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McCloud’s offers country style dining with all the fixin’s

Andy Graham, left, and Curtis Vanorsby take a break before the lunch crowd starts. - Photo by Leslie Kelly
Andy Graham, left, and Curtis Vanorsby take a break before the lunch crowd starts.
— image credit: Photo by Leslie Kelly

When Andy Graham came up with a plan to take over a well-known Bremerton restaurant and bar, some of his family and friends thought he was taking quite a risk.

They weren’t worried that he wanted to have a restaurant because they all knew he was an old pro at that. But they were concerned about the place he decided to buy.

“This place has been here for some time,” he said. “In the 1960s, it was called Brad’s. But it also had a reputation for being a place where, at times, it got rough and fights broke out.”

He bought McCloud’s anyway. And in the past two and a half years he’s turned it into a family-friendly steakhouse and barbecue restaurant that boasts about its ribs and offers a wood-floored corral and plastic ponies for the kids to ride while the parents talk.

He and a business partner had been trying to build a restaurant in Bremerton, but when that specific location didn’t work out, he set out to find another. Graham also sells commercial real estate and it was through that business that he learned that McCloud’s was for sale.

“I came to see it and I thought, ‘What a great place for a steakhouse,’” he said.

He did a bit of remodeling, opening up the windows at the front of the building which had been boarded over. He has since enlarged the dance floor and added a new sound system. But the basics, he liked.

“I liked what was inside,” he said, referring to the finishings that give the place a western county twang. Tables are covered with red and white checked tablecloths. Cowboy hats, deer antlers, horse saddles and the American flag adorn the walls. There is a long bar with wooden stools and saloon doors to the kitchen.

It’s the kind of place where customers eat peanuts at the table and throw the shells on the floor, where country music is played, line-dancing is offered on the weekends and a sign over the bar welcomes “Rednecks.”

“But we’re really a place for everybody and anybody who likes a good steak,” Graham said.

Their menu, too, has recently changed. And a lot of that has to do with head chef Curtis Vanorsby. Vanorsby is a trained culinary chef who also learned the art while cooking in the military. He’s studied at Johnson and Wales, a formal culinary arts school and he’s cooked at McCormick’s in Seattle. He joined McCloud’s last August and brought with him his barbecuing expertise.

“There’s a real difference between grilling and barbecuing,” he said. “You gotta know your spices.”

With Vanorsby’s help, McCloud’s now has some specialties including empanadas with a chimichurri dip that has an Argentinean flare. He added a grilled salmon with a verde sauce, and bacon-wrapped jalapenos.

And he brought with him his “magic dust.”

“That’s what we call the spices that we add to our burgers — Curtis’ magic dust,” he said. “We make our own ground beef from a mix of ground chuck and brisket and we add the seasonings. No one around here has a burger like ours.”

The most popular item at McCloud’s, however, are the ribs. And to accompany them and the brisket and the pulled pork are three different homemade barbecue sauces. One has a honey flavor. One is the Texas hot with jalapenos. And the other is the mango habenaro.

Just recently McCloud’s opened for the lunch hour from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 1 to 3:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Dinner service begins around 5 p.m. and their busiest time of the day is 6 p.m. McCloud’s has rooms for private parties and events with seating for 70 and they also cater events.

Graham, who had a hand in the Yacht Club Broiler in Silverdale when it opened and the Island Grill on Bainbridge Island, has a long history in the restaurant business. But he didn’t plan it that way.

“I was selling European men’s fashions in Seattle,” he said. “My clients included the guys from Ray’s Boat House. They persuaded me to try the restaurant business and I loved it.”

He went on to work at Daniel’s Broiler on Lake Washington, McCormick’s in Seattle and Ivar’s on the Seattle waterfront.

But Graham said he thinks he’s finally found the restaurant that he wants to keep for a while. His focus is to make McCloud’s a family place. He offers it up for school fund-raising functions and family gatherings — even kid’s birthday parties.

“I like the down-home feeling here,” he said. “I want it to have a community feel. That’s why I have things for the kids.”

In fact, there’ll be an Easter egg hunt in April, where bales of hay will be brought in and broken apart. That is where the candy and toys will be hidden. Then there’ll be kids karaoke.

The restaurant does have pool tables, darts and big screen televisions. After 9 p.m., customers must be 21 years of age or older.

“It takes on more of the feeling of a bar after the dinner hour is over,” Graham said.

To find out more, check out www.McCloudsGrillHouse.com. The restaurant is located at 2901 Perry Ave. in Bremerton.

 

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