By Erika Heeren
Photos by Emma Thompson
Growth and change have been the name of the game in Meridian for the past five years. At the front lines of this change is our local hospitality industry. We took the opportunity to get the scoop behind the counter at a few of our Meridian restaurants and pubs.
The Tavern at Eagle Island is the third iteration of the Tavern brand in Idaho. They are known for their dry-aged meats, fresh seafood, and a diverse selection of Pacific Northwest and local wines.
The “Home of the Mega Bloody Mary,” Homestead Bar & Grill quickly made its mark on the Meridian community as a go-to for pub fare, sports viewing, a substantial tap beer selection, and unique legendary cocktails with a familiar hometown bar feel.
Located in the heart of downtown Meridian, Eight Thirty Common has introduced a gastro-pub feel to the Meridian restaurant community. An elevated location, farm to table focus, and diverse menu make this establishment a welcome addition to Meridian.
Heritage Hop Haus is building on its reputation of high-quality craft beers on tap, competitive prices, and fantastic bartenders by debuting a new lounge and an innovative restaurant incubator program.
Opened in 2019, The Harp stays true to its deeply authentic Irish roots and offers the most extensive selection of Irish beer on tap, Irish whiskey, and scotch in Meridian.
What has been the most significant change in the hospitality industry in Meridian?
Kristy Tost, Co-Owner – The Tavern: “You have a lot more to-go services like GrubHub to compete with now. If you order a steak through Door Dash – it may not be the same quality by the time it gets to you. I don’t want to subscribe to that. We still offer to go services or pick up services, and we might expand into go into more of a delivery type service, but it’s going to be more on our terms to ensure that we’re upholding the standards that we want.”
James Thomas, General Manager – Homestead Bar & Grill: “Restaurants are focused on making the guests happy the first time. When I first came out here, it seemed like everywhere was kind of like that greasy spoon diner kind of feel. Now, you can go into most mom-and-pop places, and your server is going to ask you about your day – as they care about you as an individual instead of just a dollar amount walking to the door.”
What has been your biggest struggle in dealing with employees?
Michael Wells, Chef/General Manager – Eight Thirty Common: “Retaining employees. You need to make it a fun, enjoyable place to come to work every day and show that you care about your team.”
James Thomas, General Manager – Homestead Bar & Grill: “Being able to competitively compensate your employees is the number one thing for turnover. The big chain restaurants have less of an issue because they can afford to pay people more. As a mom-and-pop location, we can’t always do that.”
How do you manage difficult situations with customers while trying to balance your vision?
Michael Wells, Chef/General Manager – Eight Thirty Common: “I think one of the biggest challenges is to get people to come away from places like The Village. I’ll talk to [the customers at the] table if they’re not happy with something or if they wish we offered something specific. That’s the good thing about not being corporate; we can make quick changes to make everyone happy.”
Jaime Deal, Owner – The Harp: “I’ve noticed that when people come into a small business like mine, they want to get the same experience they got at larger restaurants, and it’s just not realistic. Our food is made from scratch on order, not frozen and shipped in bulk – it takes longer to make. We cannot provide that fast turnaround you get at the larger chain restaurants.”
What’s the number one thing you would change about the restaurant industry today?
James Thomas, General Manager – Homestead Bar & Grill: “The cost of getting started. It takes $75,000 to $250,000 just to get started, and that can be cost prohibitive. You have talented people who would love to create their own place, but end up funneling their great ideas through somebody else’s baby.”
Cody Cuccia, Co-Owner – Heritage Hop Haus: “It seems like it’s tough to get a liquor license. It took five years to get our liquor license, and we had to operate as just a beer bar – which doesn’t have very good margins. So, I wish that it was a little easier to expand. I think that it would be good for the Valley.”
Jaime Deal, Owner – The Harp: “Definitely how much the process favors big corporate businesses. I think building an environment that encourages small restaurants to thrive is important for Meridian.”
Eight Thirty Common is offering brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.
For more information, visit www.830common.com.
Homestead Bar & Grill will be offering $3 Guinness and $3 Jameson for St. Patrick’s Day.
For more information, visit www.homesteadbarandgrill.com.
Heritage Hop Haus is focused on the launch of their new lounge area in March.
For more information, visit them on Facebook at Heritage Hop Haus Meridian.
The Tavern at Eagle Island will be offering a St. Patrick’s Day menu, including corned beef and cabbage and authentic Irish stew, with Guinness on draft.
For more information, visit www.tavernateagleisland.com.
The Harp will be hosting St. Patrick’s Day events including giveaways, nightly specials, and a beer garden from Friday through Tuesday.
For more information, visit www.theharpmeridian.com.