Latin-fusion fun in Idaho

Latin-fusion fun in Idaho

The outdoor patio at Terraza Waterfront Café in Northern Idaho that has been popular with tourists
The terrace at Terraza Waterfront Café in Northern Idaho has hit all the right notes with its Latin-fusion cuisine and spacious riverfront patio.

In the heart of potato country along the Spokane River a Latin American concept now flourishes.

For its third season, the Terraza Waterfront Café has served unique, light Latin fare and creative cocktails in a sweeping, modern interior and exterior space along the river.

Thirty year Coeur d’Alene resident Doug Johnson was inspired by his memories of his grandmother’s cooking, not to mention his Mexican genealogy, to introduce his upscale terrace restaurant, which was designed to feel like it’s in Latin America near Machu Picchu in Peru.

In this week’s Q&A with Boxerbrand blog Recipe for Success, GM Ashley Bliesner discusses the nuances of Latin American cuisine served on a terrace (not a deck) and the vision driving the success of this young concept.

Boxerbrand: What is the difference between Mexican and Latin American-fused cuisine?

Ashley: Mexican food, in many American interpretations, is made with a lot of beans, rice and cheese. We think of popular dishes like tortillas, and tacos. At Terraza Waterfront Café we offer a fresher, lighter, more modern fare.

So for example, we don’t do much with beans and instead use a lot of corn in our dishes. We fuse Northwest ingredients harvested by local purveyors and butchers to create lighter vegetable, seafood and beef dishes.

One of our most popular dishes is our Chilean sea bass. The flavors are inspired by a Chilean seafood stew, with flavors of cilantro and lime, coconut and tomato.

We’re also well known for our margaritas, which are inspired by our geography. One example is our Pink Peppercorn Margarita, which incorporates floral and pine flavors in a beautiful pink cocktail.

Boxerbrand: Where did the idea for Terraza Waterfront Café come from?

Ashley: Doug Johnson lived in Coeur d’Alene area (Northwest Idaho) for over 30 years, and he began his hospitality career in 1986. He has a wealth of experience working in and out of hospitality, including working in a healthcare startup and an earlier restaurant concept.

Doug’s idea was to create an upscale terrace restaurant that made it feel like you were traveling to Latin America to see Machu Picchu, Amazonia, and a patchwork of beautiful landscapes while enjoying a seafood stew and specialty cocktail. He wanted it to feel like people were traveling, but at the same time, feel at home, like they could be enjoying their grandmother’s cooking while catching up with each other.

Boxerbrand: How do your customers find you?

Ashley: Being in a resort town, a lot of our clientele finds us through recommendations from their hotel, or if they’re boating on our waterfront, they discover our dock out front, which has eight public boat slips for easy access to our restaurant.

Our patio, which was designed with a Latin material palette, and clean simple lines, and a semi-tropical vibe, is known as one of the best outdoor dining spaces in the area. And our patrons have discovered us through word-of-mouth, and social media photos posted by our customers and by us.

We do a little bit of targeted social media posts, but mostly it is our customers tagging us in photographs because our space is so beautiful.

Boxerbrand: How did you get into hospitality?

Ashley: Like Doug, I’m from this area. I grew up in Spokane, which is about 20 minutes away. When I was a teenager I started working in fast-food and when I turned 18, I moved to New York City and got a job bartending.

I loved it, but New York City is very expensive, so I moved back to the area and worked as a bar manager before becoming GM here. We’re in our third season and I’ve learned a lot. My biggest goals are to maintain consistency in our product and to make people happy, and to do this while balancing the costs of labor, liquor and operations.

Boxerbrand: Are you optimistic about the future?

Ashley: I wouldn’t necessarily use the word optimistic because it is an unpredictable business and there are many challenges. Finding and keeping the right staff and maintaining profit margins are factors, and this summer we had a very unpredictable season because with all the wildfires it was too smokey to be dine outside some days.

But we have a lot going for us, especially our location in a very beautiful part of the country, and our riverfront terrace over a beautiful river.

And the foodies of Idaho have responded! Inlander Magazine cited Terraza Waterfront Café for its elevated dining experience, the flavors, which marry the cuisine of Mexico, Spain, and Chile, Argentina and Portugal to be enjoyed while basking in the breezes along the river.

Terraza Waterfront Café uses Boxerbrand’s Linen Naturals in their table presentation. Thank you!

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