Nestled on the expansive grounds of the Cowlitz Reservation, the Ilani Resort and Casino in Ridgefield, Washington, is quickly becoming the go-to spot in Ridgefield, Washington for not just gaming, but top-tier dining as well. Set just past the ringing machines and flashing games, the Line & Lure restaurant stands as a testament to local seafood and farm-to-table commitment.
Sitting down at the expansive and well-stocked bar, I was greeted by the cheery smile of bartender Lisa Huber, whose lighthearted persona made it feel as if I had been there long enough to have a “usual” on the menu. Just as quickly as the first signature cocktail was put down, Executive Chef Ryan Ziegler appeared at my side.
Taking time to go through the gourmet menu, he delighted in every nuance about the farms, the produce and how each dish comes together. As a graduate of the Western Culinary Institute, Ziegler found his voice as head of the kitchen, explaining how using his knowledge and senses fuels his creativity.
“The most important tool is the palate,” he says as he leads me into the sacred spaces of the kitchen, showing me the preparation for their signature boils that combine the soul of New Orleans with the culinary passion of the Pacific Northwest. “Everyday I try to learn something new, whether it’s from another chef or a dishwasher who has a different perspective on a dish or process.”
It might be Ziegler’s ability and willingness to listen, learn and implement that is making Line and Lure an up-and-coming destination in the area. Forging relationships with local fish mongers, farms and produce distributors allows the chef to use only the best ingredients to layer his menu with a variety of flavors, styles and culinary colors.
As the tasting progressed I had the chance to be treated to a stunning chowder that evoked nuances of the ocean, while still boasting a light and fresh balance of traditional flavors. The cedar plank-roasted Columbia River sturgeon showed the delicacy of the fish while showcasing the subtleties of the locally sourced wood. Topping off the decadence was a true work of art in the salted butterscotch pudding — garnished with toffee brittle and smoked sea salt, the interweaving flavors of the sweet and salty put an emphatic exclamation point on the culinary experience.
Little did I know the very last thing was a signature drink Huber had conjured up was called “The Oatmeal Cookie.” This opulent dessert libation was a beautiful mixture of nostalgic aromas of home-style cookies and the deceptive allure of the infamous Jägermeister. With a secret ingredient, quick shake and a generous topping of whipped cream, this is a drink off the hidden menu you’ll need to try.
Line & Lure is the ideal blend of causal dining spot during the day, and gourmet treat in the evening. Views from the patio are second to none, and Ziegler’s seasonal menu creates the perfect atmosphere for a date or special occasion.
Before I left, I was treated to a quick introduction to the sister restaurant next door, Michael Jordan’s Steak House — yes, named for Mr. 23 himself, the basketball phenomenon. Offering an upscale ambiance, innovative cocktail menu and, of course, stunning steaks that will please everyone’s inner carnivore, the steakhouse picks up where Line & Lure leaves off. One causal and inviting, the other buttoned-up and chic, but both provide a unique slice of the Pacific Northwest in one elegant location.