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W. Rick's Taproom & Grill | Butler, PA

W. Rick's Taproom & Grill | Butler, PA

Neighborhood Gem Specializes in Homestyle Cuisine

Loyal customers fondly refer to W. Rick's Taproom and Grill as “The Dub.” That makes it feel like it’s one of those places that’s been around for a very long time, but actually it only opened in 1998. What’s interesting is that the establishment was originally a gas station that was transformed into a “rough and tumble” venue called the Meridian Inn approximately 85 years ago.

That’s according to Talbot Reiber, general manager and son to owners Diana and William Rick Reiber, for whom the restaurant is named. While they’ve kept the cozy, neighborhood vibe—it sits on the low side of the road, so it’s easily missed—W. Rick's is decidedly more polished for dining and drinking craft beer. And that’s something that Talbot is proud of and striving to make better every day.

“We couldn’t be any more ingrained in the neighborhood than we are,” he says. “Our mantra is that we want to provide great quality products at affordable prices. We know what our market is in Butler, Pa. It’s a blue-collar town. It was based on steel mills, so if people feel like they’re not getting value, then you’re not going to have the repeat business. So we price our items accordingly. That always makes customers want to come back.”

That’s something Talbot learned during his years at the Atlanta outpost for Houston’s Restaurant. He had been around the restaurant business his entire life as his father has owned more than 20 restaurants during his lifetime, but Houston’s taught him about the hospitality industry from an entirely different perspective. The high-volume operation has helped him with the business aspects of the family business.

“The corporate structure is fantastic,” he says. “That’s why they have everything they do in place. When you have the rules and regulations, then systematically the job gets done. There’s a lot of training and there’s a method to the madness. I think it’s essential to work in that (corporate) environment at some point if you’re looking to be a restaurant owner. You have to see both sides to be truly effective.”

With the business side of the restaurant operating smoothly, Talbot’s biggest project is the beverage program. When the craft beer explosion took off several years ago, he eagerly explored as many options as possible. First, he says, it was important to update the draft system.

Seven years ago he installed a glycol draft beer cooling system, which is a mixture of carbon dioxide and nitrogen. He also increased the number of taps from six to eight. In that way, he can spotlight more offerings from small, independent breweries such as Bullfrog Brewery, Terrapin Beer Co. or Alpine Beer Co.

The best part is that the beer selections match the food, which he best describes as straightforward American cuisine. That includes signature dishes like the prime rib, served Friday and Saturday, plus the best-selling crab cakes and jalapeño-stuffed shrimp—large Gulf shrimp amply filled with cream cheese and jalapeño.

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