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‘It’s been a nice little homecoming’: Steelhead Bar & Grille reopens downtown after two years

UPDATED: Tue., May 17, 2022

Reopened again after two long years, Steelhead Bar & Grille owners Liz and Curtis Nelson and Todd Phelps are happy to be serving customers again.

“COVID was hard on so many businesses,” Liz Nelson said. Deciding to close a restaurant is no light task, she said, but, in this case, they knew that they had to if the were going to effectively “wait out the storm.”

As people started avoiding higher traffic areas of the city, Steelhead became more expensive to run than close.

On the one hand, “People were scared to go downtown,” she said. On the other, construction in their building was also interfering with their plans.

“We tried to open up when the very first window occurred … but we just decided that rather than jumping the gun again, we would wait and make sure … downtown in general was going to be conducive to us reopening,” she said.

So, they chose to wait out the storm.

“There were a lot of rumors swirling around the last two years … that we shut down, but we just wanted to be cautious,” she said. “We wanted to be sure that we could sustain the new environment and offer our customers something we knew we could be consistent in providing … we appreciate their patience with us.”

The Nelsons and Phelps also wanted time to develop a sustainable menu and give their new staff – including the Nelsons’ son Nick and daughter Lexi – a chance to adapt before throwing them into the thick of it.

And now, bolstered by some encouraging responses to their “soft opening” two weeks ago, the Nelsons and Phelps “are proud to be able to say that all of our businesses are fully up and running, and we hope the community will come support us once again,” Nelson said.

In addition to Steelhead, the partnership runs Morty’s Tap and Grille, Manito Tap House, Fieldhouse Pizza and Pub (both northside and Liberty Lake), the Barrel Steak and Seafood House, Selkirk Pizza and Tap House and the Screaming Yak.

In addition to customer favorites like the skinny fries and bleu cheese dip and in-house smoked steelhead with cream cheese and toast points, the new menu also features halibut and chips, steak bites, chicken birria tacos and a steelhead filet, among other items including a variety of local beers, wines and specialty cocktails. Fitting for their namesake, Steelhead was the first restaurant in Spokane to offer smoked steelhead.

Nelson is particularly excited to be bringing back halibut fish and chips.

“The price of seafood, and halibut in particular, really is on a roller coaster and has been for years,” she said. “So, when we added cod fish and chips – those were a nice alternative.”

The fish and chips has always been a bestseller, Nelson said.

But with halibut back on the menu and an updated battering recipe, “I think it’s much better than even what we had before.”

Seeing longtime friendly faces in the restaurant has been a treat, Nelson said. “It’s been a nice little homecoming,” she said.

The space is familiar, but with renovations and other updates, “We’re happy that the feeling and the vibe in there is like we just opened a new place all over again.

“We’re just really proud of it.”

If you go: Steelhead Bar & Grille, 218 N. Howard St., open Tuesday-Friday, 3 p.m.-close, and Saturday-Sunday, 12 p.m.-close. Info: (509) 747-1303, steelheadbarandgrille.com

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