John O’Reilly is a familiar face behind the bar at Steilacoom’s Topside Bar and Grill, which opened March 23 in the space that formerly housed Jake’s Bar & Bistro, a pub known for its selection of hard-to-find craft beers. O’Reilly began tending bar at Jake’s in 2007, but was laid off in September. The bar, operated by Jake Hathcock, closed in December after running into financial trouble. It’s good to have the bar open again because Steilacoom is a town with a prime view for diners, but few actual dining options. O’Reilly’s bar hints at what Jake’s formerly was. There’s still a selection of craft taps, although the number is much smaller. The bar now offers 17 taps instead of 45, which O’Reilly said would be more manageable. Gone is the beer geekery with meandering menu descriptions listing the alcohol by volume and tasting notes. Jake’s was a destination for unusual beer finds like Southern Tier’s Creme Brulee Stout and Russian River’s Pliny the Elder.
While the taps at Topside seem less about geek and more about appeal, you’ll still find a selection of small, local brewers like North Sound Brewing and The Harmon. O’Reilly said he is working on expanding the tap list to include Valholl from Poulsbo and self distributed M.T./Empty Head from Graham. He also has his eye on Tacoma’s Wingman Brewers. O’Reilly said he’s modeling his selection after one of my favorite places for craft beer in town, The Red Hot. Like The Red Hot, he’ll have frequent tap changes and he’ll have “beer takeover” nights where brewers will stop by to talk about their beer.
The feel and look of Topside seems similar, although a few touches have lifted the aesthetic. The old tables have been replaced with sturdier wood, the booths have been backed with cushions, the bar has been rehabbed and the floors redone.
The second-story deck? It’s still there, and still provides this-is-why-we-live-here views of the Steilacoom waterfront. But here’s something new: The deck will remain open year-round. O’Reilly began offering table service on the deck last week and will continue the table service outside until October (you can always find table service inside).
The menu is pure pub: burgers, sandwiches, fish and chips and a few grilled items. Rockfish tacos, artichoke dip and the grilled roast beef sandwich are leftovers from the previous Jake’s menu. I popped in for a quick meal and thought the kitchen did just fine with the sandwiches. A turkey pesto ($10) was built on a sturdy ciabatta roll stuffed with griddled turkey breast, strips of applewood smoked bacon, and a smear of pesto mayo heavy on the garlic. A blue cheese burger ($10) on a griddled kaiser tasted just fine with a hefty third-pounder patty, but the burger really could have used a slice or two of bacon instead of a few bacon bits sprinkled over the melted blue cheese. Burgers here are served deconstructed – tomatoes, leaf lettuce, pickle slices and red onions on the side with a ramekin of piquant burger sauce. Sandwiches and burgers come with fries – your choice of regular or sweet potato.
Topside Bar and Grill
Where: 215 Wilkes St., Steilacoom
Info: 253-212-3690 or topsidebarandgrill.com
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 11 a.m-midnight Fridays-Saturdays, and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. on Sundays.