New riverfront restaurant open for dinner at Columbia Point

Committing to the belief that “it will be fun,” those behind the new Drumheller’s Food & Drink at The Lodge at Columbia Point are excited to open a restaurant before the boutique hotel even celebrates its one-year anniversary.

“I feel like we’ve been opening the hotel for a year,” said General Manager Wendy Higgins, citing the increased customer demand and the decision to nearly double the original staff by adding a full-service restaurant.

Drumheller’s is on the second floor of the hotel, west of Anthony’s at Columbia Point, overlooking the Columbia River. Just prior to the restaurant’s grand opening, the property also began welcoming the public to its new wine bar, Vine Wine & Craft Bar.

Before this month, Vine was limited to serving hotel guests exclusively.

Vine offers a large collection of local wines, beer and hand-crafted cocktails, using mostly regionally-sourced spirits. It features an outdoor patio and can seat about 20 people in the wine bar. Customers also can enjoy their drinks in what’s referred to by staff as “the living room of the Tri-Cities,” which is the center of the hotel and features a fireplace.

Chef Pauline Garza

Drumheller’s is open seven days a week for dinner only and can seat about 50 guests. It offers scratch-made menu items, which will change seasonally and are described by Chef Pauline Garza as “simple elegance.”

She said she aims to elevate the wines her meals will be paired with, and expects risotto will be her signature dish.

“From our food to our beverage menu, it’s very Pacific Northwest, very regional, very local,” Garza said.

The restaurant features a pastry chef for its desserts, which include chocolate tortes, beignets and cherry pie. Not wanting to be limited to a certain cuisine, Garza described her offerings as, “food that you’re familiar with, that really complements the wine as well.” She said she is focusing on technique, but including a modern twist.

Menu items include steak, salmon, pasta and a daily soup and salad choice.

A recent menu featured Dungeness crab risotto ($26), pan-seared steelhead ($24), short ribs with asparagus and potato leek frittata ($25) and a peach, burrata and prosciutto salad ($10).

The restaurant is headed up by Garza, 25, who has been cooking professionally since she was 18.

Drumheller’s is the namesake of the late Tom Drumheller who opened the hotel on July 1, 2017. The Lodge was considered the largest project of his career, which Drumheller saw to fruition shortly before his death in September, weeks after being diagnosed with cancer.

It was Drumheller who frequently encouraged and motivated his staff with the phrase, “It will be fun.”

It had been Drumheller’s goal to open a restaurant on the property, and he hand-picked Garza to be the breakfast chef and food and beverage manager.

“I was a little hesitant at first, just because being a restaurant chef versus a hotel chef, in my mind, was so different,” Garza recalled.

The two met through Washington State University Tri-Cities’ hospitality program, which launched in 2016, with Garza as its first and only graduate that year.

Originally from Othello, Garza studied at WSU Tri-Cities full time while working in the restaurant industry.

Drumheller served on the board for the program. Garza said when she met Higgins, she knew the job was a great fit.

Garza brings along an impressive pedigree for a chef of her age, having studied at the Florence University of the Arts in Italy, and taking part in an exclusive culinary brigade which cooked at the James Beard House in New York City. She described her passion for the culinary arts simply by saying, “I just love food.”

Garza remembered spending time with her mother at a young age, cooking and clearing the dishes afterward. She recalled taking over dinner duties at 10 years old. Some of her best dishes, learned in her mother’s kitchen, include Spanish rice and conchitas, a pasta dish similar to stew featuring herbs and spices.

The young chef’s career started at Twigs Bistro and Martini Bar in Kennewick, with stops at the Pasco Red Lion and Three-Eyed Fish Wine Bar in Richland, which Garza recalled as, “where I found my love of food and wine pairing.”

Initially hired to be the The Lodge’s breakfast chef, Garza quickly found there was a demand for in-house catering and created an events menu.

She has since developed the menu for Drumheller’s and Vine, which serves a “killer burger” and offers an unexpected twist on oysters by serving them chicken-fried.

Garza’s artistic touch extends to the craft cocktail menu as well, where she is responsible for the creativity behind the drinks, also locally sourced.

“You’re not going to find any other craft cocktail in the Tri-Cities like you will find here,” said Eileen Tanner, principal of Tanner Communications, which represents The Lodge. “If you’re looking for Grey Goose, don’t come here, because what you’re going to get here is top-shelf, regionally-produced vodka or gin or whisky. You’re going to see bottles you might not recognize but you’re going to taste a spirit that is top shelf and delicious.”

It hadn’t been the original plan to open the restaurant this summer, but strict limitations on The Lodge’s liquor license kept the wine bar as an amenity for guests only, preventing them from serving those living in nearby condos who walked over for a drink by the river.

(Courtesy The Lodge at Columbia Point)

The wine cabinet at Vine Wine & Craft Bar. (Courtesy The Lodge at Columbia Point)

“If it wasn’t for the fact that we needed to turn on the food because of what we wanted to do with the alcohol, we probably wouldn’t have opened the restaurant so soon,” Higgins said. “But in order to really take care of our customers, we realized not long after opening we had to go for the whole thing.”

This meant dozens of additional jobs to service the 82 rooms and the restaurant, resulting in about 60 staff on the payroll.

Each room at The Lodge is named for a different winery, creating an extensive wine list, to assure that each room has a wine offered to coincide with the room’s moniker. Higgins said due to this partnership with wineries and also a wine preservation machine, Vine also can sell wines that might originally be exclusive to wine club members.

Garza said there is a reason behind every partnership, from the beverages to the food.

“It’s not just a product, there’s a story. There’s a reason why we put that specific Blue Heron spirit on the shelf. There’s a reason why I have Middleton Six Sons asparagus on the menu. What we’re trying to achieve here is that extra level of hospitality and technique of care throughout every single inch of this hotel,” Garza said.

“You’re loving on the food from beginning to end,” Higgins said. “The same way we treat the guests is how we treat the food.”

The restaurant is open daily from 5 to 10 p.m. and Vine is open from 4 to 10 p.m.

Drumheller’s and Vine: The Lodge at Columbia Point, 530 Columbia Point Drive, Richland; 509-713-7423; lodgeatcolumbiapoint.com; Facebook.

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