The Windmill is Wenatchee's iconic working class steakhouse. Dinner there has been the traditional big night out for local families, tourists and traveling business people for more than 80 years. Thousands of birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and other major events have been held there.
If you're out for a great steak in a loud, upbeat, but quaint and cozy lodge-like setting, The Windmill is still where you go. You'll always find a wide mix of people there in suit and ties, formals, shorts and baseball uniforms, even Halloween costumes, depending what big event they're going to or coming from.
When I was married years ago, my wife and I would go to The Windmill for our anniversary dinner every year. After our first child was born we'd take him in his car-seat. Waitresses Belva Jackson and Jerry Kilgore would always dote on Zak and later his sister Aviva and remember all our names even though we only came in once a year.
That's largely why The Windmill has the reputation it has: great service and reliably good food in a timeless, warm environment. It's also almost always very loud.
New lease owner Kevin Smith said he had wanted to buy the restaurant for a couple of years. He also owns Willie's Sports Bar in East Wenatchee. Previous owner Greg Johnson finally accepted his offer and Smith took over last winter. The landmark building is still owned by the Glass family, who have leased it out as a restaurant since 1931. The restaurant has sold well over 1 million steaks since then. Smith has a lot to live up to and will have to work hard to fulfill legendary expectations. It didn't quite do it for us.
We were looking forward to a great steak when our review team went last fall. We were served the evening's special: a petite cut certified Angus tenderloin served Oscar style with crab, asparagus and Hollandaise sauce. My steak was perfectly cooked medium rare, tender and delicious.
We were less impressed with the sauce and would have preferred an undecorated steak. Oscar-style might make a great frilly dinner for an anniversary or special date, or just something different to try, but we all agreed that great hand-cut meat, perfect aging and simple cooking is best when it comes to steaks. No need to reinvent what works.
We liked the creativeness of our appetizer of pear and gorgonzola crostini, and that it used fresh local pears, but the taste seemed a little off and bland. A caprese salad offered nice slabs of fresh mozzarella and basil between slices of tomato. We liked the simple do-it-yourself oil and vinegar dressing.
Dessert was a mile-high raspberry cream pie sure to impress by appearance alone. It's a Windmill standard and favorite, our hostess told us. Windmill pies are baked by Lori Bookwalter using her mother Jerry Kilgore's original recipes. Kilgore made desserts and waitressed at the restaurant for 40 years. My favorites were always her fresh apple and marionberry pies.
We shared a great bottle of Jones of Washington 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon from a short but good selection of mainly local wines. The house wine 14 Hands Cabernet Sauvignon was a good follow up and good buy at $6 a glass.
Besides steaks, the Windmill offers fresh fish, prawns, lobster and a couple pasta dishes. There's always a special and prime rib is served Thursday through the weekend. Breakfast is offered weekends too. Dinner entrees run between $14 and $46 (for the 18-ounce, thick-cut Rib Eye).The Windmill, 1501 N. Wenatchee Ave., Wenatchee. Phone is 665-9529
The Dream Meal Team has been at it again. For the second year, our group of three experienced foodies took on the enviable task of dining out once or twice a week at some of the region's finest restaurants for reviews and to pick the best appetizer, salad, entree and dessert for the Foothills magazine's annual Dream Meal.
The winners — and there were many — are published in the January-February issue of Foothills, now available at many locations. Reviews of all participating restaurants will appear one each week on the Winemaker's Journal website.
The Dream Meal review team is made up of Annette Pitts, director of the Cascade Loop Association, former caterer and food blogger; Kent Getzin, Wenatchee School District director of food services and member of the National Farm to School Board of Directors; and Rick Steigmeyer, food and wine blogger and Wenatchee World staff writer. Most of the food photos were taken by Kent and his nifty iPhone 5.
All meals were provided by the restaurants, most drinks were purchased. As current or former food service workers, we all want to see local restaurants succeed. Criticisms, if any, are all meant to be constructive.