WHITEFISH — There is no such thing as an easy day in the restaurant business. That is certainly true for Tupelo Grille owner Pat Carloss and his general manager Paul Abu-Taleb, who are not only keeping busy with day-to-day operations at the popular Southern-inspired restaurant in downtown Whitefish but are also launching two new eateries at the same time.
Carloss is opening a yet-to-be-named Italian restaurant in downtown Whitefish in mid-December before turning his attention to a major renovation at Columbia Falls’ Bandit Saloon, which he purchased earlier this year. The upcoming openings come as Tupelo marks 22 years in downtown. In that time, the restaurant has expanded four times and has cemented itself as a local favorite.
Prior to opening Tupelo in 1995, Carloss ran a restaurant in Jackson Hole, Wyoming with his wife. They moved to Whitefish in the mid-1990s, banking on the idea that it would be “the next big thing” in the West, a bet that’s proven to be true.
Carloss said once a restaurant has established itself and built a following, it can be nearly impossible to change the menu. While Tupelo has daily specials, regulars expect to be able to enjoy their favorite dishes. So for the last few years, Carloss and his general manager Abu-Taleb have talked about opening a new restaurant to try some different things. Earlier this fall, when Truby’s Restaurant and Bar closed just a block from Tupelo, Carloss saw his opportunity. Carloss and Abu-Taleb looked at the space and Whitefish’s restaurant scene and decided an Italian restaurant would be a great addition to downtown.
Over the next six weeks, Carloss’ team will be updating the old Truby’s space, adding a second bar and installing a large brick oven. The restaurant will serve pizza, homemade pasta and more.
“We want to make the space feel different and really make it our own,” Abu-Taleb said.
After the Italian restaurant opens, Carloss and his team will turn their attention to the old Bandit in Columbia Falls, which he plans on remodeling into a family pub and sports bar in time for a Spring 2018 grand opening. He believes it will be a great addition to downtown Columbia Falls and a popular place to grab a beer or dinner with friends.
“We want to make it a place that people want to hang out at,” he said. “I think folks in Columbia Falls have been asking for more food options.”
Carloss plans on hiring 80 to 100 people in the next six months, bringing the total number of employees at all three restaurants to nearly 150.
Opening two new restaurants at the same time while already running a popular eatery may seem like a daunting task, but Carloss said it’s all possible because of the great team that has been assembled in recent years.
“The time is right for us to expand,” he said.
While some have asked if a new Italian restaurant right down the street from Tupelo would mean increased competition, Abu-Taleb doesn’t see it that way. He said that Whitefish’s growing culinary scene can support many more options and that “all ships rise with the tide.”
“Every great restaurant that opens is a meaningful step for the local food scene,” he said.
For more information on Tupelo Grille, visit www.tupelogrille.com.