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Madrona makes room for kidsThe restaurant's new owners pitch a menu and prices to the underserved 'family' niche.
"Sometimes it seems like the collective motto of Bainbridge restaurants must be we're not kidding.The bulk of the island's restaurants aim their fare - and the price of their menu items - at adults. Jim and Sara Parrish, the new owners of the Madrona Waterfront Cafe, plan to change that.We want to really emphasize families here, said Sara. You won't have to worry about making a mess, and you can eat here once or twice a week without having to spend half your paycheck.They are rolling out a children's menu with fare that appeals to the young ones - chicken fingers, macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches, cheeseburgers. And they think the child-entree prices of $2.50 to $3.95 will appeal to parents. The adult menu is changing as well. While they will keep some of the old standbys like fish and chips, the new emphasis will be on Northern Italian food.The new menu introduces a number of pasta-based Italian entrees. Italian wines are also featured prominently, and at between $12 and $20 a bottle, the markup is modest.It's a recipe that has worked before for Sara Parrish, who owned a family-oriented Italian restaurant in Mission Viejo, Calif., for a number of years. Because they were familiar with that concept, and because there is no competition on Bainbridge Island in that niche, they decided to do the same thing with the Madrona.This was always defined as a seafood restaurant, said Jim, because it's part and parcel of the location. We want to keep what has worked here, but add new things.While Sara hails from Washington originally, the couple was constantly on the move during Jim's career with the Marine Corps, then as a travelling salesman.When they came to the Puget Sound area in 1999, they decided to settle down, and searched for something that would allow travel to be fun, not work.We looked around for restaurants, Jim Parrish said. We were working with a broker on a property in the Seattle area, when he mentioned that the Madrona on Bainbridge was for sale. We'd eaten here on vacations, and realized it would be perfect.They bought the place in May from Bob Morris, the owner of six years who told them he was tired of a daily commute between his home in Seattle and the Bainbridge business.New decorThe first step the Parrishes took was to brighten up the decor and change the look. A new and brighter paint scheme lightened up the main restaurant. The historic photographs that dominated the walls were donated to the Chamber of Commerce, and replaced with brightly colored knickknacks.One thing that is not changing is the staff, some of whom predate the Madrona, going back to when the building housed the Saltwater Cafe.Chef Keith Pasculli, who started seven years ago when the Madrona opened, is one of the holdovers. And to him, the cuisine change is a return to his roots.This is the kind of food I grew up cooking and eating, said Pasculli, a New Jersey native.Another change the Parrishes hope to make is to smooth out what has been the distinctly seasonal business at the restaurant - strong in the summer, weaker the rest of the year.A lot of our business comes from people off the ferry walking through town, Jim said. But when they're not out walking around, we don't do as well. We want to give people a reason to come here in the winter. That plan will start with a fireplace in the upstairs portion of the restaurant, he said. Another element will be to offer music on the weekends.And the Parrishes want to be a part of the community. They plan to move here as soon as they sell their home in Auburn.They want to buy locally as well.We plan to support the Bainbridge Island Winery, Jim said. If other local people would come to us, we would definitely support them, but we don't get that many knocks on our door. "