Located inside the Best Western Hotel along Sandpoint’s picturesque City Beach, the former Café Trinity is both a fine dining establishment and hotel-driven restaurant offering a wide range of dining experiences regardless of your itinerary.
My usual review partner, for example, was fresh from the golf course and, like myself, was casually dressed. While dining, we saw a family with kidlets, couples who looked like they sauntered over from the hotel (no coats), and bicycle riders braced for spring breezes, who rode across the grass, parked, and disappeared into the lounge.
That’s one appeal of Trinity at City Beach: It is resort-casual, from the service to the menu to the décor. Recently remodeled and updated, the entry now features nearly poster-sized 1930s-era black-and-white photographs from the Ross Hall collection. The dining room is a wall of glass with fabulous views of City Beach, the jetty and snow-capped mountains. Dark earth tones have been replaced by a palette of antiqued cream and muted seafoam, including upholstery. You’ll find subtle drop lighting, linen napkins, votive candles, lovely china — but no linen tablecloths or cut crystal. The service is friendly, efficient and attentive, as you’d expect of a resort, but also welcoming and low-key.
That brings us to the menu. Because it’s hotel-driven, Trinity offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as a lounge menu and — when duty calls — room service. Their breakfast menu, for example, numbers more than two dozen items like custard-dipped sourdough French Toast topped with candied pecans, caramelized apple chutney and Chantilly cream ($6), and Prime Rib Hash with red peppers, onions, bacon, green onion remoulade and two eggs ($10).
Lunch includes holdovers from the original menu, when Trinity was Café Trinity up on Front Street. It was a space shared briefly by Oishii, a contemporary Japanese restaurant, and managed by Mel and Claudia Dick, who transferred responsibility to son Justin when they opened 41 South. (They also run Sandpoint’s 219 Lounge and Trinity at Willow Bay in Priest River.)
Café Trinity emphasized Southern and even Cajun influences, thus the new Trinity has Corn and Crawfish Chowder ($5, bowl) and Pulled Pork Sandwich with pickled peppers (say that 10 times fast!) onions, Gouda cheese and bourbon-rosemary barbecue sauce ($8). Salads include the Pecan-Crusted Chicken Breast, with goat cheese, dried cherries, bacon, arugula and romaine tossed in maple-chipotle vinaigrette ($11). Other Trinity at City Beach options include from-scratch pizza, burgers and interesting sandwiches like Jamaican Jerked Chicken with caramelized pineapple, fried Maui onions and sweet-chile mayo ($9).
The lounge menu echoes lunch with more small plates like three cod Fish Tacos with cabbage slaw and crme fraiche ($9) and Grilled Korean Short Ribs with cucumber salad and sesame-chile glaze ($12).
The wine list is comprehensive, spanning the globe — Italy, France, New Zealand, Germany — with greater emphasis on California, Washington and even Idaho wines, such as from nearby Pend Oreille Winery. There’s also a full bar and over two dozen beers on bottle or tap beers, including seasonal varieties by local fave, Laughing Dog Brewing.
A few beers went great with our Steamed Manila Clams ($12), served on both lounge and dinner menus. You get about a dozen clams, small chunks of chorizo sausage, onions, peppers and a delightful sauce of white wine, garlic and cream. Although we expected more spice heat from this dish, the sauce was perfect and ideal for sopping.
For our main course, we passed on the special — Mahi Mahi — and debated the cedar plank salmon ($15) before opting for Hazelnut-Crusted Trout with orange-scallion beurre blanc ($15). Mr. Meat-and-Potatoes pondered the Gorgonzola cheese- and bacon-stuffed chicken breast with creamy tomato pan sauce and caramelized shallot orzo ($17), settling on the Herb-Roasted Half Chicken with caramelized shallot pan jus ($14).
Both dishes were served over the jasmine rice, which was a hit. You could taste the thyme, but only subtly (it can be an overpowering herb, sometimes bitter), and definitely got the jasmine in both aroma and flavor.
We both agreed the chicken had good flavor, a benefit from slow-roasting, but wanted more of the yummy sauce and wished for a crispier texture, either in the chicken skin or some deep-fried shallot or onion topping to bring some balance to this humble dish.
The real standout was the trout, which was layered over the rice and yet retained its crispy, delicate skin on one side and nutty, crunchy top layer. It was fresh, flaky and perfectly done. Minor criticisms would be that the orange beurre blanc lacked orange taste and the fish garnish needed the cilantro to be chopped finer or swapped for more of the earthier, less overpowering microgreens.
We declined dessert, since they don’t make their own — something that may or may not be up for negotiations with new chef Thane Jenness, who recently took over. Jenness is familiar with Northwest cuisine and has classic training, according to Justin Dick, who added that they’ll be coming out with a new, summer season menu. Making adjustments to the dining experience, in fact, is something we admire about Trinity, which has been slowly fine-tuning its processes since moving to this location last year.
Between its eclectic and soon-to-be new menu, excellent service, and phenomenal location, we’re putting Trinity on the list for our next warm-weather road trip.
Trinity at City Beach (inside Best Western Hotel), 58 Bridge St., Sandpoint, Idaho, is open Sun-Thu 7:30 am-9 pm, Fri-Sat 7:30 am-10 pm. Visit www.trinityatcitybeach.com or call (208) 255-7558. Reservations recommended for dinner and holiday dining.