It is hard to believe that The Onion was first introduced to Downtown Spokane 38 years ago and has been one of Spokane’s local iconic restaurants ever since. It is now the oldest and most respected locally owned and operated full-service Landmark restaurant in the Spokane area.
Since 2001, Ken Belisle has been the managing partner for Landmark Restaurants. Landmark owns and operates both Onion Taphouse and Grills and both Frank’s Diners in Spokane. Today, Ken and his wife Christy, along with their regional manager Sonja Halverson, are setting the tone and pace of The Onion Taphouse facilities. The founder, Mr. Larry Brown and his wife Jan, are enjoying retirement but remain proud supportive partners.
The Onion Taphouse and Grill continues to bring fresh, natural, local products to its guests over the years. With the explosion of local craft breweries, The Onion wanted to expand its taps featuring fresh local craft products. Thus, Area 51 Taphouse at The Onion was born.
To accommodate the enormous amount of rotating inventory a 51-tap system would require, an extensive remodel was completed at The Onion’s north side location in December 2014, followed by the completion of the downtown location, which opened in December 2015.
The Onion’s Area 51 Taphouse differentiates itself by supplying its customers with the finest on tap beverages daily by using a distinctive and massive 45-rotating tap handle “Fresh Sheet.” To handle this gargantuan daily task, Ken and Sonja entrusted full-time managing beer guru and longtime Onion crew member Bill Matthews with a full-time job of scouting, testing and coordinating the nearly 1,000 kegs they rotate through each year. In addition, their custom-built tap system allows The Onion’s “beer aficionados” to feature not only the finest and freshest ales and lagers in the market today, but barrel-aged barley wine, specialty beers, ciders, barrel-aged white wine, hard-alcohol spirits and even cask-conditioned gourmet root beer on tap. The combination brings a whole new array of flavors that many of their guests have never experienced before.
With this level of product management sophistication, Area 51 is able to rotate 45 taps of fresh ale, while pouring cask-conditioned wines and even 100-percent nitro-pushed bourbon and seasonal spirits at the same time. Each product “vessel” is individually calibrated with the perfect blend of CO2 and nitro according to the brew master’s specifications. The brewers that sell to The Onion Taphouse know that the Area 51 tap system mirrors the same quality as the brewery itself.
“To accomplish our goals, we just couldn’t settle for a standard off-the-shelf tap system,” says Ken. “We met with countless brew masters and equipment specialists before establishing what we needed our tap system to accomplish. In the end, Perlick from Milwaukee put together our amazing 51-tap system. This is the tap house the brewers drink beer in,” adds Ken. “At the North Division Onion, we even have a glycol Frost Rail designed by Steve Emtman’s construction team, Defender Development. The Frost Rail is built right into the concrete bar, keeping guests’ beverages the perfect temperature.”
It may seem a bit overwhelming at first glance to make a selection from the 51 taps, the premium liquor bar with a large assortment of local small batch bourbons, and the huge range of craft non-alcoholic beverages, but it gives their guests the opportunity to stop in and try something new every day of the year! They also have a soda fountain featuring some of the best premium hand-dipped hard ice-cream milkshakes, floats and malts made the old-fashioned way.
With all of the excitement surrounding the tap house, The Onion chefs also have their work cut out for them as they constantly seek fresh, natural, local and sustainable products from the Inland Northwest. Goal one has always been to exceed every guest’s expectations with thoughtful, kind service, excellent food made fresh and all served up in a fun, clean and exciting facility.
Families are welcome throughout both locations, with banquet space and private dining areas available for a wide range of events. Both The Onion food and Taphouse menus are available to all guests.
With so many restaurants to choose from, The Onion Taphouse and Grills are truly local treasures celebrating their 38th year in Spokane.
The Onion Taphouse and Grill
302 W. Riverside Ave.
7522 N. Division St.