Gateway Cottage Restaurant & Lounge server Heather Guthrie, left, and owner Lynda Hogan, right. Photo by Dean J. Koepfler/The News Tribune.
If you blew Mother's Day last weekend, this report is just for you. Shuttle the mom in your life straight to Gateway Cottage for a make-up meal. Gateway Cottage is one those restaurants where you're likely to see ladies – of the red hat variety – lunching.
Located off 146th Street South and Pacific Avenue South, the homey Parkland-area restaurant opened in November 2000. It took owner Lynda Hogan two years to remodel a dilapidated residential home into the Gateway Cottage – and her touches are all over the restaurant.
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She filled the dining rooms with artwork she collected while working at a now-closed downtown Tacoma antiques store – Corinthian Studios. Hanging on the walls is her plate collection.
She planted a courtyard garden around two large sheltering oak trees – and created quite a lovely space that looks as if it were made for graduation parties (something PLU families and staffers host there often). When the weather warms, Hogan will open the patio for seating and private parties.
If Hogan's name sounds familiar, it's because she and her ex-husband, Walter N. Hogan, are responsible for giving Tacoma one of the most spectacular view restaurants in the city – Stanley & Seafort's.
"We built it in the early '70s, and had it for about five years," Hogan said of the restaurant that is now owned by Restaurants Unlimited.
People in the kitchen: Gary Yankey is the head toque in the kitchen, and is assisted by Jeronimo Gomez. Yankey has a background in catering and restaurant ownership.
The menu: Gateway Cottage's menu is heavily focused on steak and seafood for dinner. At lunch, the menu offers salads, sandwiches and a few light entrees.
Menu items sampled: Coconut prawns ($11.95), which can taste generically boring at some restaurants, get solid treatment at Gateway Cottage with a coating of panko and coconut that puffed into a crisp, doughnut-like shell around fresh, plump prawns. Breading on grilled oysters ($11.95) provided a garlicky jacket around mild, briny oysters that were just on the right side of done.
The same mild, briny flavor showed up in the housemade clam chowder that paired plump, sweet clams with a sinful velvet cream base. Soups consistently pleased. On another visit, a mushroom-noodle soup was beefy, flavored with a rich soup base and punctuated with meaty chunks of mushrooms and swirls of pasta noodles. The ham and bean soup offered on another visit was meaty, chunky and smoky rich.
Salads were hit and miss on three visits. On one visit, a salad accompanying a lunch entree – all entrees come with a choice of soup or salad – was an interesting mix of green leaf lettuce, frisee, red romaine and other greens. It came topped with housemade croutons – which a server told us are made in-house daily from bread left over from lunch – and drizzled with a housemade blue cheese dressing with an interesting peppery bite. On another visit, the salad was mostly iceberg lettuce and lacked the interest of the greens from the previous visit. A third visit yielded a disappointing spinach seafood salad ($12.95) from the lunch menu. The spinach appeared slimy and translucent and the beets in the salad dry; cucumbers had the opaque look of vegetables held in a crisper too long. The shrimp and flaked smoked salmon helped salvage the salad, but the first version had to be sent back to the kitchen for a replacement.
Sandwiches anchor the lunch menu. A Reuben ($9.95) came loaded with corned beef, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese sandwiched between hefty pieces of grilled rye bread that stood sturdy around the thick interior layers. The Bleu Baron dip ($9.95) also was meaty, with thick slices of roast beef layered with melted cheese and the same peppery blue cheese dressing.
For dinner, the house specialty pepper-crusted New York steak ($25.95) was a good choice for a fan of the throat-choking bite of pepper. The peppery crust and accompanying gorgonzola butter easily could overwhelm a delicate palate, so order carefully. The chicken cordon bleu ($21.95) was part dessert, part entrée. The golden brown crust cracked open to reveal a honey-nutmeg sauce that played richly sweet against the smoky ham and hearty Swiss cheese.
A salmon filet ($13.95) at lunch one visit (also $22.95 at dinner), was promised medium to medium-rare, but arrived with that chalky texture salmon gets when it's overdone. Be assertive with your server that you want it medium rare if you prefer under, rather than overdone fish.
Gateway Cottage gets its starches just right. The mashed red potatoes were buttery creamy and fragrant with garlic, and rice pilaf had just the correct chewy texture of perfectly done pilaf.Green beans were crispy-crunchy on one visit, but tasted chewy and stale on another.
Save room for dessert, portions are big. The piping hot, custardy bread pudding ($6.95) – about the size of a half of a loaf of bread and covered in a rich caramel sauce – was a fork fight to the end. Crème br