What to do with a 200-seat restaurant that isn’t making enough money?
Slice the space by two-thirds, keep the booze and offer a short menu of bar food.
Such is the pivot for The Speakeasy Lounge, from the same owners of Roadrunner Bourbon and Burger House, a steakhouse that attempted to offer a high-end experience to South Hill diners. Its owners closed the restaurant in April after it couldn’t make its financial target.
Manager Jason Folven spent a few weeks remaking one-third of the former Roadrunner’s space into The Speakeasy Lounge. It opened May 10.
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By this summer, there will be another pivot.
The Speakeasy Lounge will stay, and sibling restaurant Fiesta Taqueria will open a second location in the remaining two-thirds of the remaining Roadrunner space. The Fiesta Taqueria in downtown Puyallup will continue to operate. A grand opening date for the new location has not been set but likely would happen this summer.
As for the Speakeasy Lounge, the 21-and-older bar takes up roughly the same footprint of the former steakhouse’s bar, but with additional lounge seating. After Fiesta Taqueria moves in, The Speakeasy Lounge will become more secluded and have its own entrance, Folven said.
Here’s a first-bite report of The Speakeasy Lounge. It’s this paper’s policy to avoid criticism of food and service in a restaurant’s first month.
Concept: The same emphasis on booze with a list of about 200 whiskeys, a compact list of classic cocktails and one-page menu of bar eats. More bar eats are on the way. About a half dozen more items will appear on the menu this weekend.
Atmosphere: Push beyond the curtains to find a dimly lit Prohibition-era themed bar, with banquette seating along the wall and whiskey barrels doubling as tables in the middle of the room. A lounge area with low-slung couches is hidden behind a thick curtain.
Booze: Seven-page spirit list with the bulk devoted to whiskey, scotch and bourbon. There also are flights listed, $17-$143. Whiskey shots span affordable (Wild Turkey, $7) to expensive (Macallan rare cask, $79). Short list of vodkas, gins, rums, tequilas, wines.
Cocktails: Heavy on the brown stuff, and rightfully so at a whiskey bar. Cocktails, $8-12. The list also includes a Bee’s Knees ($10) and Moscow mule ($9).
Drink: The Manhattan and Old Fashion are solid choices. The bourbon Manhattan with vermouth and bitters ($12) was well shaken. The Old Fashioned was made with Old Forester, with orange bitters and cane sugar, plus orange peel and brandied cherries that were house soaked ($10). If a server asks if you want yours smoked, say, “YES!” The glass is placed over heated wood chips, which imparts a smoky haze to the glass and drink.
Bar food: A burger, a footlong dog with kraut, onions, cream cheese and spicy mustard ($10), ground beef nachos ($12), bacon-wrapped jalapenos ($9) and bourbon barbecue meatballs ($8), plus a half dozen more coming to the menu this week. Check for daily specials.
Eat: The giant burger looked like the Earthquake burger at the Washington State Fair and that’s by design.
Folven’s first job was working at Earthquakes when it was in South Hill. He said his burger is modeled after the famous restaurant’s oversized burgers with a sesame seed bun, half-pound patty, American and Swiss cheese, bacon, iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, grilled onions, pickles and mayo. Priced high at $15, but sized for sharing. Wispy potato chips with the burger were freshly house fried.
The Speakeasy Lounge
Where: 10312 120th St. E., Puyallup; 253-446-7016, facebook.com/speakeasypuyallup.
Hours: Opens at noon Tuesdays-Sundays.