When Masselow’s Steakhouse temporarily closed along with the Northern Quest Resort & Casino on March 16, the staff wanted to make the closure count. They sought to implement changes that would not only limit the spread of COVID-19, but also provide an even better foundation for the future.
That meant looking beyond a commitment to personal protective equipment and social distancing protocols. They wondered if the pandemic’s many economic and logistical challenges might also provide a way to emerge stronger and with a renewed sense of purpose.
“We’re having to take lots of steps backwards and reapproach things in a new context with different policies and procedures that weren’t there before,” says Michael Miho, Masselow’s general manager. “But our main concern is for our guests’ comfort. So we’re trying to institute changes that increase the quality of the service, the experience and the ambiance to get to that comfort level faster and then exceed your expectations.”
One way to achieve that is what he describes as “old school maître d’ details.” That might involve casually recalling where individual guests like to sit, when their birthday is or how they like their steak cooked.
“We’re trying to put in the work to make it more personable, more familiar, to make you feel more special,” Miho adds. “And that doesn’t mean it’s stuffier or that it takes longer. It just means that we’re focusing on what we’re bringing to the table, literally and figuratively.”
This idea of finding opportunity in crisis is one that’s been echoed by many restaurants and retailers across the Inland Northwest. For Miho, it’s also a philosophy that comes “directly from the culture of the [Kalispel] Tribe. Their ethos is to be seven generations ahead, and that’s the cornerstone for everything they do. How are we setting up future generations to be healthy and strong and thrive?”
As the chef at Masselow’s, which is named for the Kalispel leader who guided the tribe a century ago, Tanya Broesder saw potential in aligning the restaurant’s service more closely with its food. Instead of adding more items to the menu, she pared it down to their specialties.
Guests can now choose between one of two fixed menus, which offer room for variation depending on seasonal ingredients and rotating specials. The three-course currently centers around entrees like char-grilled aged Manhattan steak or wild king salmon. The four-course option features a double-cut pork chop, smoked scallops or grilled filet mignon. Each menu also has carefully selected wine-pairing recommendations.
By curating the menu and moving to a reservation-only model, Broesder says that the staff on both sides of the kitchen door are able to concentrate more on the particulars that take a meal from excellent to superb. For instance, dedicated servers will now prepare some menu items tableside for each guest.
“The service and the food have to go hand in hand, so you’re getting a full experience from the moment you make your reservation to the moment you leave with our poundcake and our house-made apple huckleberry butter as your take-home treat.”
That kind of attention to every aspect of the experience is what guests expect from Masselow’s, as well as from other upscale local steakhouses, such as Churchill’s, Spencer’s and Clinkerdagger.
“Getting the call to come back to work was exciting enough,” says Broesder, “but then to be able to call back five of my team members and to explain to them the new concept behind what we’re doing — you could feel the energy in their voice.
“We’ve only been open to the public for a few weeks,” she adds, “and we’ve already had really good feedback from our guests. It’s a great feeling to watch my team execute and bring things to life that we’ve developed together.”
Masselow’s Steakhouse is located at the Northern Quest Resort & Casino (100 N. Hayford Rd., Airway Heights). To view the current menu options and other information, visit northernquest.com. For reservations, call 481-6020.