It's easy to pick out the diehard regulars from the casual patrons at Trident Grill on East Speedway.

They are the customers bellied up to the bar with the personalized pewter tankards in front of them.

The 16-ounce mugs have been a tradition at Trident for nearly a decade.

Each one has the restaurant's logo and name engraved on one side with the owner's name or nickname on the other.

They come with a risque mermaid handle, fitting in with the rest of the bar's nautical motif, as well as a number written in black marker on the bottom. The digits make it easy for bartenders to track them down when customers come calling.

The mugs have been popular.

Trident has about 450 hanging in rows above the bar, with another row of 40 already ordered and on the way.

"We are just trying to give people something cool," said Jason Machamer, general manager for the last eight months. "Something that regulars can call their own."

The Trident tankards started going up in 2004, three years after the grill first opened its doors.

They were originally meant for employees, but were soon being requested by people who frequented the establishment, said owner Nelson Miller.

Being so close to the university, the common misconception is that most of the mugs belong to students, but Machamer says that is not the case.

He estimates that more than half of the tankards hanging at Trident belong to active and retired military, as well as law enforcement.

Former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, own their own, Miller confirmed.

"We have a great following here," Machamer said. "A lot of people think that our bread and butter is students, and we do get them. But we also get a lot of military support, Tucson Police Department, the Sheriff's Department, as well as people from University Medical Center and instructors from the university.

Machamer said it is not uncommon for mugs to have engraved names of the ships customers served on or stickers of the battalions they served with on them.

"For some people, it is not just a mug," he explained. "It is like a showpiece."

The tankards aren't cheap.

One mug costs about $75. Machamer said that barely covers costs.

The pewter mugs are ordered from Malaysia and engraved at Sahuaro Trophy in Tucson.

"The shipping on them is ridiculous," Machamer said. "With all of the costs from that, the engraving and the mug itself, we are not making a whole lot of money on them. It is just cool to offer."

No major perks come with the purchase of a mug either, aside from the mug itself, and the occasional "mug Monday" meal special.

Yet they have become an attractive feature at the bar.

Many first-timers to Trident are curious about the rows of mugs hanging above the bar.

Some are even interested in buying.

Machamer said they are welcome to put their name on the waiting list, but regulars, those who fill their tankards with Trident's selection of 24 beers on tap, get first dibs.

"I want to make sure our usual customers can get one if they want one," he added. "People who come here three to four times a week are definitely at the front of the line."

Machamer said once purchased and delivered, the mugs don't always stay at Trident.

"Some people ship them as gifts," he said. "They don't have to stay here. Some people get shipped off on five-year tours and take their mugs with them."

if you go

Trident Grill

2033 E. Speedway

• Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays-Mondays; 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays

• Info: 795-5755 or online.

• Tankards: Pewter mugs are $75. A waiting list has been created, but tankards won't be ordered until a minimum number is met.

"For some people, it is not just a mug. It is like a showpiece."

Jason Machamer general manager