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Dovetail Joint

Richland's must-visit culinary spot

Matt and Maren McGowan's restaurant would be a find anywhere, but it's especially thrilling to know it's in Richland where it's a little more difficult to find elevated food and beverage.

Their soft opening began November 1, 2019. People found them quickly and dinner business grew quickly. Lunch was added next was just catching on when, you know the story, the pandemic hit. "It's been a roller coaster," Matt says. "When you open a restaurant, creating relationships is important. Team building in the front and back of the house and with local farmers and producers. We were just at the beginning of that. Now we feel like we're in suspended animation, unable to go forward or backward." Maren agrees, "I normally look forward to summer and all the bounty from the local farms. We can't take chances now; our innovation is about staying in business."

That's the difficulty every restaurant owner faces. The good news is that what they're maintaining is wonderful. No one is thinking "I wish they could do something with this place." They source quality local products to use in both craft cocktails and menu items. "Our aesthetic is to buy good ingredients and not mess with them," says Matt. "We charge reasonable prices and serve decent portions, taking food we love and elevating it. It can be a tug of war when creating menu items. I think humans crave fat and I want to put protein in everything. Maren is vegetarian/vegan, so we often end up in the middle. We use a vegan mozzarella on pizza which I dislike because it doesn't melt right, yet it allows us to offer something for people who normally can't have pizza. We both like Middle Eastern food, and that is often naturally vegetarian. I want people to be able to taste what's in their dish and not overlay a lot of flavors." Maren adds, "We don't like to over-complicate the food or drinks. We want to taste each ingredient."

This is not to say they don't offer complexity. Their house made lebneh (yogurt drained until thick) is served with a small pool of olive oil, a powdering of sumac, and zhug, a Yemeni sauce, green in this case, with pita made in their woodfired oven. Every bite is a revelation, yet it's a simple dish. Matt smokes brisket and uses in a number of ways, one of which is a taco with provolone, queso cotija, roasted Anaheim chiles, avocado, and radish. Other items range from an udon noodle salad to ricotta and spinach gnocchi to ziti Bolognese. As Matt says, "If you have a hammer, you pound a lot of things. We have a woodfired oven, so we use it as much as possible." Maren is in charge of the bar program and uses the same clean but interesting theory with craft cocktails like their Blackberry Margarita and Old Fashioned with coriander. They also offer house made shrubs with flavors like strawberry-chile and cherry-mint.

Sausage pizza courtesy of Dovetail Joint

When they decided to move permanently to Richland, they looked at a number of locations, but fell in love with the Uptown Shopping Center, one of the oldest Tri-Cities outdoor shopping malls. "We liked the funk of Uptown," explains Maren. "It's not a cookie-cutter strip mall, there's no Buffalo Wild Wings here." Other shops and restaurants in Uptown are unique, offering a different experience. "The space was renovated five years ago by the previous tenant, but no one had used it for three years, so it was in good condition. Also, if guests have to wait for a table, they have interesting shops nearby to browse. I like to drive business to our neighbors," adds Matt. "As an added bonus, the City owns the parking lot and breezeways at Uptown. They've allowed us to use part of the breezeway for outdoor dining without an additional lease."

Like their food, the interior is clean and spare with some of Maren's photographic work on the walls and some pieces that were hung in their previous restaurant in Goldendale. Maren's mother is a potter and the dishes used at Dovetail are hers. "We're so happy to have moved away from white china," says Matt. "We really like the 'perfect imperfection' of these dishes. Nothing is the same." Simple wood chairs and tables, cool/smooth jazz music, and an open kitchen in back create a comfortable ambiance that makes you feel you're somewhere special.

Shrubs: ginger-lime, cherry-mint, strawberry-chile, courtesy of Dovetail Joint

The Glass Onion, their restaurant in Goldendale, had a similar menu. Being in a small town, people weren't quite as open to their style of food and they relied heavily on people traveling through town. "Richland is better for us, it's not such hard work to get people in," says Matt. While the restaurant names may seem nonsensical, there is a theme behind them. The words are from the Beatles' White Album from Glass Onion: Fixing a hole in the ocean/Trying to make a dove-tail joint, yeah/Looking through a glass onion. "I like the craftmanship involved in making a dovetail joint, and I like to think of myself as a journeyman cook, finetuning my skills every day," explains Matt. Their logo is a cross-section of a dovetail joint. Maren adds, "We haven't put a sign up outside with words, it's just the logo. It's clean and we hope that at some point it's like Nike's swoosh - you see our logo and recognize it."

That "under the radar" feel is how Matt likes it. He prefers to be anonymous, not seen or heard, but known for his food. Keep an eye on these two to see how they'll expand as their county continues to open, with wine dinners starting (hopefully) this winter.

Connie Adams/November 2020

To learn more about Matt and Maren, click here.

Dovetail Joint
1368 Jadwin Ave.
Richland, WA 99354

Grilled peaches and burrata foreground, fresh rolls in background, courtesy of Dovetail Joint


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