Over the past four decades, Spokane has welcomed, and said its goodbyes, to dozens, if not hundreds, of restaurants. But during that time, there has been one locally owned, longstanding restaurant group that has stood the test of time—Spokane’s Landmark Restaurant Group. The company behind the Onion Taphouse and Grills and Frank’s Diners has been catering to locals and visitors alike since 1978, and they’re stronger and more successful than ever.
Founded by Larry Brown, the downtown Onion Tavern made its debut in 1975. Three years later, Larry got a large loan from US Bank and did a beautiful remodel of the space. “That is when the official Onion Bar & Grill everyone knows today was born,” says Ken Belisle, president and managing partner of Landmark Restaurants. In 2018, The Onion Taphouse & Grill’s 40th anniversary in business was marked, but the original 1975 Onion menu still hangs in the restaurant today as a reminder of its humble tavern roots.
With the success of The Onion downtown, it was time to add to their restaurant family. Built in 1982, The North Side’s Onion Taphouse and Grill has been a north side hangout for large parties and family gatherings for 36 years. In 2015, the new Area 51 Taphouse in the lounge became an instant north side favorite.
Less than a decade later, it was time for a new venture! In 1991, Downtown Spokane was treated to its third Landmark Restaurant—Frank’s Diner. “A lost ground lease in Seattle was Spokane’s gain, and Frank’s Diner railcar was introduced to Downtown Spokane in the fall of 1991,” says Ken. “This original, beautiful 1906 railcar in which Franks’ Diner is housed was actually the private railcar for the president and is as beautiful today as when it was first built.”
In January 2004, a second Franks Diner began its restoration journey. “We finally found a transport route to bring our dilapidated 1916, 100-ton, 83-foot railcar over from the coast,” says Ken. “It then spent the next year in a hanger off Argonne as we began the slow, painful restoration process. In 2005, after $1 million and thousands of man hours, she was finally ready to make her debut and move to her new home in North Spokane. With the help of two huge 100-ton cranes and a massive semi haul with police escort, our beautifully restored 1916 presidential railcar was moved to its final home, and the second Frank’s Diner opened in the summer 2005 on Newport Highway.”
Forty years and four successful restaurants certainly seems like they have created a recipe to success. “We recognize the enormous obligation to keep finding ways to exceed our guests’ expectations,” says Ken. “We know that to exceed our guests’ expectations means we must exceed our crews’ expectations first. My No. 1 goal is to be Spokane’s employer of choice. Only then can we truly wow our guests.”
He adds, “Our guests’ desire for locally sourced scratch-made food and craft beverage, prepared fresh when they order by people who love what they are doing, is our passion. We won’t rest until we’ve exceeded our crewmembers’ and every guest’s expectation.”
Ken and his team know time is valuable, so when their guests can join them for a meal, they are dedicated to creating an experience that is truly wonderful for each and every guest—every time.
Serving Spokane the best for more than 40 years, take a seat at The Onion or Frank’s Diner, where Ken and his crew bring passion and experience to the table.
The Onion Taphouse & Grill
7522 N. Division St.
302 W. Riverside Ave.
10929 N. Newport Hwy
1516 W. Second Ave.
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