The ribs at Andre's Bar & Grill are served with fries and slaw.
The makeover inside Andre's Bar & Grill in Bonney Lake is impressive. You might not even guess it used to be a Mazatlan Mexican restaurant.
Gone are the baskets of chips and the wooden booths. The restaurant now carries a sophisticated vibe that's comfortably upscale, but still family friendly. The pendant lighting dims moody, the cushy booths trend stylish and the patterned carpet provides an attractive upgrade from most restaurants. The lounge looks downright swank with leather couches and low cocktail tables.
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The restaurant is the concept of Andres "Andy" Cardenas Jr. whose father, Andres Cardenas Sr., owns the local chain of Mazatlan restaurants. When his father moved the old Mazatlan to a new, larger building nearby, Cardenas, 30, used the old Mazatlan space to open Andre's Bar & Grill.
Although the interior is largely improved, one leftover remains from Mazatlan – the awkward lobby next to the adjacent seating area where foot traffic and waiting diners equals an all-eyes-on-you feeling. Ask to be seated in one of the dining rooms instead if that bothers you.
The menu is American steaks and pasta, with ethnic and regional American twists. Think Thai calamari, Southern-style ribs, thin-crust pizzas, hummous, steamed edamame and jambalaya fettuccini. A broad menu can be appealing in a "something for everyone" way, but diners who like straightforward restaurant concepts might find the menu at Andre's confusing. I did find the menu difficult to navigate in terms of finding the "specialties." On my first of three visits, I asked for guidance from my server and was rewarded with solid suggestions and detailed food descriptions. Andre's staff is polished and professional and food-knowledgeable. One embarrassing moment came when a server's grip loosened on a plate for a moment. Profuse apologies followed the shattered plate on our table, but she didn't brush away the shards, leaving that for me to do (and dangerously so). Save for that one moment, the staff was as attentive as any high-end restaurant. Chef Ethan Ashcraft – an alumnus of Hotel Murano, Tacoma Club and restaurants in Napa, Calif. – is the top toque in the kitchen.
Starters and salads are done well at Andre's. The Thai calamari ($8.85) came with a spicy green coconut curry dipping sauce kicked up with chiles, and kissed with lime and cilantro. A pulled pork quesadilla ($6.45) was ordinary on its own, but notched up to dynamite with chunky house-made guacamole. The Southwest chicken salad ($9.45) was a knockout salad of crisp, mixed greens, tomatoes and cucumbers and a flavor blast of house-made dressing boozy with tequila and spicy chipotle. Chewy corn disappointed, but juicy, grilled chicken, nutty pumpkin seeds and cubed feta nudged the salad to the best I've had in months.
House-made is the mantra at Andre's, and it shows in dressings and dishes such as the pizza. The chewy, thin crust is exactly how I like my pizza – with blistered edges and a tomato sauce that is sweet, but not cloying. The pepperoni ($10.45) is a solid choice, but if your pizza tastes venture unusual, do try the blue cheese and bacon pizza ($9.85). A thin, chewy, blistered crust came topped with a garlicky tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, blue cheese, chunky pieces of bacon and topped with a surprise – a mixed green salad dressed with a creamy egg-based vinaigrette. The cool crunch of lettuce was delicious against the cheesy, gooey, rich blue cheese and bacon, but more timid palates might shy from the assertive flavors. Note: Don't let the pizza sit long; it loses its crisp.
For entrees, the ribs ($16.85, full rack) are my hands-down choice to order. These lightly sauced ribs are cooked to fall-off-the-bone, and served with a big pile of skins-on fries and crunchy slaw.
The ribeye ($18.85) will satisfy the steak lover in any dining group, and it was a satisfying, tender piece of meat marked with beautiful grill diamonds and prepared medium rare, as requested. (A $2.45 upcharge adds creamy clam chowder, soup of the day or a crisp garden salad to your entrée.) Sides faltered. The accompanying mashed potatoes were wet and underseasoned, and the roasted asparagus chewy. On the same visit, the wet mashed potatoes and overcooked asparagus also came with the spinach stuffed chicken ($13.85). A quarter chicken overflowed with a chopped filling of spinach, feta, oregano and covered in a mild lemon sauce. Ignoring the flawed sides, the chicken itself was executed perfectly. On a second visit, the mashed potatoes had a mealy, wet texture again. I'd say skip the mashers and ask for another side to substitute.
Jambalaya fettuccini ($12.85) is the most popular dish on the menu, and I can see why. Ashcraft describes the dish as a "triple protein entrée." And it really was a perfect meat trifecta with plump shrimp, juicy chicken and sliced andouille sausage. The flavorful tomato-based sauce is fragrant with basil and finished with bell peppers.
When I visited the Web site to research Andre's, the site described the hamburgers as "hand-formed burgers." What I got when I ordered the counter burger ($8.85) most definitely was a prefab patty, which both chef and owner confirmed. (They really should fix the Web site to reflect that; or better yet, upgrade to a hand-formed burger.) The counter burger was disappointing not only because of its prefab flavor, but also because the first version arrived bloody rare in the middle. (We ordered medium with a little pink in the center.) We balked and sent it back. A second burger arrived no more done. We gave up and skipped eating it altogether.
Portions are generous at Andre's, which is why I had room for dessert on only one of three visits. Do order the brownie caramel sundae ($6.45). The homemade pecan brownie was a sweet mate for creamy caramel sauce and two scoops of Italian vanilla and chocolate ice cream. Like the entrees, it was enough to feed two. Or maybe three.
Look for more specials coming soon on the menu at Andre's. Cardenas said he and Ashcraft have changed the menu three times and will continue to add daily specials and other changes.
Andre's Bar & Grill
Where: 9902 219th Ave. Ct. E., Bonney Lake
Hours: 3 p.m.- 9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 3 p.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Info: 253-862-7646 or http://andresbg.com/