How well are things going at Well 80 Brewhouse?
To put it succinctly, the pub is packed — so much so that one Olympian staffer who planned a visit gave up after learning she’d have to wait 40 minutes for a table.
Another, on a different day, got a table immediately but was warned that the kitchen was backed up. The wait for food didn’t feel excessive, though that might have been because the Chili-Lime Pubcorn (80 cents with free refills) provided a tasty distraction.
“We thought that we would be busy because it’s the new thing in town, so we’re not shocked necessarily, but it’s been a pleasant reinforcement,” said Chris Knudson, who owns the restaurant with brother Evan Knudson of San Diego and father Bob Knudson. The family also owns Casa Mia restaurants in Olympia and Lacey.
What those crowds of customers are finding in the industrial-chic space is beer brewed with water from the on-site artesian well — No. 80 of the city’s 96 wells — and food that’s at once classic and creative.
“It’s pub food that we try to elevate,” said Bob Knudson, who described himself as mostly retired but has devoted much of the past three years to developing the menu.
The burgers, for example, are made with a combination of short rib and chuck from Pat LaFrieda, who supplies meat to some renowned New York restaurants. Fries and tots are available in a variety of styles, including seasoned with black truffle and black garlic.
And the menu boasts nearly a dozen sauces, ranging from Gochujang sauce, made with Korean chili paste, to Drive-In Sauce, Well 80’s version of a classic topping such as Big Tom’s Goop.
This condiment cornucopia was inspired by San Diego’s Neighborhood, where ketchup isn’t even an option.
“We didn’t think we’d go quite that far,” Bob Knudson said, laughing. Well 80 serves Portland Ketchup, an organic variety that its menu renames Plain Ol’ Ketchup.
The Great American Drive-In Burger — LaFrieda beef with cheese, tomato, lettuce and Drive-In Sauce on a potato roll — is the most popular food item, Chris Knudson said, followed by the chicken and waffles, served with both maple syrup and chipotle bacon ranch dressing. (Those who like their waffles sweet might want to try the waffle s’mores, the restaurant’s only dessert.)
Another menu staple is pizza, which begins with Casa Mia-made crusts and takes off from there with such topping combos as the New England chowder-inspired Nor’Easter.
The menu is the result of a lot of research, Bob Knudson told The Olympian. “Sitting to my left in my office, there is a stack of file folders and papers that’s at least a foot high, and it’s all recipes, menus, ideas that accumulated over three years to distill it down to where we are,” he said.
The Knudsons frequented the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago, where they discovered several of their sauces, the baked-in-Chicago potato rolls and the Impossible Burger, a vegan patty known for its uncanny ability to imitate beef.
“I love it,” Knudson said of the scientifically engineered burger clone, available only at restaurants. “We tried it at a food show, and I thought, ‘You’ve got to be kidding. This is spectacular.’ ”
Well 80 Brewhouse
What: With a menu that adds creative touches to pub staples, Well 80 is part bar and part family-friendly restaurant, complete with kids menu.
Where: 514 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Reservations: Available for parties of 8 or more Sunday-Wednesday and during the day Thursday-Saturday
More information: 360-915-6653, well80.com