Jake Hathcock, owner of Jake’s Bistro in Steilacoom enjoys micro brews and good food including appetizers crab artichoke dip, left, and sundried tomato pesto tenderloin tips, center. Dean J. Koepfler / The News Tribune.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Drop-In Dining is a restaurant dining report where reporters drop in unannounced and sample the food, on TNT’s dime, then report what the scene and the food were like. Have a suggestion for a Drop-In Dining feature? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jake’s Bar and Bistro
WHERE: 215 Wilkes St., Steilacoom
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.
CONTACT: 253-581-3300, www.jakesbarandbistro.comcq
PRICES: $-$$ (entrees under $30)
By Sue Kidd
Jake Hathcock knows that spending $10 or $12 on a single bottle of extreme beer at a bottle shop can give some beer fans pause. Will they like it? Is it worth the price?
His advice: Come to his upscale beer pub in Steilacoom – Jake’s Bar and Bistro – and plop down $5 or $6 to taste and decide for yourself.
Hathcock is a fan of extreme beers – those flavor-packed high-octane beers (sometimes with elevated alcohol content) that appeal to beer enthusiasts. Extreme beer has a cult following, with the trend capturing national attention. As Beer Advocate magazine describes it, extreme beer "exceeds the ordinary, usual or expected."
Extreme beer is full of flavor and it makes sense to pair the big-taste beers with upscale eats. Beer-centric pubs around the country are doing it, and so is Hathcock.
Jake’s Bar and Bistro is one of a handful of South Sound restaurants that carries a diverse selection of the robustly flavored beers on tap. And food seems to get equal play and attention. Palate-bending imperial stouts and porters pair up nicely with Jake’s steak rubbed with coffee and spices, or a juicy blue cheese burger.
Hathcock used to match beer with specific menu items when he opened his restaurant in December 2007, but he now encourages diners to match up their own food with the beer. "It’s such a personal thing," Hathcock said. But if diners want help in that direction, Hathcock and crew are there to help offer pairing suggestions.
The scene: Jake’s is a comfortable place with a laid-back pub feel. Spacious booths and table seating make it a great place to lounge and enjoy. It’s the kind of place you can bring the family, a friend or a date. It’s also a place for diners who are fans of a higher concept beer pub restaurant – this is not a nachos-and-chicken wings kind of joint, nor does it have bargain prices on the menu. A deck outside, with fantastic views of the water and surrounding Steilacoom, will seat 50. Expect it to open around Mother’s Day.
People in the kitchen: Chef Dave Garber is the man in the kitchen at Jake’s. Garber, Hathcock and staff members work together to change the menu seasonally. Hathcock previously owned Steilacoom Wine and Brew from May 2005 until he opened Jake’s in December 2007.
The food: Big-flavor food paired up with big-flavor beer. You won’t find fried items on Jake’s menu. Hathcock said his focus is on fresh preparations with a healthful trend (or as healthful as a juicy burger slathered with blue cheese can be). The kitchen has no deep fryer, so you won’t find typical pub things like fried chicken wings or baskets of greasy fries and mozzarella sticks. Instead, you’ll find steaks, burgers and other meat-focused dishes with a foodie twist.
The beer: Jake’s carries more than 40 beers on tap, with a list of beers that changes just about daily. A recent visit found Russian River Blind Pig IPA ($5.75 for 16 ounces/6 percent ABV), Skagit River Trumpeter Imperial Stout ($5.25 for 12 ounces/9.2 percent ABV) and Avery Ale to the Chief, an American double/imperial IPA ($6.25 for 12 ounces/8.75 percent ABV). All three beers have big flavors with big punch – and are beers not readily available at your average pub. When asked about his beer philosophy, Hathcock drew a simple analysis: If he likes it, he’ll give it a try on tap. His beers come from all over the United States – Washington, Oregon, Colorado and California, and even a few European brews.
Dishes sampled: Starters are heavy affairs and can serve as their own meals. The sundried tomato pesto tenderloin tips ($12) were a healthy portion, tossed with asparagus spears and toasted pine nuts. Crusty bread on the side nicely soaked up the sauce. The artichoke crab dip ($11) was a big bargain thanks to lots of Dungeness crab. The rich dip – a combination of crab, cream cheese, Rogue Valley blue cheese crumbles, roasted garlic and shallots –would have been far better served with the same crusty bread that came with the tenderloin tips. The tri-color tortilla chips were a fine vessel for scooping the creamy, gooey dip, but the chips were too much flavor competition for the dip. Ask for bread instead.
Entrees are meat-centric and big on bold ingredients. Coffee and spice-rubbed top sirloin ($16) was a decent 8-ounce portion for the price. It was heady with spices – making the accompanying mound of roasted garlic butter completely unnecessary (and the compound butter was too salty, anyway). Paired with rosemary mashed potatoes and sautéed zucchini and yellow squash, the dish is a contemporary spin on good ol’ meat and taters. It washed down nicely with the Russian River Blind Pig IPA.
I also liked the Russian River Blind Pig IPA matched with the smoked gouda-and-basil-stuffed chicken ($16). The accompanying cream sauce was bland and undersalted (one of the few dishes that was less salty; the kitchen at Jake’s trends toward salt overuse). The same mashed potatoes and sautéed zucchini came with this dish, but basmati rice also is available as a side.
A grilled salmon salad ($12), married a big plate of crisp, fresh greens with artichoke hearts, cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions with a topping of asiago cheese and a small portion of grilled salmon. A nice detail: The housemade citrus cilantro dressing was served in a dish on the side. I like it when restaurants do that. It went down well with a Lindemans raspberry lambic ale ($5.75 for 8 ounces).
The natural Angus blue cheeseburger ($12) was a thick, juicy