Appreciation’ for military members is for soldiers who are deploying. Before they leave, soldiers can leave their name tag on the wall. When they return, O’Reilly will buy them a meal. The monthly community chalkboard calendar will be updated with community events.
“If you have an event going on at Chloe Clark Elementary or at Steilacoom High School, we’ll put it up on the board,” he said.
Some familiar traditions will return to Topside such as ‘Trivia with Jim’, and wine and beer education classes.
“Trivia with Jim will return on March 27 at 7 p.m. It’s a lot of fun. Prizes are given away every week. If you come in for dinner on Tuesday nights, be ready for a loud crowd,” said O’Reilly.
The former banquet room now known as the ‘Quarter Deck’ will open soon for events and meetings. O’Reilly would like to turn it into a ‘smart room’ complete with drop down screens and more electrical outlets so businesses can hold off-site meetings there.
“This has been a real labor of love, and so many people have helped us pull this together. I can’t say thank you enough to all the volunteers,” said O’Reilly.
Topside Bar & Grill will have a soft opening this weekend. Doors will open at 6 p.m. on Friday, March 23 for dinner. If you miss Friday night’s opening, you can catch it again Saturday and Sunday night. Lunch service will start on Monday, March 26.
Normal hours of operation will be Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday open 11 a.m. to 12 a.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Check their website and Facebook page for more details.