Words & Deeds

'It's corporate row': Local restaurant closes after trying to be different in Meridian

When Barrel 55 bar and grill opened in the summer of 2016, owner Cliff Rogers envisioned pub dishes with local ingredients — in mainstream Meridian.

Less than two years later, that dream is gone. Barrel 55, which served Northwest-inspired food and drink at 3004 N. Eagle Road, closed Sunday.

"We really enjoyed it," Rogers says. "We really enjoyed the clientele. The building was beautiful. It was just very tough to make it work."

Barrel 55 isn't the only dining casualty at Gateway Marketplace shopping center, located at Eagle and Ustick Roads. Pinnacle Sports Grill, which has operated at 2902 N. Eagle Road since 2010, also has shuttered. Pinnacle Grill owner Nicolas Clare says he hopes to open a new restaurant concept this spring — either in that same space or at a new location.

Barrel 55 and Pinnacle both took a hit when the shopping center's anchor, Rosauers grocery store, exited after a final day Dec. 2, 2017, Rogers says.

"It's been killing us over there since Rosauers left," Rogers says.

Things didn't start like that. When Barrel 55 debuted in the nearly 6,000-square-foot restaurant space, Rogers and his staff had sizable ambitions for an upscale pub.

In a restaurant review titled "Barrel 55 strives to be different in mainstream Meridian," Idaho Statesman critic James Patrick Kelly noted that the restaurant tried to "take its food and beverage program to a hyper-local level in the suburbs." The food was "sourced locally (as much as possible)," Kelly noted, adding that beer geeks could choose from "a constantly changing list of 32 or so handcrafted brews from this part of the country."

Shortly after launching, however, Rogers began adjusting Barrel 55's culinary aspirations — and lowering prices.

"We had to change the menu pricing," Rogers says. "Everybody liked the concept, but when you have local food and you do it all from scratch, that means it costs more and it takes longer. What we have found over the last couple of years is people don't want to wait for it, and they don't want to pay for it.

"I think that whole mindset on that side of town, it's too hard for an independent to be able to survive on something like that."

Rogers says he thinks a corporate restaurant is more suited for the former Barrel 55 building. Before Barrel 55 opened, the space had been a Mexican-themed On the Border chain restaurant.

"It's corporate row," Rogers says. "The independents can't afford it."

Rogers, who also owns and operates Barrelhouse pub and grill at 5181 N Glenwood St. in Garden City, says he will turn his attention to that restaurant. Last month, Barrelhouse unveiled a new menu with a smokehouse flavor.

"Barrelhouse does really well, so we're just happy with that," he says. "We're going to focus our efforts on that and move forward and lick our wounds on 55 — big wounds that they are. But we had to do what we had to do. It's unfortunate."

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