Before the front door closed, I was greeted. By the time I took my coat off, I had a menu and a drink order in. This was a pleasant surprise since in many places, service doesn’t begin until you wave a $20 bill in front of the bartender’s face with the hope that you’ll be recognized. But that’s not how they do things at Flanagan’s Craft Pub. There, it’s about immediate customer service.
Located in the heart of Puyallup, Flanagan’s makes it a point to greet each and every one of their customers. Karl Ashmore, co-owner of Flanagan’s, says there’s a very simple reason for this. “The most important thing in any business is not what you serve,” he says. “It’s not what you have behind the bar, it’s the service. How our guests are served is the most important thing.”
Originally hailing from Dublin, Ireland, Karl met his wife in the Cayman Islands before settling down in Puyallup in 2013. “My first job was actually working across the street at TK’s as a bartender,” he recalls. “It was my first job in America, so I needed to get my foot in the door.” In the three years that followed, Ashmore worked his way up to eventually becoming a co-owner of his own pub. He chose the location of the old Puyallup River Brewing Alehouse on South Meridian Avenue (and for those from Puyallup remember, it also served as Gus and Irene Mankertz’s Bakery).
“It’s not an Irish pub,” he clarifies. “We’re just a real pub where as soon as you walk in, you feel warm and welcome. Guests have to feel they’re welcomed into the bar as soon as they open the front door. If they don’t, they’ll leave, and they won’t come back.”
The interior caters to this welcoming environment, thanks to Ashmore’s hard work and intelligent decisions. “I did most of the woodwork myself,” he says, “sanding, staining, painting, the décor. It was built on a tight budget.”
Tight budget or not, the inside is very inviting. The lights are made out of old kegs, and every table in the place is outfitted with power and USB jacks to charge your devices. There’s a pool table, shuffleboard and even a retro Pac-Man game that you can sit at. “It’s got the most TVs in any bar in town too,” Ashmore adds, “and it’s got two 10-foot screens. It’s a great atmosphere for games.” The bar is also one of the cleanest places around. The bathrooms are immaculate. Ashmore insists that his restrooms are fully stocked and checked for cleanliness every 15 minutes. “We want people to stay,” Ashmore explains. “If guests find something disagreeable, they won’t want to stay, and they won’t come back.”
The beer menu is extensive with 25 brews on tap. “We have a big IPA selection,” Ashmore says. “We’re the biggest in town.” Expect to also find several options from Puyallup River Brewing Company at any given time. If craft beer isn’t to your liking, there are also domestic options available, as well as a full bar.
The food on the menu mainly consists of lighter fare, including appetizers, soups, salads and sandwiches. The Emerald Isle Spinach Wrap and the Meeker Salad are especially intriguing options. There are even some traditional Irish dinners, such as Irish Stew and Shepherd’s Pie. “The menu is very simple,” Ashmore says. “The kitchen is small, so we don’t have fryers or grills. Our food is fresh. You order something, it’s made and prepared fresh. It’s not in the freezer, taken out and defrosted. It’s good food, served fresh and in a timely manner.”
Ashmore, along with partner Tim Mellema, opened Flanagan’s on St. Patrick’s Day in 2016. In that time, it’s been the place where locals know they’re getting fresh food and fantastic customer service. “Our staff is the best in town,” Ashmore says. “We get compliments all the time about them. I’m so proud of the people that work here because they really, really care about the customer service. It’s hard to find. Very hard to find.”
This passion for service has paid off. Flanagan’s will be celebrating their first anniversary on St. Patrick’s Day. Aside from just the holiday celebration, expect them to pull out all the stops, with swag giveaways throughout the day. They even booked Puget Sound Firefighter’s Pipes and Drums to help them celebrate.
For Ashmore though, Flanagan’s is simply a labor of love. “I opened this bar for my future, and my wife’s future, and the family’s future,” he says. “I’m lucky to have a very strong woman behind me. I work hard for my future so that when I look back, I’ll know it was all worth it.”
Flanagan’s Craft Pub
120 S Meridian
Puyallup, WA 98371