The Naccarato restaurant formerly known as The Beach House is up and running in its new incarnation, Margarita Beach Cafe. The made-over restaurant is a casual, colorful shell of its former self; it's just getting its feet wet as a less expensive "vacation" dining spot.
Gone are five-star tablecloths and 15 percent service fees, replaced with a Baja-by-the-Sound vibe that's reinforced by concrete floors and a sign that says the men's room is for "longboarders." (Thankfully, I heard nary a Sammy Hagar tune on the house speakers.)
I've only stopped in for chips and salsa so far, but I'm looking forward to trying Margarita Beach's Mexican dishes, particularly pozole, a pork stew with hominy; chile relleno with goat cheese, zucchini, corn and mushrooms; and roasted corn soup with poblano chiles and Dungeness crab.
There's plenty of gringo fare to please less zesty palates, including steak, a burger, beer-battered fish and chips and salmon. There are even a few Asian-inspired dishes, including mahi mahi with tomato-ginger chutney and deep-fried "Thai" green beans with kaffir lime and sesame seeds. There's a good selection of Mexican beer, including my favorite, Negra Modello, a Munich-style lager.
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Starters and salads are $4.50 to $12.95. Entrees are $9.50-$16.95.
Chef-owner Gordon Naccarato, who started The Beach House and downtown Tacoma's Pacific Grill with his brother Steve, said the down-scale make-over was prompted by passsing cars on Purdy Drive -- not enough of them were stopping by The Beach House, which suffered from a perception of being pricy and inaccessible. Except for the tacked-on 15 percent service fee, I didn't quibble much with The Beach House's prices; given the quality of the food and the restaurant's attention to service, I thought The Beach House was a good value -- not an everyday restaurant, but a good place to budget your food funds for.
With Margarita Beach Cafe debuting as the days get shorter, it'll be good to budget your daytime for eating here (lunch is on the way). With the decor down-scaled (not exactly Chevy's but not quite The Beach House), the view from inside Margarita Beach Cafe is better when you can see the restaurant's manicured beach and Henderson Bay beyond.
Margarita Beach Cafe, 13802 Purdy Drive NW, Gig Harbor, 253-858-9900. Dinner 4 p.m.-9 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays, 4 p.m.-10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays. Lunch hours to be announced.