By Kristine Lowder
Perched on the south shore of Lake Quinault, The Salmon House is not particularly well known outside the immediate vicinity. And that’s a shame. Because this family-owned and operated restaurant has been keeping people happy for nearly a half century.
Originally built in 1966, the Salmon House is owned and operated by the Morrison brothers – Dave, Don, and Joseph. Morrison family involvement in the lake-hugging restaurant began in 1970, when Dave’s parents bought the restaurant, then-called the “Rain Forest Café.” The snug building was remodeled in 1976 to include a lower dining section offering panoramic views of Lake Quinault. A back section with a roaring fireplace was added in 1983. Dave and his brothers did most of the remodel themselves. The brothers bought the restaurant from their parents in 1980 and changed the name to The Salmon House a few years later to reflect the specialty of the house.
Not surprisingly, salmon is the single biggest seller on the menu. Several options are available. The secret is buying it fresh. “We buy salmon mostly from Cisco,” explains Morrison in a phone interview. “We try to keep it fresh, usually caught within a couple days.”
Though limited, The Salmon House menu is adequate. Salmon, steak, chicken and pasta dinners are consistently mouth-watering. Entrees start at $15.95 for rainbow trout (summer only) and go to $26.95 for steak and prawns. Dinners come with veggies and choice of rice pilaf, baked potato or French fries. Pasta dinners include chicken fettuccini, marina primavera, and garden vegetables alfredo. The house specialty, salmon, can be ordered baked, broiled, blackened or zesty Cajun-style. Topped with a delicate dill sauce and served on a sparkling white platter, the dilled salmon is melt-in-your-mouth divine. Soups are made from scratch. An extensive wine list and kid’s menu are also available.
Besides good food, quality staff and superior customer service are Salmon House hallmarks. Says Morrison, “The Salmon House adds to our customer’s satisfaction. That’s basically what it’s all about – keeping people happy.” Morrison adds that the Salmon House staff are an important key to the restaurant’s success. “We’re very fortunate to have such great staff,” he says. “They do great work.”
Salmon House staff come mostly from the local community, but the restaurant has some “imports.” One current waitress, Jen Moran, is originally from Philadelphia. Both of the two chefs – Danny Stallard and James Perry – are locals. They have “natural ability,” work hard, and are “awesome cooks” according to Morrison.
A former waitress, Laura Nebel, was awarded Waitress of the Years in Grays Harbor “a few years back.” Nebel is originally from Latvia. “She was an awesome waitress, with a cute personality and a great accent,” says Morrison, who still keeps in touch with Nebel even though the award-winning waitress moved out of the area some years ago.
“Our goal is to put ourselves in our customer’s place and do it right,” says Morrison.
Whether it’s fresh salmon, a sizzling New York steak, to-die-for views of the lake or friendly, efficient service, the Salmon House has been hitting that target since the 1960s. The restaurant is part of the Rain Forest Resort Village. Its parking lot is small, so arrive early. Come back often and try something new.