Cruise the eateries along Columbia Center and Gage boulevards in Kennewick, and you will notice almost every one is a national chain. The newest exception to the rule of chains is Grill on Gage, a family friendly, casual restaurant owned by partners Cara McDonald and Mitch McDonald.
They were once married, but are now only wedded to making their new restaurant a success. It opened Feb. 23, at 8524 W. Gage Blvd., across from Costco. The grand opening is scheduled for early April.
Having a small bistro has been a dream of Cara McDonald and her husband, Tim Meehan, since they bought 11 acres on the Kahlotus Highway overlooking Ice Harbor Dam a few years ago.
"We planted wine grapes with an eye for opening our own winery sometime in the future," she said. "Planting the grapes got us talking of opening a bistro wine bar and promoting vintages produced by some of the smaller wineries in the area."
Last fall, Cara McDonald spoke with her former husband about becoming a partner, and by December they would signed the lease on the former Taco Time restaurant.
At 2,100 square feet, the Grill on Gage can seat 60 people.
McDonald describes the cuisine at Grill on Gage as "classic comfort food. A diner menu with a twist. For example, we serve our Reuben sandwiches topped with coleslaw instead of sauerkraut."
Almost everything on the menu harkens back to the way her parents, the late Clair Young and Barbara Young Schamp, operated their homey cafe/diners in Richland. In the 1960s, they had the Chew & Chat on The Parkade and, in the 1970s and 1980s, Fran's Place on Lee Boulevard.
Everything but the condiments at Grill on Gage is made from scratch. Soups and chili come from recipes, not cans. The meats are cooked on site and sliced or -- in the case of the pulled pork -- shredded every morning. Same with the green salads and coleslaw -- they are tossed each day.
One difference from her parents' menu is Grill on Gage features at least one smoked/barbecued item daily. Those who remember the late CD Smith's Texas-style barbecue will find he's passed his deft touch at the grill to his son, John Smith, pit master at Grill on Gage.
"In turn, John, is passing his knowledge of smoking on to Mitch (McDonald). CD, before he died, really liked the way Mitch smoked meats," she said.
"We're lucky to have him. Not only did he bring his expertise at the grill, but John also brought his father's smoker. It's almost big enough to lead a whole steer inside," she said, pointing out the back door at the pickup-sized smoker.
Portions at Grill on Gage are generous. Entrees come with a salad or soup side, chips and a pickle. Lunches are priced under $9 and dinners are $10.82 and less.
They kept the drive-through, but ask if you're going to use it to call ahead and place your order.
"We cook everything to order and would hate to keep you waiting in line as we cook and package it up," McDonald said.
The full menu is online at www.grillongage.com. Check for specials on facebook.com.
Call the restaurant at 396-6435. Hours are from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
-- Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; email@example.com