Linwood restaurant will offer familiar fare, with flair
Comfort food is perennial. Bolstered by the familiarity and warmth of home, comfort food is nostalgic, traditional and, if new Twisp restaurant owner and chef Adam Custis has anything to do with it, downright delicious.
Custis, who will open Linwood at 108 Glover St. in mid-December, was raised under the influence of Southern and Midwestern cuisine and has made a career of transforming comfort foods into signature dishes both familiar and inventive.
As a child, Custis’ culinary touchstones were his two grandmothers, one a southern Ohio farmer’s wife and the other of German descent. Both cooked simple country-style food prepared in the tradition of their particular regions. Growing up, Custis worked in a pizzeria making pizza, pasta and grinders, and continued to cook throughout college and beyond.
Custis moved to the Methow Valley a decade ago as the head cook for Outward Bound in Mazama, and later cooked at Kelly’s in Mazama, Copper Glance in Winthrop and Tappi in Twisp. All the while he nurtured dreams of one day owning his own restaurant.
The dreams weren’t idle ones. While waiting for circumstances to align — chiefly, funding and the right space — Custis committed himself to studying the restaurant business. “The NRA [National Restaurant Association] had a lot of useful information for me,” Custis says. “While I was biding my time, I developed a business plan and I got familiar with the intricacies of the health department codes.”
Waiting for opportunity
Custis also had the opportunity to learn the back end of restaurant ownership, while managing Tappi during owner John Bonica’s extended absence. In fact, Custis tried to buy Tappi a couple of years ago, but wasn’t able to raise the capital. Still, he continued to save his earnings and work on his business model. So when El Sabor Norteño, Twisp’s cozy Mexican restaurant on Glover Street, announced it was closing, Custis was ready to make his move.
“Things finally fell into place,” Custis says. “I didn’t have the capital to buy an existing restaurant, but being able to lease the space that El Sabor had occupied was just perfect. I had to jump on the opportunity. The kitchen is already set up, there is already a hood, a commercial refrigerator and a three-bin sink.” Financed by Custis’s savings, Linwood was about to become a reality.
Custis has since renovated the front of the house cosmetically, with brightly painted ceiling tiles and wooden tables with metal café chairs. Located in the same block as Glover Street Market and Cinnamon Twisp Bakery, Linwood is a small venue but brightly lit and affording an excellent view of the Glover Street bustle. Whether that bustle is robust enough sustain Linwood during the dreaded shoulder season months — when many of the valley’s eateries close due to sluggish sales — remains to be seen, but Custis is opening Linwood at an opportune time, on the cusp of the winter holidays.
Like many chefs, Custis prioritizes seasonal cooking and plans to change his menu accordingly. This winter, he intends to work with local producers and growers — with whom he has already established relationships during his time at Tappi and other local restaurants — to design a menu that features heartier foods like steak, shepherd’s pie, diner-style burgers, meatloaf, flavorful and imaginative vegetarian entrées, and his grandmother’s mac-n-cheese, while spring and summer will bring lighter and fresher meals to the table. Beer and wine will be available as well.
Good food, good service
“I don’t want to be limited to a particular menu,” says Custis, who appreciates the nimble approach he will be able to take with his intimate space. “My goal is high-quality food that people will recognize. The dishes will all be prepared with excellent technique and good care, delivered with great service.”
“And,” Custis continues, “I can tell you that there will always be a steak on the menu, either rib eye or porterhouse or New York strip.”
Custis is known in the Methow Valley for his skill with meat. Whether grilling pollo ala brasa (blackened or rotisserie chicken) on the Copper Glance patio or making a whole pig porchetta at Tappi, Custis is in his element when cooking animal proteins, especially over an open flame. But he’s also a forager, hunting berries and mushrooms around the Methow Valley and using them in dishes.
Linwood’s name comes from the street that Custis grew up on, but it also reminds Custis of the Linden tree, sometimes known as the lime bush or lime tree. Custis’ partner, Ashley St. Leger, once gave Custis a lime fruit tree that is just now finally bearing fruit, which is — if you don’t mind the indirect etymology — a fortuitous omen for Linwood.
Custis will host an informal open house at Linwood during Twisp’s Mistletoe Madness on Thursday (Dec. 5), and will officially open the following week for dinner service.