Last Chance is more than beer

Casual atmosphere, varied menu make it a family stop, too

Restaurant profile

March 09, 2000|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The Last Chance Saloon is probably best known for serving 56 kinds of beer on tap. Especially since all, except Budweiser and Miller Lite, are imports or microbrews.

But there is more to this 250-seat bar and restaurant than its extensive beer list. The Last Chance's varied menu and casual atmosphere make it a popular family destination as well.

"We very much try to pattern ourselves after an English pub," said Kathryn Sullivan, who took over the Last Chance with her husband, Paul, in March 1997. "We're trying to be a community tavern."

That means bringing in the families as well as the beer nuts.

One of the first things the Sullivans did was update the menu. They added daily specials and did away with some of the heavier sandwiches. They added such signature dishes as steak and mushroom pie ($7.25) and lighter fare, including salads.

They kept one of the pub's most popular traditions, offering burgers ($5.75 plain, $6.25 with cheese) and veggie burgers ($4.75 plain, $5.25 with cheese) at half price Mondays.

Specials change daily

A different special is offered every day. On Saturdays, kids dine free with a paying adult. On Thursdays, draft beers are $2 a pint from 9: 30 p.m. to closing.

Happy hour is from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and noon to 6 p.m. Saturdays. Featured are half-price appetizers (excluding seafood), $3 off pitchers and $1 off pints and house brand mixed drinks.

The Sullivans also brought back live entertainment, which had fallen by the wayside over the years. "We try to make sure we hit all markets," Kathryn Sullivan said. A calendar of performances is printed and is also available at www.lastchancesaloon.com.

The unique decor of Last Chance Saloon is a refreshing change from the polished-brass look of so many chain establishments.

The tables in the two large dining areas are Formica, not wood. The walls are decorated with beer bottles and coasters that customers have brought from all over the world.

In the spring, cafe tables will be placed outside. A banquet room seats up to 50.

Survival story

Established in 1986, Last Chance struggled at first, changing hands several times in its first few years. At one point, the Rouse Co. told the new owners they were the saloon's last chance for survival. Those owners named the place the Last Chance Saloon and made it a success before selling it to the Sullivans eight years later.

Kathryn Sullivan remembers her reaction when she first saw Last Chance. "We felt very much at home here," she said. "We liked the fact that it has a very family-oriented feeling. Certainly, it's family in the sense that people come in with children, but it's more family in the larger sense of the word, where everybody knows everybody."

Last Chance Saloon

Where: 5888-A Robert Oliver Place, Columbia; 410-730-5656.

Hours: 11: 30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Friday; noon to 2 a.m. Saturdays; 3 p.m. to midnight Sundays.

Prices: Appetizers: $3.75 to $17.25 (for a pound of steamed shrimp); entrees: $4.75 to $18.95.

Credit cards: American Express, Visa, MasterCard and Diners Club.

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