By Thomas C. Pavlik, Jr.
When a friend first suggested Trade Winds Pub and Eatery, I wasn’t sure where it was. Sure enough, when I pulled up and saw the yellow metal building, I would have thought I was at a small town village hall or fraternal organization rather than a restaurant. But looks can be deceiving, as Trade Winds is well worth a visit.
Trade Winds is located right next door to Knight’s Action Park and they’ve done a good job with a very utilitarian building. There’s a bar along the back wall and table seating for perhaps 25 diners. It has a homey feel that somehow makes it easy to ignore the low ceiling. In any case, you’re not coming to Trade Winds for the ambiance. Perhaps the most appealing aspect of the space is the large “backyard,” complete with stage, volleyball and bocce ball courts and plenty of room to ramble.
During our visit, Trade Winds remained about half-full. We recognized some of our fellow diners, but the business crowd hasn’t yet discovered the place.
Trade Winds’ menu isn’t too large, and we liked that. I’d rather see fewer things done right than a wider menu where quality suffers. You can tell that Trade Winds uses fresh ingredients with pretty much everything being homemade.
My guests and I decided to start with the chili ($4.95) and the potato boat ($3.50). My one guest thought the chili was too salty but, as he continued to work his way toward the bottom, he commented that he really began to enjoy the flavor. I found it to be on the higher end of the tavern chili spectrum.
The potato boat was a large potato, split in half, topped with cheese and bacon. Nothing too original, right? But when paired with what Trade Winds called salsa, the dish had a nice snap. We wouldn’t quite consider it salsa, ourselves – it was almost more pickled tomato. Whatever it was, Trade Winds should bottle the stuff.
For entrées, we selected the pony shoe ($9.85), the breaded pork tenderloin sandwich ($8.25), and the club ($7.75). All sandwiches come with homemade fries or chips.
Other items that caught our eye included the cod basket ($9.25), the Captain burger ($9.25, 1/3 pound patty with pepperjack and homemade Captain Morgan rum sauce served on an onion roll), and the bruschetta appetizer ($5.95, tomatoes drizzled with olive oil on a baguette).
All meals are served on metal cookie sheets with red and white checkered wax paper. It sounds goofy, but it works. Given Trade Winds’ ludicrously sized portions, the trays come in handy.
My pony shoe guest was a fan of Trade Winds’ version. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more generous helping of fries served before. The fries were clearly homemade (from three potatoes, we learned) yet managed to avoid the limpness so often seen with homemade preparations. The cheese sauce was reported as well-balanced. He particularly appreciated that the dish wasn’t drowning in the sauce.
The pork tenderloin was, again, homemade. It’s a half-pound sandwich served on brioche. It also came with a ridiculously large helping of fries. My other guest reported that it was just right – not too thin and not too thick, with some nice seasoning. He was quite pleased with his selection and managed to wolf the whole thing down.
I went with the club, a sandwich so large (made from 3 pieces of Texas toast) that I had to remove the middle piece of bread to fit the sandwich in my mouth. Even then, this was a huge sandwich – packed with turkey and more bacon (perfectly crisped) than I’ve ever seen on a sandwich. Trade Winds clearly has its own idea of the proper turkey to bacon ratio, and I’m on board. I opted for the chips. They were a bit of a mixed bag – about a third of them were soggy. Thankfully, the portion was large enough that I had plenty of good ones to keep me happy. My only other complaint was the Kraft singles. But that was my fault, as I didn’t specify the kind of cheese I wanted. I’ll know next time.
Service was attentive and incredibly friendly. Trade Winds’ staff wants you to be happy – and it shows – but our server was also observant enough to sense when we wanted some privacy to discuss business. We also appreciated that our food was served simultaneously – a rarity with so many of Trade Winds’ competitors.
I’d like for Trade Winds to stick around and hope they continue the good work. It’s well worth the visit.
Thomas C. Pavlik is an attorney with Delano Law Offices, LLC, in Springfield.