While spending his adult life in the restaurant business, Joshua Wood has never worked on Christmas Day. But the new manager of the Lighthouse Bar and Grill in Port Orchard is bringing out all of the culinary big guns for today’s holiday buffet.
“When I took over the restaurant, I didn’t make any commitments,” Wood said. “People would call and try to make reservations and I would take their number and promise to call them back. But it turned out the Christmas buffet at the Lighthouse Restaurant was a Port Orchard tradition, and I decided I would sacrifice my tradition of Christmas as a family day. Who am I to make Port Orchard give up this tradition?”
Wood took over the restaurant formerly known as Gino’s earlier this month and has already made his mark.
Half the staff is gone, replaced by Wood’s hand-picked personnel.
The menu is slowly evolving, from an Italian motif to one that emphasizes fresh seafood and steak.
Once the poshest place in town, the restaurant has lost its luster in recent years.
“When I took over, the last two owners told me ‘good luck,'” Wood said. “But I have a passion for the business and will make it work. Before too long, we will improve the quality of the food and lower the price.”
Wood’s passion comes from a desire to create a great dining experience for the customer, and a willingness to attack any task.
For example, shortly after taking over the building he climbed up to the lighthouse and ordered three bulbs to replace the ones that have been burned out for years.
And he cleaned the area below the stairs and disinfected the outside area, so the brackish smell which was noticed by many diners is gone.
“I can do any job here,” he said. “I’ve filled in as a cook, a busboy and a bartender when we have become shorthanded. If you lead by example, then you inspire the staff.”
Wood has wanted to run this particular restaurant since he visited as a kid, saying that the recent state of the business “made me cry.”
Once he’d taken over, he recruited chef James K. Miller, whose specialty is the artistic presentation of complicated dishes.
He plans to play down the pastas Gino’s offered while concentrating on fresh fish and quality steaks.
The bar will also get a makeover. A Bloody Marys, with alcohol or not, is a meal in itself with shrimp, sausage and celery. And he is removing the current beer on tap, to be replaced by local microbrews.
He currently offers the entire line of Silver City Brewery products.
“Regular domestic beer like Budweiser tastes the same whether it is on tap or in the bottle,” Wood said. “But there is a real difference with microbrews’ products. We’ll still offer bottles of Bud if people want them/”
Wood also plans to offer a wide selections of local wines and cheeses, which he says rivals anything available.
One unique aspect of the restaurant is an old-style brick oven, which can be powered by wood or gas. He hopes to make the oven a centerpiece of the restaurant, both visually and in order to enrich the menu.
Wood called Port Orchard “a jewel,” adding that he wants to turn the town into a showplace for fine dining. As for his own establishment, he strives to make a stellar first impression on the town.
“The rule is, if people like you, they tell two people. But if they don’t like you, they tell 10,” he said. “We have one opportunity to make a great impression to new customers and to serve the best meal they’ve ever had.”