Engine House reopens under new owners
On the red brick wall above The Engine House’s old fire engine bay, there is a No. 9. It’s the address, 9 W. Lexington Ave., but it could just as well mean the restaurant, like the cat pictured on the wall inside, has nine lives.
There has been a restaurant in the iconic building since the 1950s, and for nearly 40 years, from 1984, Bob Tabor ran it as an old-fashioned deli. It’s had a couple of owners since then, but has been closed for several months.
Now Jill Walker, who worked at the restaurant when she was in high school and college, and her husband, Chad, intend to revive it.
The couple reopened the restaurant last Saturday, and have been serving guests this week.
“This was kind of a passion project,” Chad said. “We didn’t want to see it closed forever, and we thought we could renovate it and do some things to really bring it back to life.”
The Engine House Pub and Pizza Parlor is a craft beer and handmade, stone oven pizza restaurant that has also revived some of Tabor’s old familiar menu.
The lunch special Thursday was the ham hoagie, a customer favorite from the old days. Chad said Tabor told him “the Hot Ham Hoagie is so close to the original that the burp tastes the same.” They also brought back the Chomp, an Italian sub, and the Pizza Pun, which is bread with pizza sauce.
“We’ve come up with a few old items and a few new items to try to balance it,” Chad said.
The decor is a mix of old and new as well, with antique advertising, a new marble bar and a big flat screen TV.
The couple have tried to honor the history and nostalgia.
The building was constructed as a fire station in 1886 that ironically had to relocate around 1908 because of a fire. It has been home to a series of restaurants during most of its 134-year history.
Steve Atkins revived it as a pub, and he sold it to Steve Williams of Morehead, who sold it to them. It had three owners in eight to 10 months.
“I just always had a soft spot for the place,” Jill said, and she wanted to save it.
“We may have purchased the business at the worst time in the history of mankind because of the coronavirus,” she said. “It was a little nerve-wracking, but we’re really thankful to be up and running right now. We’ve been blessed with finding excellent staff and magically, it’s working, so we’re happy.”
“I’ve been pleased. We’ve had a steady stream of people coming and going, and I really haven’t done much advertising,” she said.
The restaurant is open Monday through Thursday from 11, and the kitchen closes at 8, and Friday and Saturday they’ll serve food until 9. Guests can stay around later for beer or drinks.
“If there are still people in here having a good time, we’ll keep it open,” Chad said.
They haven’t decided yet whether they will be open on Sundays.
“We’re going to come up with some creative one-off things to make it fun,” he said. “This place has been open so long it’s like Winchester’s living room.”
They’re open to any ideas their customers have, Chad said.