As the economic doldrums have lingered and consumers have cut back on spending, several businesses have retooled and revamped in the hopes of luring people in. Vashon restaurants are part of this trend, with many of Vashon’s establishments making changes to keep their doors open and customers coming.
At Casa Bonita, one of Vashon’s oldest eateries, business has slowed some, according to owner Jose Sahagun.
He has countered with a lower-cost menu for food to go. It’s not possible to serve food in the restaurant for such low prices, where chips, salsa and other items are automatically included, Sahagun said, but he can offer to-go bargains. Two tacos on the Express Menu cost $2.99, a burrito grande costs $4.99 as does a tortas, a traditional Mexican sandwich.
At Heather’s Home Grown Grill, the big news, according to owner Heather Sanders, is that the restaurant has been approved for a liquor license and will begin serving dinner on Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays. She tries to keep things affordable, she said, and will offer a blue plate special every night for $9.99.
In the spring, she plans to add a lounge area to the restaurant.
Melinda Sontgerath, owner of The Hardware Store Restaurant, is offering budget-friendly specials several times a week.
Every weekday morning, there is a breakfast happy hour from 8 to 11 a.m., where there are breakfast entrees for $5 — vegetarian, meat lovers and pancake specials — and everyone gets complimentary homemade doughnuts.
“This is a direct response to the economy,” Sontgerath said. “We try to keep things fun and interesting for our customers.”
On Sunday evenings, the restaurant offers a family-style Italian night, where it serves spaghetti and meatballs and chicken parmesan, garlic bread and Caesar salad, and families can eat for as little as $5 per person.
“It’s really reasonable and really good,” she said.
At La Playa, owner Miguel Flores recently began offering happy hour from 1 to 7 p.m. daily to entice customers in to the quiet north-end restaurant, he said. Appetizers are half-price during that time, and after 5 p.m. kids under 10 eat for free every day.
Red Bicycle Bistro & Sushi offers half-price discounts on select wines on Wednesdays, according to manager Wilson Kim, and Thursday evening is Ladies Night, when drinks are half-price for women from 7 p.m. to closing.
The restaurant also offers specials from time to time to benefit their patrons, such as a half-price bottle of champagne of Valentine’s Day.
“We understand that although they come, they might not be able to spend as much as they would like,” Kim said.
Spice Route Cuisine of India offered a chance to support good causes in December, when it gave a day’s proceeds to the Vashon Island School District and the families of the four slain Lakewood police officers. Customers were lined up out the door, waiting for a chance to eat, said manager Fernando Luis, netting more than $4,000 for the causes.
Luis said the idea was to come up with an approach other Vashon restaurants were not taking and strengthen its connection to the community.
He hopes to offer this type of dinner once a month and asks that Island groups that could benefit from the proceeds get in touch with him about their work so that the restaurant management can decide which groups to support in the coming months.
In addition to the community dinners, the restaurant offers special events in its bar area, including a movie night at 9 p.m. Wednesdays with half price on selected appetizers and $2 Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. Thursday nights are ladies nights at the bar; appetizers are again half price and some drinks are half price as well, Luis said. There is live entertainment on both Fridays and Saturdays.
When the new owners took over last August, Luis said they had heard that restaurants in that location had not fared well.
“We don’t want to be one of them,” Luis said.
At Quartermaster Inn and Restaurant in Burton, co-owner Marie Browne said the restaurant is offering a frequent diner club in the months of February and March. If customers buy three meals in three weeks, the fourth meal is free, Browne said. There is also live music on Wednesday nights.
Summer was great for the business, she said, but since then it has been quiet.
“We feel out of sight, out of mind in Burton,” she noted.
At Vashon’s La Boucherie, a small café specializing in locally grown and produced foods, manager Matt Lawrence said the restaurant has become more of a community space in recent months. The eatery now hosts musicians on special evenings and offers up the restaurant as a place for intimate, after-hours parties.
“It’s a cozy space,” he said.
He’s also launched a blog, seabreezefarm.wordpress.com, which will be offering classes on butchering this month and next and plans to hold a movie night soon.
“We’re immersing ourselves into the community,” he said.