The Rise of South Fork Grill
By Kirsten Telander:
I’m a sucker for a comeback and the Phoenix-rising-ness that birthed South Fork Grill is the kind that good stories are made of.
In July 2010, Creek Town Café (now South Fork Grill) unexpectedly closed its doors, leaving tourists and locals who’d clamored for reservations since its opening in 2002 grieving… and hungry; employees grieving for a different reason: they were all out of work without notice.
But long-time server Jodi Worden, and her husband Chris – with no experience running a restaurant – decided to take a chance and re-open as South Fork Grill. They hosted the 30 former Creek Town employees in their back yard with hot dogs and Keystone Lights (“That’s all I could afford!” said Jodi). She asked if they’d come back to work if they were able to pull it off.
Two months later, South Fork Grill opened with the original 30 employees (including familiar face Kelly Salee), and the intimate bistro with its colorful patio filled once again.
The patio was the first place I experienced “fine dining” when I moved to Walla Walla seven years ago, and I remember saying I feel like I’m on vacation in wine country (duh) at a cute word of mouth little place (double duh).
So, for sentiment sake and having heard that they’d just brought on a new chef, I treated my former student and now good friend Paco to a last meal of sorts before he returned to his hippie existence at Evergreen College.
As last suppers go for college students, Paco proceeded to work his way through several baskets of bread (made in house) to dip in the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. In a moment of carb envy witness, Paco’s relentless intake of the fresh bread (I’ve tried to eliminate carbs from my diet – please feel free to yawn and roll eyes here) I caved. Not only did I indulge in the bread, I decided to share the Fettuccine with English Peas with him. The pasta, also made in house, was sublime – fresh and light – served with roasted garlic cream sauce, tomatoes, basil, Castoldi Farms spinach, and shaved Parmesan. We added pancetta for added perfection.
The half portions were generous, but we couldn’t resist one of the special appetizers – Mediterranean black mussels with garlic, white wine, basil, and yellow grape tomatoes. The tomatoes were such an outstanding and unexpected addition that I asked where they were from. Our server responded nonchalantly, “Some lady down the street.” Not surprising, given that the restaurant prides itself on fresh, local ingredients.
We ogled the case of goodies – a massive selection of fresh pies, cakes, and crisps (check their website www.southforkgrillww.com for items you can order through their bakery). I chose not to indulge (I avoid sugar – please feel free to yawn and roll eyes again), but had great admiration for the plates of peach and bing cherry crisp and red velvet raspberry cheesecake being delivered to a nearby table.
Drum roll please: the new chef is David Belcher. I managed to lure him out of the kitchen for a photo op. The 26-year cooking veteran moved from Jackson, Wyoming (his wife Kelly recently opened Main Street Furniture Co. downtown). Chef David has degrees from both The Culinary Institute of America in New York (!) and Florida International University. Not too shabby, as my uncle Laurie used to say.
South Fork Grill
1129 2nd, Suite D
Restaurant Hours: Tues-Sun 11am-9pm 509-522-4777