By Chef Joe LaRosee
Growing up in the Basin, Don’s Restaurant was always looked at as “the place” to go on special occasions as it was one of the best restaurants in Eastern Washington. In recent years, due to many new competitive restaurants and rising food costs, Don’s fell from the limelight and flirted with obscurity. A door that meant so much to so many was on the verge of being closed forever.
But in 2017, the flirting stopped and the Soap Lake Icon made a comeback that is worth you taking a short drive and sparking memories and making new ones. Don’s has been revitalized by the new ownership of Sherry Xiao, and the introduction of a new Executive Chef, Dakota Likewise, a graduate of the Scottsdale Culinary Institute in Arizona.
Sherry and Chef Dakota share the same vision of bringing the Don’s Steakhouse atmosphere and menu into 2017, while preserving the classics and charm that made Don’s Steakhouse so famous 20 years ago.
“I hope I have created a menu that pays homage to past owners, while starting a new exciting chapter in the classic restaurants life,” says Chef Dakota, who brings with him a career experience as Executive Chef at some of the most luxurious resorts and golf clubs around the world.
Chef Dakota spends just as much time seating customers and getting to know his locals as he does checking in with his Sous Chef to make sure the food is just right. He is also quick to pre-bus tables, deliver food and pour drinks at the bar. A man who is truly running the business.
The doors were very much open on a Friday night in July when I made the trip to downtown Soap Lake to check out what was new on the menu.
I was greeted right away, seated and made aware of the nights specials. “Tonight we have a Bloody Mary Lamb Shank and Crusted Veal with Mornay Sauce”, my server informed me with a slight hint of pride in her voice. It was apparent she was pleased to have the opportunity to serve food of such caliber.
Although the Lamb Shank did sound delicious, I tend to stick to the classics when I am trying a restaurant for the first time, or in this case, trying a new Chef. If a Chef can own the basics, then I get excited to try their creativity in the future.
For the first course, I ordered a classic Caesar salad which had plenty of dressing, just peppery enough, and a fantastic slice of garlic toast. Presentation was beautiful and clean. The salad was quite big and could be a solid lunch on its own… but I was just getting started!
For the second course, I ordered the Bang Bang Shrimp which had large prawns sautéed with red onions, pepperoncini, wine and butter. Presentation was lovely, colorful and bright. The flavor of the perfectly cooked prawns was clean with bright acidity with just a touch of heat. A great appetizer to start a meal.
Course three, Linguine and Clams, were simple and delicious. I would have liked a touch more garlic and acidity from white wine but that is just me. I think lovers of this classic dish will find a new favorite at Don’s.
My main entree was a huge 16 oz ribeye. The steak was cooked to a perfect medium rare with a nice crust and very light seasoning. The choice beef was tender, juicy and everything you would expect from Don’s Steakhouse. Although I did need to add just a dash of salt to satisfy my palate, tables next to me were raving about their steaks just as they came.
After dinner, Chef Dakota showed me Don’s large banquet facility and new outdoor patio dining area on Canna Street.
“We want to have monthly live music and entertainment here at Don’s as well as a place to host special events and occasions for local and visiting customers.” Said Chef Dakota.
The patio, new menu, new look and new attitude has put Don’s back on my mind and back on the map of notable places that are a “must try” when you are in the Basin. Give them a visit, and a chance to earn back your business
by reminding you of just how special they have been in the past and dedicated to be in the future.