Q&A with a restaurateur—Pat Mayberry, Pat’s Little Red Barn

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By Arla Shephard

It’s hard to deny the charm of Pat’s Little Red Barn in Belfair.

For the past 23 years, owner Pat Mayberry has welcomed patrons from up and down Hood Canal into her restaurant’s warm, at-home ambiance. Cow and pig knick-knacks decorate the rooms of the remodeled barn while vintage road signs and photos dot the walls — a perfect complement to Mayberry’s home-cooked, comfort-food meals.

The Virginia native does most of the cooking herself, with the help of her daughter, Jada Zulick. Mayberry also recruits singer-songwriters to play the first Saturday of the month for a Songwriter’s Showcase.

Showcase host Nyle Hartley credits Mayber berry with fostering a creative spot for local musicians to hone their talents.

“Songwriting is a craft, and this is really the premier spot for practicing your craft,” he said. “There are a lot of people who are career-minded and then there are other people who just want to write songs to satisfy their own heart. Some of the best musicians in the Northwest got their start with Pat.”

Mayberry puts in long hours because she knows what it takes to succeed at running a restaurant; Pat’s Little Red Barn is her third such venture in North Mason.

Q: How long have you been in the restaurant business?

A: I bought Pat’s Little Red Barn in 1989. My background was pretty much just raising my family. I had three kids. I went to school for design back east.

I came here in ’71 from Virginia because my husband was in the Navy, and we retired here. But the first restaurant I opened was Mayberry’s, which is now Casey’s Bar & Grill; I opened that in ’84. My kids were all out of school, and I just loved the bar business and restaurant business.

I started out in 1976 tending bar in the Glo Room at the Belfair Café. I was the bar manager for many years. Then after that, I just started buying places. I bought Mayberry’s, then Pat’s Little Red Barn, then, in 1995, I bought the Belfair Café and owned that for five years.

Q: How did Pat’s Little Red Barn eventually come about?

A: It was formerly owned by Max and Judy McCowan and it was called Max’s Little Red Barn. I think they owned it for probably five or six years. It was a small restaurant. They came to me and wanted to know if I wanted to buy it, and I did.

It was a deli, and the inside (where the bar is now) was just a storage room. So I added a bar and made it a sit-down, family restaurant.

I owned Mayberry’s until 1997, and Belfair Café until 2000. Now it’s just the barn.

Q: Music plays a huge role at Pat’s Little Red Barn. Why was incorporating music into the restaurant important to you?

A: At that time I worked at the Glo Room, music was real popular. We had music seven nights a week. That’s where I first started doing the music with the food.

When I was younger I taught dance at Arthur Murray Dance Studios back east. I also like the rock and roll music of the ’50s. I like musicians and I like their creativity. The patrons, I think they enjoy something new. I think they like good, live music and the feeling of listening to music in a barn. It feels very living room like.

It also gives the musicians a place to play music, too. We get anywhere between five or 15 songwriters from all over. We have a lot of people that come every month. We see them progress as musicians.

Q: Any chance you are musically inclined yourself?

A: No. I can tell you if something’s not on key or if it’s too loud. I have an ear for it. I think I have a knack for picking musicians who are good. I know the sound people like.

Q: What do you think this restaurant means to Belfair as a community?

A: The building was built in 1951 by the Beard family of Beard’s Cove. They homesteaded here. It’s a landmark. When I opened it up in ’89, there were only two other restaurants in Belfair. This was more of a family restaurant. We were a restaurant with a bar — not the opposite. Most places were bars with food. I think the Belfair Café was the only other real restaurant in town. Our place is very unique, very comfortable.

Q: How did you choose the décor for the restaurant?

A: I’m an antique picker. I like to go to garage sales. Design is what I like. I just kept adding to the restaurant, and people donated a lot of stuff because they would see that I liked 1950s stuff. It just evolved. I now have an antique store in the building.

Q: What is it specifically about the 1950s that you like?

A: That’s when I was young and went to school. I graduated high school in 1957. It was a change of times for a lot of people.

Q: Obviously it’s not just a deli anymore. Can you tell me about the food?

A: It’s comfort food. I have a limited menu. I try to keep it fresh. The bread bowl is probably one of the most popular items. We bake the bread here and fill it with any kind of thick soup, like chili or chowder, or chicken potpie. We make our own meatloaf and have real mashed potatoes and real french fries.

Starting the first of the year, in January, I’m going to have a breakfast buffet on Sundays. I did it when I first opened and I had it every Sunday for years. It just died out. So now I’m going to go back to that. It’ll be more of a Southern breakfast buffet, with fried green tomatoes and things like that.

Q: What are the most popular dishes you offer at Pat’s?

A: Probably the meatloaf and the liver and onions. The bread bowl, of course. Every night we have a different special. Monday is chicken fried steak, Tuesday is fried chicken, Wednesday is my choice, Thursday is steak night, Friday is barbecue ribs and that’s very popular. Saturday is prime rib and Sunday is pot roast, which is also real popular because I make the pot roast from scratch.

Q: How have you seen Belfair change in the restaurant world?

A: I think over the past few years, there are not as many people going out to eat. Of course, the economy is bad, too, but there used to be more business, people went out more often.

The number of restaurants has also changed, of course. There were no fast-food restaurants. People are busier now. They want to get their food and go home. I sell a lot of food to go now.

Q: Have things calmed down now that you own one restaurant, instead of three?

A: I am busier now than when I had the three restaurants. It’s more physical now, because I do the cooking. I pretty much do everything nowadays.

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