DALLAS — Lyle Thomas likes his eggs “burned and turned,” and at Washington Street Steakhouse & Pub, that’s how he gets them.
Thomas has been a customer of the restaurant for 20 years. He attended the grand opening luau party when Washington Street put down roots in 1999, and has attended every one since then.
This Saturday, the restaurant will host its 20th anniversary luau, and Thomas will be there.
“Some will just pass through and get a beer, but I’m here,” he said.
“We checked you off our list, so you don’t get in trouble,” said Debi Conaway, who, with her husband, Glen Conaway, opened Washington Street two decades ago.
Debi has a background in marketing, sales and customer service, and Glen had been a chef and restaurant manager. They considered their combined experience and took the leap to open a restaurant in Dallas.
“We decided to pull a crazy card,” Debi said, laughing. “You have to be a risk-taker. I’m not anymore. I’m very conservative with my risks now.”
Now the Conaways focus on creating a welcoming, home-like atmosphere at Washington Street for customers and employees.
“Ninety percent or more of our business is regular customers, people that we see every day, sometimes two and three times a day,” Debi said. “That’s part of the reason that we only close one day a year, because people rely on us be open for them.”
Some customers have become so comfortable that they arrive before the restaurant is officially open. They show up when the cooks arrive to prepare for the day at 5 a.m.
“They make their own coffee because there’s not even a server here,” said Lauren Hoefler, operations manager.
“If we are here, we’re open,” Debi added.
Thomas said he’s at Washington Street “about five out of seven days.”
“They always make you feel welcome,” he said. “They are very personable, and they make sure the wait staff is the same way.”
That may be in large part because many employees have been with the restaurant for 10 or more years.
“They become family,” Debi said. “The long-term employees become like your family.”
Some of them really are family. Lauren Hoefler is Debi and Glen’s daughter. Lauren’s husband Adam also helps run the restaurant.
Debi said their three daughters grew up working at Washington Street, and Lauren decided to stay on.
“We are working toward them taking over the business,” Debi said. “I always said I was going to give it to my worst enemy, but I love my daughter.”
Now Debi and Glen are able to step back from the day-to-day operations, but they are still very involved in the operations.
They will join customers on Saturday to celebrate 20 years in Dallas. Washington Street’s annual luau will mark the milestone anniversary.
“It’s kind of like a class reunion for Washington Street,” Debi said. “It brings back former employees, customers that have moved away. They come back to go to it.”
Lauren said the kitchen will serve Hawaiian food specials all day, including Hawaiian prime rib and eggs, and coconut prawns with pineapple habanero sauce.
From 2 to 5 p.m. is “Kids Happy Hour,” with face painting, a balloon twister and kids’ meal for $1.99.
“We have Hawaiian drink specials and will have a big party in the pub at night,” Lauren said.
They will have giveaways of Yeti coolers, anniversary T-shirts and Washington Street tote bags filled with swag.
“Everyone will walk away with a gift,” Lauren said.
Debi said her family is appreciative of loyal customers, and the friendships they have established over the last two decades. She said Washington Street will continue to welcome them.
“We don’t close to go fishing,” she said. “You can trust that when you are on your way here, we are going to be open.”
Washington Street Steakhouse luau
What: Washington Street Steakhouse & Pub 20th anniversary luau.
Where: 141 SW Washington St., Dallas.
When: Saturday, all day.
Regular hours: Sunday-Thursday, 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday-Saturday, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
For more information: 503-831-0688.