Here’s a fun question.
Where can you find a cocktail lounge with a $100 martini and a fancy drink infused with smoke tableside?
If you guessed, Tacoma’s El Gaucho, you’d be right. But would you believe both are now available in Bonney Lake, too? Wait, what?
I’m just as surprised that a martini lounge would open in Bonney Lake. Glow Martini Lounge opened Feb. 20 in exactly the kind of location you’d expect for suburbia — a strip mall.
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However, as I like to remind readers often, some of the most interesting eateries in Pierce County reside in strip malls.
Reserve judgment until you nestle into the cushy banquette and taste the vesper, negroni or gibson.
Co-owner Kendra Harrington, who operates the 21-and-older-only lounge and restaurant with sister Randi Baker and their husbands — Justin Harrington and Jameson Baker — said the family is thrilled and surprised with the response from locals.
“We are bringing something new to Bonney Lake. People are getting it. We know because we’re beyond busy. We’re blessed and fortunate,” said Harrington. “And working hard.”
While the crew has mastered the weekday crowds, weekends have proven more frenzied.
“We’re hitting numbers beyond our wildest dreams on Fridays and Saturdays,” she said.
In response, they’re reorganizing the seating protocol and service, whittling the menu and training bar staff to nail the cocktails.
Harrington is hyper-focused on customer service, an outgrowth of a career in coffee. She and her mother operated coffee stands around the region. Opening a lounge has been a dream the sisters have been planning for more than a year (and Harrington longer than that).
The lounge appeals to a wide range of cocktail sippers, said Harrington.
“We wanted to bring a big-town feel to a small-town setting,” she said. “But we still had to remember people up here will order a beer and a Jack-and-Coke, so we have to be really careful with our approach in our menu.”
“We did a lot of local research on local drinks,” she added. “We’re a different experience than a sports bar, but we have to understand we’re in Bonney Lake and … we need to appeal to locals looking for something more casual.”
Want a Coors and a shot of Jack? They’ve got it.
Crave a negroni, smoked old fashioned or that $100 martini? They’ve got that, too.
Here’s a first-sip look. It’s this paper’s policy to skip criticism of food and service in a restaurant’s first month.
The lounge: About 75 diners fit in the flashy space festooned with shimmering chandeliers and bits of glam throughout the space (check out the neon sign in the women’s bathroom). Come summer, the patio out front will seat another 30.
An elevated space can be reserved for up to 12 (otherwise, no reservations taken). An area tucked into the back corner offers a cushy retreat. Four- and six-seat tables fill the edge and center of the room. Swanky tufted stools line the bar.
The drinks: Good luck plowing through the 10-page menu, with a choice of 53 cocktails, in under 10 minutes. The menu is organized into classics, martinis and signature cocktails. There’s also two pages of wine, by the glass or bottle, beer and flights.
Classics: All the bases covered with a gibson, negroni, sazerac, Manhattan, dark-and-stormy, an old fashioned and a sour, but also old-is-new-again finds such as an aperol spritz and pink squirrel ($9 to $14).
Martinis: 20 martinis —that term is used loosely here — cover the gamut from modestly sweet (salted caramel, $13) to sorority-girl sweet (bourbon pineapple upside down cake, $12). Signatures: 17 housemade concoctions ($9 to $16) unique to Glow created by the owners with guidance from their bar mentor, Seattle cocktail slinger Jessica “Hefe” Farman (one cocktail is named after her).
Smoke that drink: A $3 upcharge adds a smoky finish to a classic cocktail. The barkeep sets a small piece of wood afire atop a disc and encases the cocktail in a glass dome. The longer it sits, the smokier the drink tastes. Lift the dome to release the smoke.
The eats: Cocktail nibbles built for sharing. Sturdy, tasty flatbreads ($13 to $14), a shareable charcuterie plate ($18), nachos ($11), a tower of fries ($14) and more. Also panini sandwiches ($10 to $13), salads ($10 to $16) and bagel sandwiches ($10 to $11) make for a solid lunch.
Keto hacks: Not advertised, but the cream cheese and sausage stuffed mushrooms are low-carb friendly ($11), as are the chicken lettuce wraps ($13) and sandwiches can be turned into lettuce wraps.
That $100 martini: Harrington said the splurge cocktail was added as a talker. She doesn’t expect many will order it, but if they do, they’ll get a Nat Kidder vodka martini with Tempus Fugit Liqueur de Violettes, a splash of champagne, the rest of the bottle it came from, and a gold-coated flower.
On a first visit: Try the classic cocktails. A negroni, served chilled-and-up in a coupe glass with an orange twist, was a balanced swirl of Campari and gin, light on vermouth ($12).
A gin-and-vodka vesper, served up in a martini glass, was boosted with the French apertif, Pineau des Charentes ($12). A gibson with dry vermouth came with the house gin Seagrams ($10) but can be upgraded for a few bucks more.
An old fashioned comes standard with Four Roses bourbon, sugar cube, bitters and a splash of cherry juice, served in a rocks glass with a giant orb of ice ($14).
The Locals Only martini tasted like a boosted Paloma. It was a nod to summer with a seesaw of tequila and assertive grapefruit ($16). The Honey B, one of the lounge’s signature drinks, tasted heavy on the ginger with Black Barrel Jameson whiskey, ginger beer, lime juice, Hellfire bitters and garnished with candied ginger ($16).
Glow Martini Lounge
Where: 20631 State Route 410, Bonney Lake
Info: 253-987-7020, glowmartinilounge.com
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday (later-night hours might be added later on weekends).
Note: 21-and-older diners only
Entrance tip: Enter on the side of the building.