The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Jess Macinko
News Editor 

Return of The Glass Onion


Jess Macinko

PLAN IN TEXT BECOMES REALITY: John Nichols and Tracey Johnson are the new chef and manager, respectively, of the Glass Onion restaurant.

The Glass Onion is staying in Goldendale, all because of a text message.

Reeling from the news of the restaurant's imminent closure, long-time employee Tracie Johnson texted a friend, David Gregerson. Below is her account of that conversation:

TJ: It's a good thing you got to eat here, because they're going to close the restaurant.

DG: You should buy it.

TJ: You should buy it and I'll run it. Lol.

DG: Are you serious?

TJ: Are you serious?

They were both serious.

For the next few weeks, the restaurant's seemingly dormant face will hide a flurry of interior renewal: fresh paint on the walls, fresh lighting in the dining room, fresh names on the licenses. On Jan. 25, with Gregerson as owner and Johnson as manager, the Glass Onion will host its grand reopening.

In with the new, but not out with the old

Though the reopening calls for cosmetic touch-ups, the menu will remain largely the same. The new team has access to all the original Glass Onion recipes, and intends to stay committed to what made the restaurant such a hit in the first place.

This adherence to tradition may be due to the fact that, with the addition of Gregerson, the new team is pretty much the old team, just in new roles. Both Johnson and the new head chef, John Nichols, have been working at the Glass Onion for about six years.

Nichols started as a part-time dishwasher and worked his way up in the kitchen, learning on the job from previous chef Matt McGowan. He says his kitchen will stick to the "fresh and local" credo instituted by Matt and Maren.

There will be a few changes. While maintaining the Glass Onion's upscale flavor, Johnson plans to expand the lunch menu to include sandwiches. And if all goes well with their first year, they may also branch out into catering.

As for the staff, Johnson says, "They've all agreed to stay on, and I'm very, very happy about that."

Crown jewel

Gregerson, a Vancouver judge and self-described foodie, calls the Glass Onion "a jewel in the crown of Goldendale" and said it's closing would be a tremendous loss. Though this will be his first foray into the restaurant business, and a remotely owned one at that, Gregerson was comfortable with the idea because of the Glass Onion's long-standing reputation. He also has great faith in the staff, especially Johnson.

"I know and trust her. She has years of experience at the Glass Onion. She's always wanted the best for that restaurant and that community."For his part, Gregerson will draw on his experience as a small-businesses attorney to realize his long-term vision for the restaurant. That vision has two parts: to serve the greater Goldendale community as their premier signature restaurant, and to make it a destination that draws additional visitors and business to the area.

A relief and a challenge

"It's a giant relief," Johnson says of the fact that the restaurant will remain. "And it's also extremely frightening." The jump from server to manager is an exhilarating prospect. But Johnson, whose father owned restaurants when she was growing up, has been in the industry off and on her whole life. She enjoys the social aspect of restaurant work, the way they can act as community centers. "It was great when I moved here, because I didn't know anyone. It was a great way to get to know everyone in town."

Maren McGowan, who founded and ran the Glass Onion for nine years with her husband, Matt, is also pleased about the development. "We didn't really want to walk away from it, but we kind of felt like we didn't have a choice. So we're very happy that someone's going to come in and take over and continue what we've done, what we started."

As for the new manager, McGowan describes Johnson as a great asset to the restaurant. "I think she'll do a great job. She's very passionate about the place, and she cares a great deal about it. We're really proud of our staff. They're the reason we were able to operate our restaurant over the summer, while we were starting a new venture, and I think they'll be very successful. They've been the largest part of our success so far. I'm glad to see it's happening."


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