A 230-seat restaurant serving regional food with a new American spin is on its way to the Narrows Marina. The restaurant plans are so new, the masterminds behind the Tacoma restaurant do not yet have a name for it, permitting still is in the works, and the building is just a bare bones structure about to get a big makeover.
The restaurant - located just beyond the intersection of South 19th and Bridgeport near Day Island - is the project of a man who has built a business from waterfront restaurants in unexpected places: Denny Driscoll, owner of the two Lobster Shop restaurants, at Dash Point and on Ruston Way. He also owns the Tanglewood Grill in Gig Harbor.
The opening date is five months away – planned for July 2012, so long as permitting moves forward as planned. The approximately 4,500-square-foot restaurant will seat about 160 in the dining room and another 75 on the deck.
Driscoll described the concept as a casual restaurant friendly to drop-in boaters. Think burgers and sandwiches with upscale leanings and fun regional spins. For boaters, there will be moorage and a nearby fueling station. The decor will be rustic and outfitted with wood, with a boathouse feel. Wood will be milled from old pickling barrels that were used at the former Nalley plant.
Permitting is under way and contractors expect to get to work in March. The principals behind the restaurant are still mulling a name. Have an idea? Post a comment here and Driscoll said he’ll consider it (or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Tom Small, who serves as the corporate chef for both Lobster Shop restaurants and Tanglewood Grill, said the Narrows restaurant will have a menu in an affordable price range. He expects sandwiches to be priced $8-$12 and dinner entrees to top out at less than $20. Small, a chef with a long resume who moved to Tacoma from California in 2008 to open Cafe Bistro in Nordstrom at Tacoma Mall, described the menu in detail: Serving: Lunch and dinner. The menu will stay the same throughout the day, Small said. Theme: “We’re focusing on regional American food with a waterfront emphasis. We’ll do the greatest hits of comfort American food. We’ll have a blue plate special. Sandwiches we’ll serve on cutting boards with tin-can holders to hold fries. The culinary world is going back to its roots and getting comfortable again, it’s going to be scratch-made food.” He added, “A little playful, casual and fun with the traditions of the regions around the country.” Menu items will draw from the South, the Midwest and East Coast, as well as the Northwest.Sandwiches: House-made corned beef, po’ boys, American backyard-style burgers, Carolina pulled pork sandwiches, Monte Cristos.Entrees: Scratch-fried chicken with fresh-cut fries, blackened rock fish with Cajun rice and Southern slaw remoulade, ribeye steak with barbecue French fries.Desserts: Cupcakes, banana splits, warm apple pie.Soda fountain: “We’ll make our own ice creams and syrups for sodas and custom sodas with a soda fountain. Milkshakes. Those kinds of things.” They’ll also serve lemonade, sweet tea and handmade drinks.
NEW MENU AT THE LOBSTER SHOPS
Speaking of the Lobster Shop, changes abound at the three-decade-old restaurants – namely, new faces in the kitchen and a revamped menu.
Jeff Bishop, who restaurant watchers will recognize from Brix 25, Il Fiasco and Merende (and a whole mess of other restaurants), is the new culinary face of the Lobster Shop South (Tacoma Ruston location). He joined the restaurant group last summer.
At Dash Point, the new menu already is set and might come as a surprise to longtime diners accustomed to the restaurant’s straightforward, if not dated, Northwest seafood menu. At Ruston, expect a similar revamp soon.
Driscoll, who opened the restaurants in 1977 (Dash Point) and 1981 (Ruston), said it was time to update the Lobster Shop’s longtime reputation as a “steak, lobster and coconut prawns” restaurant.
Diners visiting the Dash Point Lobster Shop will notice big menu changes, but a handful of core menu items remain (steak and lobster, for instance). The menu reads more modern with new American spins. Take a look at the starters menu, a menu of $3 bites: scallop “corn dogs” with jalapeno cocktail sauce, rock shrimp ceviche, cured salmon crostini, an oyster shooter with a jalapeno cocktail sauce. The entrees come with American regionalism: prawn etouffee ($24), rosemary-roasted lingcod with butternut squash and Israeli couscous ($19), and seafood risotto ($22).
Small said he’s working on local sourcing of ingredients. “We’re working on a seasonal emphasis (with spring menu changes). The big emphasis will be on the seasonal produce, talking to local farmers and trying to draw local seasonal (ingredients) like spring onions, first-of-season strawberries, petite asparagus,” he said.