Jean-Paul Pirio says the only book he read as a kid was about how to own your own restaurant.
Today, Pirio is the owner of four restaurants and bars throughout the south Puget Sound, with the most recent tavern opening in Federal Way last month. The other locations are in Kent at 13038 SE Kent-Kangley Road, Renton and Gig Harbor.
“That’s all I’ve done my whole life,” he said of his 20-plus years in the restaurant industry. “My first job ever was restaurants. All I’ve ever known was waiting tables, busing tables …”
His namesake JP’s Tavern, in the former Lolli’s Broiler and Pub space in Federal Way, is the latest spot for games, good times and quality ingredients.
“It’s slowly been [getting] a little bit busier and busier,” Pirio said of business. “We’re now introducing daily and weekly specials.”
Pirio is a longtime Federal Way local himself, attending Twin Lakes Elementary School as a kid. Since returning to the area, Pirio said the tavern’s prime location and the opportunity to engage with his local community close to home are two things he’s most excited for.
“I’ve kept my eye on the location for the last 12 years, ever since I moved [back] here,” he said of the newest JP’s addition. “If it ever came for sale, I knew I was going to check into it.”
JP’s Tavern offers a gastro-pub feel with a big emphasis happy hour and Sunday brunch from 9 a.m. to noon.
Options range from Wild Alaskan Cod fish and chips to the Meaty Yolker burger with plenty of menu choices for appetizers, sandwiches, salads, flatbreads and more. One of the bestsellers on the menu is the Philly Cheesesteak, which took five years to perfect, Pirio said.
He puts a dedicated emphasis on creating delicious dishes using local ingredients from clean sources.
“We try to offer healthy [options] in the sense of no preservatives. None of our beef has hormones, it’s all antibiotic free,” he said. “We just try to have a clean label.”
JP’s from-scratch meals include all natural, sustainable foods such as chemical-free meats, organic vegetables, and breads made from simple ingredients. Kent-based Macrina Bakery supplies the breads and buns for all of JP’s locations.
“What I like about their bread is … there’s four ingredients or five ingredients and they’re simple,” he said. “It’s water, salt, flour. You know, things you can read.”
As a signature, JP’s has also teamed up with Lazy Boy Brewing in Everett. The taproom exclusively brews a Red Ale, an IPA, and a seasonal ale (Mango Blonde Ale, at the moment) for all four JP’s locations.
As for the cocktail list, Pirio is still working on the lineup to match the taste buds of Federal Wayans.
“We weren’t sure which direction we were going,” Pirio said. “Alec Porritt, the main bartender, is working on something now but wanted to get a feel for what type of alcohols were popular in Federal Way and what direction our crowd was going to be in … ”
JP’s Tavern offers happy hour food and drink specials twice a day from 3-6 p.m. and 9 p.m.-midnight every day of the week, and all day on Sunday.
JP’s also offers games galore, such as shuffleboard, pool tables, dart boards, and pull tabs among other entertainment amenities.
“My favorite part is just interacting with customers and just getting to know everybody at the new locations.”
Pirio has owned a handful of restaurants since 2000, and opened the Renton JP’s location in 2006. JP’s Barroom, for those 21-and-over, offers a dive bar feel with live music on the weekends and a long list of signature cocktails. In Kent, JP’s Taproom and Grill location provides more of a full-service dining experience, Pirio said.
JP’s Hy Iu Hee Hee, in Gig Harbor, is a hidden gem of a neighborhood pub in a log cabin and serves breakfast all day every day, Pirio said.
“If you’re not from Gig Harbor, you probably don’t know what it means or have never heard of it,” he joked. “It’s one of those things where in Gig Harbor, everybody knows about it.”
Compared to other cities he’s worked with, Pirio said Federal Way’s system seemed helpful and simple to work with when bringing his 16-employee business into town.
“It was easy, as far as working with the city and the fire department and the water district,” Pirio said.
Still in the first couple months of business, Pirio said Federal Way’s welcoming and spacious all-ages eatery is still discovering its identity.
“The core of all of our places is the same — just each one has its own personality.”
JP’s Tavern, 32925 1st Ave. S. in Federal Way, is open from Monday to Thursday 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.; Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. and from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Sunday.
For more information, visit jpsbars.com.