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This article was originally published Jan. 29, 2013.
By Evan Marczynski
The Bellingham Business Journal
An ownership change last fall at the Chrysalis Inn and Spa in south Bellingham gave the managers of the waterfront hotel’s in-house restaurant and bar a slate for a new concept.
Formerly known as Finos, the first-floor eatery operated for years with a “European” theme, suited to a hotel and spa retreat.But the restaurant unveils a new skin in February, with an updated look and menu, as well as a new name: Keenan’s at the Pier.
New executive chef Rob Holmes and restaurant manager Sam Kisbye said they’ve given the establishment a more local vibe.
“The direction that we’re going with this new remodel and new menu is basically the best of the Northwest,” Holmes said.
Holmes said the menu will feature locally sourced food from farms and food producers in Whatcom County and surrounding areas, as much as possible. He wants to provide a great-quality, fine dining experience without the pretense that might come from visiting an upscale restaurant, he said.
Kisbye called it “casual fine dining.”
Menu items will rotate with the changing seasons. In winter, for example, offerings will include plates with hearty food: root-based vegetables, potatoes, braised short ribs and steaks. Other items will be made available throughout the year, including seafood once it’s in season.
Full meals are likely to range from about $15 to $30, Holmes said. The dinner menu obviously features more expensive items, he added, but Keenan’s menu is one designed for customers in any mood or occasion.
“I want it to be a place where people can go casually, but I also want it to be a place where people can go, get dressed up and be wined and dined,” Holmes said.
Weekly menu specials will be coupled with weekly wine specials from Keenan’s full bar.
Similar to the food menu, the bar features wine, beer and liquor options from local and regional producers, Kisbye said.
One product the restaurant manager is particularly excited about: vodka from the recently opened distillery at BelleWood Acres farm near Lynden.
Keenan’s location will present challenges, both Kisbye and Holmes admit.
The restuarant is somewhat hidden near the 10th Street entrance of the South Bay Trail that goes over pier at Boulevard Park. It’s a spot outside Bellingham’s main shopping areas.
Kisbye said Keenan’s will try to build a following from word-of-mouth, particularly from people in the nearby South Hill Neighborhood, and also from people walking along the pier.
Other changes are designed to broaden the restaurant’s customer base. Breakfast at Keenan’s will now be open to all visitors, not just to guests at the hotel.
Kisbye said he wants to move Keenan’s away from being thought of as solely an in-house hotel restaurant. He sees opportunity for a neighborhood eatery in an area where no others currently exist.
“That was really the goal,” Kisbye said, “to be a place where everybody could come.”
Keenan’s operates from 7:30-10:30 a.m. and from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week. Dinner starts at 5 p.m. Happy Hour is from 3-6 p.m.
The restaurant is also available for private parties and receptions.