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Opening today: A new steakhouse and country-rock bar, more nightclubs will follow

Post by Sue Kidd / The News Tribune on June 7, 2013 at 12:00 am | No Comments »
June 7, 2013 12:07 pm
This photo exists on this page only to make you want to eat steak. Isn't steak great? File photo/News Tribune
This photo exists on this page only to make you want to eat steak. Isn’t steak great? File photo/News Tribune

Finding a great steak in downtown Tacoma isn’t much of a chore, thanks to El Gaucho and Pacific Grill. What is more difficult to find is a grilled steak that doesn’t require an expense account. That’s where Steel Creek, Tacoma’s newest steakhouse and country-rock club, intends to nab diners. Steel Creek opens today at 1114 Broadway. The country-rock bar will serve steaks that are certified Angus. Cooking them will be a chef familiar to South Sounders.

Looking ahead, there are several nightclubs about to open downtown – most offering live music. Take a tour of what’s coming next, including an upscale martini bar with jazz and blues, a dueling piano bar, a tiki lounge that just expanded to offer live reggae and trop-rock. I’ve got the details on a new Sixth Avenue live music venue opening this month, too.

Read on.

The nightclub/steakhouse: Steel Creek American Whiskey Co.
Where: 1114 Broadway, Tacoma; 253-627-1229,
Opening: Today, June 7, 2013

Besides a sizable dance floor for line dancing and a restaurant serving a steakhouse menu, here’s something that should prove a curiosity for downtown Tacoma: a mechanical bull. The 12,000-square-foot country-rock club and restaurant, Steel Creek American Whiskey Co., debuts today – complete with said bull. Steel Creek takes over the space that housed Varsity Grill, which closed May 26. Think of this as a rebranding. The chef is new and so is the decor, but the ownership is not.

Does Steel Creek’s theme sound just a bit like Big Whisky, the country-rock club downtown that closed last week? It does, and here’s why: Steel Creek co-owner Jon Tartaglia was one of the owners of that club. (Read below about what’s opening at the Big Whisky space now that the bar has vacated that space).

Here’s more of what Steel Creek will offer:

A load of bull:Tartaglia said the bar’s mechanical bull won’t just be machinery for young club-goers to ride; he plans to offer up the mechanical bull for corporate events and parties. Book your office Christmas party now (and tell everyone to bring cameras; don’t bother clearing that with HR).
What about that fancy theater? Varsity Grill was an entertainment destination because of its weekend music offerings and a plush theater for sports or private viewings. Only one of two of those things is staying at Steel Creek. The theater is gone, but the live music stage stays. At Steel Creek, Tartaglia said he’s trying to attract crowds through DJ country-rock music, line dancing, and national touring country-rock acts. If you listen to country-rock, that last part probably got your interest. Tartaglia’s not yet sure who he can book, but he indicated he’s aiming high. Keep your eyes on their Facebook page for announcements.

Roman Aguillon formerly was chef of the Cliff House in Northeast Tacoma. He's also been a chef at the Green Turtle and Morso in Gig Harbor. File photo/Lui Kit Wong
Roman Aguillon formerly was chef of the Cliff House in Northeast Tacoma. He’s also been a chef at the Green Turtle and Morso in Gig Harbor. File photo/Lui Kit Wong

Tell me everything about the meat: This is something restaurant watchers will want to note. Pacific Grill and El Gaucho produce some of the finest grilled slabs of meat in the South Sound region – but good luck finding a great grilled steak in downtown Tacoma for under $20. That’s where Steel Creek intends to nab diners. The new steakhouse menu will feature certified Angus steak. A flat iron, top sirloin, rib-eye and porterhouse will be priced from around $15.99-$27.99. Diners will notice one difference – Varsity Grill offered a small steak menu that included soups or salads with the steak dinners. At Steel Creek, those items move to the a la carte menu.
Top toque: Steel Creek has hired Roman Aguillon as executive chef. Aguillon formerly worked at Gig Harbor’s Green Turtle and Morso Wine Bar, and the defunct Blue Olive in Tacoma. During the short-lived reopening of the Cliff House in Northeast Tacoma in 2010, he served as that restaurant’s executive chef (the restaurant now has new ownership). Aguillon knows his way around meat and fire.
Will the restaurant still allow kids? You bet, Tartaglia said. One difference, though, is that the “kids always eat free” promotion is a thing of the past. Tartaglia said that they do intend to offer a “kids eat free” day at least once a week. Check with the restaurant for details.
Who’s in on this venture? Tartaglia is one member of a management group behind Steel Creek. Fellow owners are Paul Muller, Charlie Snyder and Fred Roberson.

