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Tastes of Taprock served in February

POULSBO — The burning mystery of just what constitutes a taprock has inspired some highly creative guesses since it was announced Taprock Northwest Grill was to replace Mitzel’s American Kitchen, a beloved Poulsbo Village establishment destroyed in a May 2006 fire.

Now, as the new enticing sit-and-dine prepares to open its doors to hungry customers Feb. 4, the mind-boggling $64,000 question has been officially answered, and were the name to appear among Webster’s trusty words, it would probably - noun: Poulsbo’s newest dining destination offering not just friendly faces and fresh eats, but all the charms and comforts of a Northwest vacation-style lodge with an inviting atmosphere of relaxation and warmth.

In reality, the invented name is one with a sound Taprock president and chief executive officer Dennis Waldron said simply fit the bill, and gave off the perfect image of a place he hopes the community receives as heartily as it did its predecessor. A grand opening is planned in February.

The final pieces of the restaurant’s inner puzzle are now sweeping into place, the river rock fireplaces and high wood ceilings will soon be accompanied by commodious seating, art scenes and artifacts from the Northwest. The locally based menu boasts the best the region has to offer, including Beechers and Tillamook cheeses, fresh Northwest seafood, Wilcox Farms dairy products and Strawberry Mountain sirloin steaks.

“We’re getting down to the final strokes,” Waldron said of the establishment’s construction, which awaits just the final carpeting and lighting additions, as well as some artful touches. A mural of the San Juan Islands will cover one wall.

The management team is already in place, Waldron said, including former favorite Mitzel’s manager Marsha Rayburn working as associate general manager and 20-year restaurant veteran Laurentino Hernandez heading up ranks in the kitchen. General hiring has also begun, and Waldron said after a two-week training, Taprock’s servers will bring their world-class service to the restaurant’s patrons without an upscale attitude, jean-clad to emphasize the everyday, drop-by environment of the place.

The menu, though not finalized, already promises to be a tempting read, with dishes such as hazelnut-crusted Pacific halibut, spit-roasted chicken with onion-mushroom gravy and Mount Rainier burgers. Farm-fresh salads, mountain-high sandwiches and Northwest stews and pasta, among others, will also be served.

The owner of Taprock, Portland-based Elmer’s Restaurant Inc., owns and operates three restaurant franchises under its corporate umbrella: Elmer’s Restaurants, Mitzel’s American Kitchen and Taprock Northwest Grill. Its establishments are located throughout the west, including Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana and California. For more information on Poulsbo’s new amenity, visit www.taprock.com.

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