When The Shack opened 80-some years ago, it was a simple sidewalk stand.
But the hamburger joint evolved, adding The Shanty cocktail lounge in 1949, remodeling in 1962 and becoming a popular diner-by-day and hot-spot-by-night.
When it closed in 2003, longtime customers lamented its loss, comparing it to Rick’s Café, the legendary gin joint in “Casablanca.”
When a Thai restaurant opened in the same spot a year later, it kept earlier hours, closing by 9 p.m. – even on weekends. Now, Linnie’s Thai Cuisine wants to breathe new life into its retro lounge, complete with imitation black leather booths, wooden wall paneling and midcentury back bar, and vintage black-and-white photographs of old Spokane.
Think “Mad Men” meets your grandma’s basement bar.
It’s old-school and unpretentious, dark during the day, and a bit of a dive – in a good way.
“It’s relaxed,” said general manager Gjonnette Cruz, 36, who will be behind the bar during the new Linnie’s Lounge Nights, which started last weekend. “I really want this to be a relaxed, fun place. When I bartend, I want to have as much fun as the customers or guests are having.”
For the first time since the Thai restaurant moved into the old Shack building, Linnie’s is keeping its lounge open late on Friday and Saturday nights. The bar in the cottagelike building – a stone’s throw from Interstate 90 on the southwestern edge of downtown – is now staying open until 2 a.m. on weekends.
“We’re really excited. We’ve toyed with the idea for years,” Cruz said. “We’re not in the (downtown) core. We have this untapped area over here.”
She’s hoping residents of nearby Browne’s Addition and the lower South Hill – neighborhoods that are a short and cheap cab ride away – will become weekend-night regulars.
“My great-grandmother used to come here, I think, in the 1940s or ’50s. My grandma, too,” said Cruz, who will celebrate her 10-year anniversary with Linnie’s in March. “It was kind of the hot spot for that generation, that era. We want to expose it to another generation. We want to bring it back. But we want to keep that vintage-y feel.”
A framed menu from the 1940s hangs in the lounge, offering cinnamon toast for 15 cents. And Linnie’s still uses glassware from The Shack, serving specialty drinks in milkshake glasses from the old diner. Most of the décor remains midcentury American, with some newer, Asian-inspired influences.
Owner E. Muongkhoth was born in Laos. This is his restaurant’s third and largest location since it opened more than 20 years ago.
Linnie’s has two drafts on tap and offers a variety of bottled beer, including two from Thailand.
There’s no happy hour. (“We always just say every hour is happy hour,” Cruz said.)
But, with its new longer hours, the lounge is hosting a “power hour” from 10 to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. Specials are: $1 cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon, $2 pints of Alaskan Amber, $3 Fireball shots, $4 Long Island Iced Teas and half-priced appetizers, like spring rolls and wontons.
With its late-night specials and vintage feel, Cruz said, “You’d be hard-pressed to find another place like this in Spokane on a Friday or Saturday night.”