By Jana Mackin
When Manchester hosted its first Oktoberfest fundraiser last Saturday afternoon at Stormwater Park, it was “Northwest Norman Rockwell does Bavarian Hoe-Down” against the backdrop of the Seattle skyline and Puget Sound.
As the Hometown Band whooped it up, dozens of visitors danced polkas or got their faces painted during the festivities. Within earshot of the booming oompah polka band music, the Manchester Grill was serving pretzels and brats while the Manchester Pub next door welcomed lederhosen revelers to imbibe in brewskis while watching big screen “Dawg Pound” football.
“This is a hidden gem,” said the event’s face painter, Brittany Rodriguez. “It’s such a picture-perfect town.”
The Manchester Pub and the Manchester Grill are located at the heart of this tiny hamlet, serving as ad hoc hubs where locals can eat, drink and savor what life dishes out.
While each is separately owned, the pub and grill are next-door neighbors and share the same building. They also share a collaborative vision for this tight-knit community, shown when they sponsored Oktoberfest to benefit the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Wreaths Across America for the Washington Veterans Home Cemetery in Retsil.
“We feel our mission is all about building bridges, not building walls,” Laurieann Aladin said. She and her husband, Salman, are the Manchester Grill’s new owners.
Walk into the grill and you bathe in this historic roadside cafe’s warm ambiance and feeling. As a community hub, it features an intimate dining room, breakfast and lunch counter and a massive wood-burning fireplace in a full bar.
Opened by Hank Reed as the Manchester Inn in 1988, the business has seen various incarnations before being purchased recently by the couple in May. Over the months, they have been slowly renovating the restaurant to articulate and integrate their vision within this unincorporated burg of more than 5,000 people.
What they envision is a destination place that incorporates a cafe, restaurant, bar and artists’ saloon whose walls are graced by paintings created by local artists. It’s to be a sanctuary where people are just as comfortable watching a Seahawks game as they are working on a manuscript while listening to acoustic music.
The grill appeals to varied tastes: mimosa and eggs Benedict, fresh grilled sockeye salmon, including halibut fish and chips. A rustic-chic ambiance invites people to drink a cappuccino or whiskey while studying the bar’s enormous shot glass collection that includes artifacts from the American Embassy in Kabul and the Golden Gate Bridge.
“We want to create a warm and cozy vibe, a go-to place where people feel like they are receiving an experience, not just eating food,” Laurieann said.
She is a published author and conservatory-trained musician who’s originally from New York.
“We support our community and our community supports us,” Laurieann said. “We support the pub and they support us.”
Next door, Gary and Becky Fox welcome you into the historic Manchester Pub, a salty, nautical-themed watering hole where locals gather surrounded by lifebuoys and other seafaring art.
Ahoy there, want to shoot a round of pool or just shoot the …. ? Well, you get my drift. The outdoor patio attracts friends to drink and chat or gather inside en masse on Seahawk Sundays for legendary game-day potlucks.
Over the years, the pub has seen wakes and weddings. The pub has helped people weather life’s low and high tides. It is a community cornerstone that hosts regular live music, open mike, karaoke and various annual events. Much like the sailor’s knots displayed on the wall, this pub is inexorably tied into the community.
“We’re a local bar,” Gary, a retired beer truck driver, said. Gary and Becky moved from Seattle and purchased the old Capital Tavern in 2007, and have operated it since then.
“We saw this pub and thought it has a lot of soul. We saw the vision. We started with just beer and wine, zero experience, and we made it into what it is now.”
“We welcome people. We want people to feel welcome, make friends, watch Seahawks’ games,” Becky said. “We want everyone to feel welcome.”
Just ask J. Noah Martin II, who navigated the scenic route from Port Angeles just to bathe in some Manchester hospitality that’s harbored in this tucked-away cove.
“This little cove … is worth a poetic trip through the wandering ways of the 101,” Martin, a restaurant chef, said, “just to get away from the small-mindedness of the Olympic Peninsula.”