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Suquamish restaurant enjoys rebirth

Chef David Fricke cooks up a breakfast order in the Dockside Grill’s kitchen. The restaurant opened for family dining in March on the Suquamish waterfront and recently began serving a full breakfast menu. The Dockside Grill is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily and serves breakfast 8-11 a.m. on weekends. - Brad Camp/For the Herald
Chef David Fricke cooks up a breakfast order in the Dockside Grill’s kitchen. The restaurant opened for family dining in March on the Suquamish waterfront and recently began serving a full breakfast menu. The Dockside Grill is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily and serves breakfast 8-11 a.m. on weekends.
— image credit: Brad Camp/For the Herald

SUQUAMISH — The Dockside Grill has only been open a few weeks but it has already won over its toughest critic.

Suquamish Police Chief Mike Lasnier has enjoyed the restaurant’s Thai wraps and bright motif. Mostly he’s glad to not see the familiar clientele of Dockside’s predecessor, the Troller Bar and Grill. The state suspended the Troller’s liquor license in February for over-serving alcohol to patrons.

“It no longer looks like a dive bar, quite frankly,” Lasnier said of the Dockside.

Owner Rohn Rutledge wants to erase the notoriety of the Troller, which he also owned, with the brighter, friendlier Dockside Grill, a restaurant focused on good food instead of cheap beer.

Some neighboring business owners have taken note, hoping the Dockside can give the Suquamish waterfront a fresh start.

“Everyone knows it only takes one apple to spoil a bunch,” said Bella Luna Pizzeria owner Bob Rowden. “I think what Rohn’s doing will be positive for everyone’s business.”

The Dockside Grill is sandwiched between Bella Luna — known for its pizzas and hearty breakfasts — and the Agate Pass Café, which serves more upscale dinners.

Add another family dining option to the mix, the Dockside serves lunch and dinner, with breakfasts on weekends.

Rutledge gave the building a remodel with new paint, furniture and artwork, shooting for a “Nantucket” theme.

The menu got a facelift too, with dishes that include an Asian influence, Southern zest and a few Northwest classics. The Southern fried catfish has been an early hit.

The medley is navigated by chef David Fricke, who is returning to cooking after a stint as a Bainbridge school bus driver. Before the career change, Fricke had spent nearly 20 years in the restaurant industry, working in several Bainbridge eateries.

He looks forward to putting his own flourishes on the Dockside’s varied menu.

“I like it,” Fricke said. “It’s a little bit of everything.”

Erasing a sordid past

Rutledge has been fighting history since he and wife Carin opened the Troller five years ago.

Before the Troller was the Troller, the building was home to a string of bars. Rutledge said he made improvements but couldn’t shake the dive-bar reputation.

“It’s always been a watering hole and a place to blow off steam,” Rutledge said. “Over five years, it felt like we were going against the tide.”

Troller bartenders made matters worse.

Four instances of patrons being over-served alcohol at the Troller were reported by police between August 2007 and January 2009, according to the state Liquor Control Board. Some fights and drunk driving incidents in town were traced to the Troller.

“We were seeing an impact,” he said. “It started with people getting dramatically over-served at the Troller, then going elsewhere and creating incidents.”

Rutledge, who also owns the Main Street Alehouse in Kingston, said the over-serving came down to “a few bartenders who were making bad decisions.” The bartenders involved in the over-serving incidents are no longer with the restaurant, Rutledge said.

Following a year of negotiation, the Liquor Control Board ordered an 80-day suspension of Troller’s liquor license in December 2009 and fined the Rutledges $8,000. The suspension began Feb. 2. The Rutledges will automatically regain their liquor license April 23.

Lasnier is encouraged by the changes made at the Dockside but said the real test will come when the license is restored.

“We’ll be watching closely,” he said.

Rutledge said the demise of the Troller resulted in a positive change he thinks will stick.

“It developed into the right situation and the right timing to give this place a rebirth,” Rutledge said.

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