Every town has at least one. At least one restaurant location that seems to change hands regularly and can never seem to make it work. It’s common for golf course clubhouses to fall into this category and the restaurant at seems to be a victim of this curse.
In the three years that I have been living in Gig Harbor, this restaurant has come under new management no less than 3 times. I keep rooting for them. We live nearby and I enjoy the view of the course from the dining room. But it just hasn’t gelled for anyone lately.
The restaurant was taken over recently by the owners of Cheers West in Tacoma. A few years ago, Cheers West was struggling from a reputation for bad food and even worse service. The new owners bought it and turned it around so I am hoping they can bring a little of that magic to the Grill at Madrona Links.
We’ve been there a couple of times now and my impression is mixed. Very mixed. I’m not quite sure what I think about it. For every good point in a particular area, there is an equally bad point. Hence my confusion. Here's a breakdown of my observations.
Good: The new menu is very simple and I think this is a good direction to go. The location caters predominately to the golf crowd and they're usually not looking for a high-end dining experience. Basic, affordable “crowd pleasers” in a comfortable atmosphere is key. And a good bar.
Bad: While the menu change is a positive step, the food is a bit disappointing. It’s run-of-the-mill "bar food." Frozen chicken strips and fries. Burgers with no flair. There is nothing that we’ve had that was bad, but nothing that was special. It feels like the kitchen is less about cooking and more about assembling. I think "bar food" but done fresh and with a twist would be outstanding here.
Good: A few of the staff members from the previous management are still here and their experience and expertise stood out. Our server for breakfast was top notch. It was our first visit since the new management took over and she was able to explain the changes and the new direction for the restaurant.
Bad: Our server during our lunch visit was woefully inexperienced. I am very understanding when someone is new but there is a big difference between “new” and “untrained.” A small investment in time to train new servers can make a world of difference. This is a lack of attention to detail that I place squarely on the shoulders of management. Someone needs to be making sure basic “Server 101” rules are learned and followed.
Good: They have knocked out a few walls which has opened up the interior and made it feel less compartmentalized. The bar has been rearranged to make it more open and inviting. Large TV screens are strategically placed throughout to give it a sports bar feel.
Bad: There is a striking identity crisis regarding the interior design. The area near the kitchen feels like a diner. The outer dining room has white linen table cloths yet there is a golf video game lurking in one corner. And stranger yet, a wall of pulltab games with bar seating sits squarely in the middle. It feels awkward and out of place.
Unfortunately, just bad here. I can’t find a web site or a Facebook page for this place. Not even one for their other establishment, Cheers West. In the era of social media, this is inexcusable. There is no special signage at the main road except the occasional posters obviously provided by beer vendors advertising their product. I drive by daily and forget that the restaurant is there.
My final thoughts: They are moving in the right direction but still have a ways to go. This location will naturally have the business of the golfers but because it is “out of sight-out of mind,” there needs to be a reason to go out of your way to come here. I haven’t tried anything on the menu that makes me NEED to come back for it. The view is great but there are lots of other options nearby with great views and better food. I’ll check back a few more times to see if there are changes in progress.
Coming up: Not one but TWO Mexican restaurants and tequila bars are opening soon in Gig Harbor. And right across the street from each other. Do I see a “Battle of the Tequila Bars” in our future? Could be interesting!
Have you tried a "must have" menu item at the Grill at Madrona Links that I am missing? Please let me know in the comments!