Just in time for the Gonzaga University men's basketball team's March Madness run, a fixture of the campus's east Spokane neighborhood re-emerged as the Logan Tavern.
The building on the corner of Hamilton and Sharp became a neighborhood institution when it existed at the Bulldog Pub for more than six decades. Though the spot changed hands several times since the Bulldog's closure in 2011, a trio of new owners are hoping to bring back the laid-back vibes they recall from time spent there during their 20s.
"We used to go to the Bulldog all the time when we were young — that was our jam, and we liked how it was dark and cheap and a fun place to hang out," says Logan Tavern co-owner J.D. Winn.
The spot's last tenant was Scotty's Doghouse, which closed late last year and offered more of a danceclub environment to the neighborhood's college-area residents. Winn and his partners, Nehemiah Zilar and Erik Morris, however, wanted to create an atmosphere that not only welcomes those younger patrons, but also Gonzaga alumni and nearby residents of any age.
The trio took ownership at the beginning of the year and made a quick turnaround of some light remodeling and menu planning before opening their doors on Feb. 28. Winn and Morris are both owners of a handful of Pita Pit franchise locations in Spokane and Pullman, and Zilar is a well-known face in the local bar scene, having previously tended bar at the Observatory downtown.
Zilar tapped his experience in craft cocktails to come up with a drink menu that would appeal to newly legal college students, as well as customers with a more refined taste for spirits. There are classics like the old fashioned ($7), manhattan ($8) and a gin gimlet ($7), along with a few less traditional concoctions: "The Under Grad" is whiskey with a pickle juice back ($5); there's also the easy-drinking favorite hard iced tea ($6).
"I just made a list of things I would like to drink if I was just 21," Zilar notes. "It's a little more elevated, and we've been wanting to introduce the kids to, like, whiskey with pickle backs and Jager barrels, which is Jager[meister] and root beer."
Any cocktail can be made "spicy" on request with a spritz of habanero-infused tequila to coat the inside of the glass, he adds.
The kitchen side of Logan Tavern sticks to classic comfort food and pub staples — burgers, sandwiches, salads — with plenty of shareable appetizers and a variety of sauces for dipping.
"We really wanted to feature things that emphasize sharing and hanging out," Winn says. "We have fries with a big selection of sauces, and the nachos are ginormous, so it's not your typical appetizers. That was all tied into the communal feel of everything."
Head chef Eric McGraw comes to Logan Tavern from the Manito Country Club. When he was first going over the menu with the pub's owners, he noticed they'd missed including anything with bacon.
To rectify that, there's a "Pint o' Bacon" ($6), which is an actual pint glass filled with four thick slices of double-layered bacon finished with a bourbon glaze. (There's also a "Pint o' Donuts" on the dessert side, served with sweetened cream cheese for dipping.)
McGraw's house specialty, and an item that's been incredibly popular with staff and customers so far, is the Chop-Chop Chicken sandwich ($10), featuring brined, chopped chicken breast with grilled onions, mayo, diced bacon and provolone on a toasted pretzel bun.
"The country club people were always begging him to make that off menu, so he was super excited to put that on the menu," Zilar notes.
Despite some "savage" remarks from one younger patron implying that the Logan Tavern wouldn't be able to compete with other neighborhood establishments due to its lack of a dance floor, customer reception has been "overwhelmingly good," he adds.
"They'll get to know us and the vibe we're going for," Zilar says. "It's not like an unsupervised house party, it's a place to hang out and have fun. And when people get to know our staff — we have quite the collection of amazing people working here."
"It comes all full circle," Winn adds. "I'm sure we spent many a drunk night saying 'Imagine one day,' and here we are in the bar we used to drink in." ♦
Logan Tavern • 1305 N. Hamilton • Open Mon-Thu 11 am-midnight; Fri 11 am-2 am; Sat 10 am-2 am; Sun 10 am-midnight • facebook.com/TheLoganTavern • 474-0584