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The reinventing of McCloud's Grill House & Saloon

L-R: McCloud’s Owner Andy Graham and chef John SniderWhen McCould’s Grill House & Saloon came on the market last year, Andy Graham, the listing agent, saw so many possibilities: parties, catering, family events. Not a stranger to the industry — Graham had previously built up several restaurants — he decided to buy it with a friend.

Since then, Graham has been making improvements to the establishment, both to its physical appearance and the concept. Local groups have been taking notice of what the space can offer, but they’re not the only ones — every month, dozens of kids fill the restaurant for a free family event that includes games, karaoke singing, crafts, treasure hunting in the hay and other fun.

“We do it because it’s fun, and kids have an absolute blast,” Graham said. “We have a lot of military families here who can’t afford to do family things… It’s just something I wanted to do. We didn’t realize how big it was going to be.”

The 70-era riding bull has become a polular attraction at McCloud’sLest adults feel left behind, McCloud’s has parties for them too. The theme changes from steam punk and “redneck” holiday weekend to “Alice in Wonderland,” and patrons dress accordingly while live music and other entertainment, both for adults and children, are provided. Regular events include dancing with a DJ and live entertainment.

To create an events-friendly venue, Graham started making changes since he took over and hasn’t stopped. Various areas of the restaurant have been remodeled and a “dance floor” with a stage has been added, among other things.

One popular addition is the riding bull, which he found stored in pieces.

“The kids love to ride the bull. He gets very tired (on family night),” he said.

McCloud’s is only open starting at 3 p.m. and Graham likes those hours because it allows for the facility to be dedicated to events, everything from regular Rotary Club morning meetings (with catered breakfast) to wedding rehearsals. For event rentals, the establishment doesn’t charge for the space, only for food, and the menu is flexible.

“We work with groups on a budget to fit their style,” Graham said.

Fundraisers are a common affair as well, such as a carnival coming up in July that will raise money for the Boys & Girls Club, or two recent events that included live and silent auctions and raised $32,000 for the Kitsap 9/11 memorial project.

While trying to build up McCloud’s as a community place and emphasize the idea it’s a family place and more than a country bar, Graham has not lost sight of the dining aspect. His dream is to become the best steak house in the area, and in mid-May, he took a step toward that goal: The menu was overhauled to offer steaks and new sandwiches.

But regulars need not worry: Many of the previous offerings, including the famed “gun smoke” hotdog (a giant, fully loaded hotdog that is wrapped in bacon) and the “Johnny Cash” burger (a three-quarter-pounder that includes four pieces of bacon and three slices of cheese) will continue to be offered, as will the outdoors hotdog cart Thursday through Saturday.

One of the newer additions is a commercial smoker and the new menu will put it to use even more, with choices like pork skillet and smoked half-chicken.

“We do everything from scratch daily,” said chef John Snider, who’s been with McCloud’s for two years and had worked at the Boat Shed for a decade in the past. “…Our applewood products are phenomenal, all smoked in-house.”

Graham said he has many more ideas, and it’s his chance to do all those things he’s ever wanted to try in the past. With a background as a “restaurant fixer,” he’s run such establishments as Ivar’s on the Seattle waterfront and locally helped launch the Yacht Club Broiler. He’s also worked as a food and beverage director for Westin Hotels and for a while also lived the corporate life — a stint he admits wasn’t for him.

A Kitsap County resident since 1987 (except for a six-year “break” when he moved back to Seattle in the late ’90s), Graham has been a commercial real estate broker for about five or six years. He plans to keep his finger in real estate while continue to invest time and effort into McCloud’s.

Upcoming plans include painting the building and promoting it as a wedding venue. And, he’s already thinking a much bigger scale — once he gets McCloud’s on a roll, he wants to duplicate the idea somewhere in Eastern Washington.

“But I don’t want to franchise it because I don’t want to lose the community spirit,” he said. “…I really enjoy the community aspect of it.”

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