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Train Wreck Bar & Grill: Pub grub, from scratch

Mar 7th, 2014 | Category: Food

by Jessamyn Tuttle

Nick Crandall opened the Train Wreck Bar & Grill in November of 2008, in an old building right on the railroad tracks in downtown Burlington. He felt that the town wanted something different. “I wanted to open up a good little pub,” he said.Nick Crandall at the Train Wreck by Jessamyn Tuttle web

It took longer than he expected to remodel the building and set up the restaurant, as well as tapping his 401K and maxing out all his credit cards, but before long the Train Wreck was thriving.

“It’s a hard business,” said Crandall, who had no restaurant experience before opening the Train Wreck. “I got lucky and hired a good chef.”

That chef was Michael Miller, who agreed to work at the pub for six months provided Crandall let him do whatever he wanted. Miller, who has an extensive cooking background, including stints at Nell Thorn, the Edison Inn, Café Adrift, and an internship at the original Herbfarm in Fall City, has been the driving force of the Train Wreck ever since. “I stay out of Mike’s hair, let him do his thing,” Crandall said. “I’m lucky to have him.”

The Train Wreck’s menu includes all the usual pub grub, such as burgers, sandwiches and salads, but everything is made from scratch. “We do all our own sauces and seasonings,” Crandall said. “No pre-made stuff.”

As much as possible is bought from local producers. “We try to support the little guys,” he said. They use Nerka sushi-grade salmon from Alaska, Golden Glen cheese, local mushrooms and oysters, and fresh produce in season. They formerly used Breadfarm bread, but after remodeling the upstairs of the building, they decided to turn the new space into a bakery for the restaurant. They now make all of their own bread, including Miller’s own recipe for gluten-free buns and rolls. They also roast their coffee, with beans from local business Sonofresco.

The restaurant has a full bar, along with a selection of local beers on tap. Crandall started with five handles and rotated them, which at the time was unusual. “Now I have 18 taps,” he said. The Train Wreck is a 21-and-over bar, and Crandall said he sees a wide range of clientele. “We get grandparents to 21-year-olds.”

Inside the Train Wreck Bar and Grill, in Burlington. PHOTO BY JESSAMYN TUTTLE

Inside the Train Wreck Bar & Grill, in Burlington. PHOTO BY JESSAMYN TUTTLE

Along with the regular menu (and a wide array of daily specials from  Miller) the pub offers Margarita Mondays, featuring Mexican food, and Sushi Wednesdays, which have been wildly popular. “We usually run out [of sushi] every Wednesday.” They also just started offering breakfast every day.

“The pace is real fast,” he said of the restaurant, which now employs 43 people. “I feel like we do a good job…I know we do a good job.”

Crandall is constantly thinking how to improve his business, whether it’s refinishing the floors, adding a new room to the restaurant or developing his own line of sodas. “I’m trying to make everything interesting,” he said.

Last year they experimented with a rooftop garden to supply the kitchen, but it took a lot of time.

Crandall and Miller’s newest joint project, currently under development, will be a coffeehouse with house-roasted espresso and local products such as milk, honey, and cheese, as well as baked goods from the Train Wreck. Quick, healthy takeout meals will be available for people who may not have a lot of time for lunch. “It’s going to be a different kind of coffee shop.”

The Train Wreck Bar & Grill is located at 427 E. Fairhaven Ave. in Burlington and can be reached at (360) 755-0582. See www.trainwreckbar.com for more information.

Published in the February 2014 issue of Grow Northwest

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