Fans of Dovetail Joint Mobile Kitchen will rejoice when owners Matt and Maren McGowan open their new brick and mortar restaurant in Richland’s Uptown Shopping Center this fall.
Serving a variety of made-from-scratch, locally-sourced food, the McGowans launched their food cart two years ago as a way of expanding into the Tri-Cities from Goldendale, where they previously owned the Glass Onion restaurant, which they sold in 2017 after nine years in business.
The couple said they’ve identified a lot of great opportunities for their business and their two children, who are interested in pursuing the visual and performing arts, in the Tri-Cities.
The proximity to local farms for high-quality, fresh ingredients, as well as positive growth trends for the area also were factors in their decision.
“The growth is great for entrepreneurs,” Maren said.
“We’ve looked in all three cities but were just looking for the right spot in terms of location, parking and size of building,” said Maren, who feels they’ve finally found a spot for their restaurant at 1368 Jadwin Ave. in the Richland Uptown Shopping Center.
“It’s the place,” said Matt of the 3,000 square-foot space, which is newly renovated and previously housed the Academy of Cosmetology, which permanently closed a few years ago after a dispute between a former student and the company’s owner went to court in 2015.
Though the McGowans looked at several buildings, Maren said, “We were more interested in being in a real place than something that’s polished to a high shine.”
They wanted a place with character, her husband said.
“We like free-form stuff that can kind of morph into what we desire,” he said.
The McGowans are paying for the new restaurant and equipment using money saved from the sale of their Goldendale restaurant, as well as business loans.
Maren said the city of Richland is conducting a code analysis on the property, which has delayed their conversion of the space.
“We have our hearts set on the property, so we’re going to jump through whatever hoops we have to,” she said.
Delays have not, however, put a damper on the couples’ plans for the restaurant.
The McGowans say they will serve lunch and dinner featuring food drawing from several different cuisines from around the world, including numerous vegetarian- and vegan-friendly options.
“We really like to accommodate that,” Matt said. “As long as we can make it taste delicious.”
Maren said the focus will be on small plates as opposed to singular entrees, or what she refers to as the “big platter mentality.” She said small plates will enable Dovetail’s patrons to sample a few different dishes during their visit.
Though the menu is still under development, the McGowans said there will be a wood-fired oven for fresh-baked pizzas and pitas, and they will change their menu seasonally to highlight what’s being produced locally.
And if their mobile kitchen’s current menu is any hint to taste sensations to come, diners can expect to find a diverse array, from chickpea curry to gumbo, and Baja fish or carnitas tacos to falafel-stuffed pitas.
Dovetail Joint also will offer a well-stocked wine, beer, and cocktails menu, featuring specialty non-alcoholic drinks as well as locally-sourced beer, wine and liquor.
Mark Mitchell, a Prosser resident who works at Hanford, said he’s been a customer of Dovetail’s food cart since it first opened under the name Glass Onion.
“I’m just glad they showed up,” he said, explaining the arrival of food trucks to north Richland has provided a lot of the area’s workers more dining options.
He said the quesadillas that come and go with their rotating menu are a personal favorite. “I’ve never gotten anything that wasn’t excellent,” he said.
Mitchell described Dovetail’s menu as an “upscale American fusion.”
“I think they go out of their way to have organic and high-quality ingredients. You can’t make good food if you don’t start with good ingredients,” he said.
Explaining the name change, Matt said when the couple sold their Goldendale restaurant, they also sold the name rights.
He added that the original name came from a Beatles song.
They mined the Beatles’ “Glass Onion” song for another meaningful phrase and found it within the same stanza:
Fixing a hole in the ocean
Trying to make a dove-tail joint, yeah
Looking through a glass onion.
“I look at cooking like a vocation like anything else,” Matt said. “Like making a cabinet, you can make it of low-quality materials or you can use high-quality ones. A dovetail joint is a way to bring two disparate materials together, and it takes skill and craftsmanship, the same applies to food; it’s an artistry.”
He added that in the old days, great diners and dives were often colloquially referred to or literally named “The Joint.”
“It’s a place where we execute the food and the service and the cocktails at a high level but not have it be a fancy environment with a white tablecloth,” Maren said.
In addition to themselves and the one part-time employee who currently make up their team, the McGowans plan to hire at least 15 more to staff the new restaurant’s kitchen and bar, wait tables and seat guests.
“If everyone brings something to the party and moves things in a decent direction, we can have a good scene here,” Matt said.
When asked what spurred them to pursue this line of work after years of working off and on in other restaurants, Matt said, “When you’re in this business, the goal is to have your own place. You start gathering your skillset and hopefully some money along the way and move toward that goal. We got to that point where it was either do that or do something else, and we did it.”
Maren added, “We love it and are totally full-on restaurant people. I think we were always coming back around to that.”
Once the restaurant opens, the McGowans want to resurrect their catering services and in-house events, including wine dinners and seasonal dinners consisting of farm-to-harvest meals.
Matt said that in an age where people are cooking less for themselves, he and his wife want to incorporate community outreach events to teach kids — and their parents — how to cook.
“There’s a huge disconnect between people with food,” he said. “But I think people are starting to catch on.”
The McGowans also hope to continue operating their mobile kitchen, though they are on the lookout for a good site to serve as a permanent location in their current service area.
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