Four other downtown nightclub openings in downtown Tacoma

The nightclub: Keys on Main
Where: 1003 Pacific Ave., Tacoma; 253-627-7555,
Opening: July 11
Live piano music will be the draw at Keys on Main. Co-owner Jordan Stoneman said the piano bar will be a nightclub featuring dueling pianists who perform off-the-cuff songs based on audience suggestions.
Here’s something deal-seekers will love: Stoneman said there won’t be a cover charge or a drink minimum. He said the nightclub will serve cocktails, but does not plan to serve food.
Stoneman and his business partner bought the piano bar Chopstix, which formerly operated on Tacoma’s Sixth Avenue, before it closed last year. Keys on Main also has a location in Seattle.

The nightclub: The 502 Downtown
Where: 100 S. Ninth St., Tacoma, Facebook here
Opening: Late June
Construction started this week at The 502 Downtown, a new martini bar expected to open around June 21 in the building formerly occupied by the Big Whisky Saloon, the country-rock bar that closed last week. (Big Whisky was operated by Tartaglia and business partners Roger Rahil and Paul Muller. Rahil will continue to operate the Big Whisky in Olympia).
502 Downtown plans to offer occasional live performances by jazz and blues acts. A light menu will be served.
Owner Chuck Haines said he hopes to offer happy hours and martini deals to capitalize on State Farm’s occupancy of the nearby Russell building. Here’s something else he’s hoping to capitalize on: Initiative 502, which allows for the recreational use of marijuana, and for which his club is named. Although it’s not known if marijuana use at nightclubs ever will be allowed (some nightclubs have been testing the boundaries of setting up private clubs and legislators already are trying to crack down on that) Haines said he’ll be ready if state rules allow it. He acknowledged that because the state rules are still being written on implementing the initiative, he may have a long road and a battle on his hands. Ultimately, he said he’ll keep in compliance with whatever the state rules will be. Haines has a medical marijuana background. He owns businesses in Tacoma, Seattle and Olympia that assist patients in securing authorized medical marijuana cards.
Who’s in on this venture? Haines’ daughter Allie is overseeing the menu and cocktails.
Tip: The comedy club downstairs will continue to operate, although it has not yet been named.

The nightclub: Tacoma Cabana
Where: 728 Pacific Ave., Tacoma; 253-222-4184,
Opening: Operating now
This downtown tiki lounge that opened in 2012 has increased its footprint and is now hosting live music most Saturdays and many Fridays (check the schedule on their Facebook page). Tacoma Cabana owners Robyn Murphy and Jason Alexander recently absorbed the adjacent space and turned it into a performance space and extension of their tropical themed club. Acts include live reggae music, DJ music from local performers, tropical rock music and more.
Tacoma Cabana is the best destination in town for finding unusual rums and a long list of craft tiki cocktails that includes three different styles of mai tais – all in a setting that looks like a tropical tiki refuge.
The menu is what Murphy describes as “vacation fusion,” a mixture of food you’d eat on an island or a beach.

The nightclub: Veltins Bierhalle
Where: 2401 Pacific Ave.
Opening: Later this year
Way back in February, I told you about Veltins Bierhalle, a German themed pub planned for24th and Pacific in the brewery district.  Owners Dennis and Lydia Mascarinas – who own a German pub in Renton – had hoped that the extensive renovations they were planning would take less than six months, but it looks like it will be closer to nine  or 12. “It’ll be this year, though,” said Lydia Mascarinas by email about the opening date. Veltins will be a destination for the beer, food and music of Germany. Mascarinas described a Bavarian-style dining room hosting communal tables and a menu of German-American pub food. The pub will welcome families with children. They plan a menu of German pub food and occasional live German music.
Background on the owners: Dennis and Lydia Mascarinas followed a similar trajectory with their Berliner Pub. They turned a derelict building in Renton into a destination bar.

Meanwhile, on Sixth Avenue…

While downtown Tacoma is soon to be home to new nightclubs, one is opening on Sixth Avenue, too.

The nightclub: Triple Play
Where: 3829 Sixth Ave., Tacoma; 253-752-2800, or Facebook here
Opening: June 15
Kevin Brown plans a June 15 opening for Triple Play, a combination sports bar and live music venue that will open where Gruv Lounge operated for the blink of an eye. (It used to be home to Hell’s Kitchen.)
While a sports bar is a concept familiar to that neighborhood — the West End Pub is across the street — Brown plans to host live rock acts.
The club is divided between a live music venue and a sports bar, although the entire bar, he said, is outfitted for sports viewing. There also is a private karaoke room.
The menu will be straightforward bar food.
Who’s in on this venture? Brown will operate the bar with his wife, Kim, and business partner Richard Langhorn.

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