One of three restaurants inside McMenamins’ massive Anderson School hotel-restaurant-entertainment compound in Bothell, Tavern on the Square aims for luxury and lands on mediocrity.

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If you grew up in Bothell, you likely feel some nostalgia for Anderson School. Perhaps you attended junior high there or learned to swim in the saltwater pool. If you still live in Bothell, you probably know Anderson School reopened last fall as a five-acre hotel-restaurant-entertainment compound, part of McMenamins, the Oregon-based company famous for repurposing historically significant buildings as hospitality hubs.

Classrooms in the original 1931 school building have been turned into hotel rooms. The complex includes a movie theater, a brewery, three bars and three restaurants clustered around a landscaped courtyard dotted with fire pits and gazebos.

Alumni will enjoy just wandering the grounds or reminiscing in the Principal’s Office, now a bar. North Shore Lagoon, a snug, tiki-themed bar and restaurant, overlooks the pool (open to the community). Pub fare along with McMenamins ales and ciders are served in The Woodshop; where youngsters once learned to miter and saw, they now play billiards, shuffleboard and pinball.

Tavern on the Square ★  


18607 Bothell Way N.E., Bothell

425-219-4362 or

Reservations: accepted

Hours: Breakfast 7-11 a.m. Monday-Friday, 7-11:30 a.m. Saturday-Sunday; lunch 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday, 11:30-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday; dinner 4-11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 4 p.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday

Prices: $$$ (starters $12-$14, pizza $13-$16, lunch mains $12-$19, dinner mains $16-$39)

Drinks: full bar; well-priced wines from the Northwest, California and elsewhere

Service: casual, friendly

Parking: free in lot

Sound: conducive to conversation

Who should go: alumni, hotel guests, good for groups

Credit cards: all major

Access: no obstacles

Tavern on the Square, a more formal venue for wining and dining, is adjacent to the hotel. Here you’ll find couples sipping cocktails at the rectangular, 30-seat bar in the center of the room, business people entertaining clients in cloistered booths, friends celebrating milestones, whole families sharing pizza.

Built on a grand scale (dining capacity 148) and furnished with art, stained glass, antiques and ornate chandeliers, the setting leads you to expect something equally grand on the plate. But the kitchen produces middle-of-the-road fare with middling results, taking only a few detours into the exotic. Manila clams, for example, steamed in coconut milk with basil, chilies, lime, were enjoyable despite some leathery mushroom caps lurking in the broth.

Chicken, steak, salmon and pasta are the mainstays, but the cooking is uneven, the preparations uninspired, and a logjam can ensue when all 148 seats unexpectedly fill at peak dinner hour, delaying the meal’s progress.

A mostly boneless breast of chicken arrived crusty underneath but still moist. A tart citrus sauce worked to its benefit and nicely complemented its companion, barley risotto dotted with diced carrots and parsnips.

But the broccolini on the side was hard. Green beans and carrots, served alongside a 14-ounce, bone-in rib eye, were also undercooked, and underseasoned. The sprawling steak ($39) had me grabbing the salt and pepper mill, too. It was precisely medium-rare but most of the meat juices seeped into crisp, roasted fingerlings, awkwardly plated underneath it, somewhat to their detriment.

In the dismal “Equinox Fettuccine,” bland cream sauce paralyzed noodles, some unidentifiable greenage and bigger-than-bite-size pieces of butternut squash. Pasta (and salads) can be topped with roasted chicken, BBQ prawns or grilled salmon. The fish I ordered with the fettuccine was rigid and dry. Yet a grilled salmon sandwich at lunch was moist and delicious, stacked with lots of red onion, crisp cucumber and a mayonnaise-y rémoulade on a soft bun.

Salads are likable all on their own. Kale, romaine and shaved pecorino make a pleasant Caesar, bright with lemon. Lacey frisée cupped warm, roasted beets steeped in vinaigrette and dusted with crumbled blue cheese and crushed hazelnuts. Frisée also cradled thin, crisp, fried green tomatoes topped with Dungeness crab and a velvety ravigote sauce hinting strongly of tarragon.

When salads were ordered to share, they arrived divided and prettily arranged, a classy touch. Not so classy: bringing to-go boxes to the table for diners to package leftovers themselves. Also disappointing: ordering a good bottle of red wine and having to drink it from a small glass meant for whites.

Pizzas, built on thin, chewy, blistered crusts, are another strong category. Sweet tomato sauce, minimal mozzarella and a blizzard of basil chiffonade distinguished the Margherita.

Sample menu

Roasted beet salad  $12

Margherita pizza  $13

Steamed Manila clams  $16

Roasted chicken breast  $20

14-oz. bone-in rib eye  $39

I was wary of the BBQ duck confit pizza, but the waiter raved about it (and so did my husband, who warmed up a leftover slice later). I appreciated its light shroud of fontina, the lavish use of fresh arugula and pickled red onion, and the zesty sauce that made the duck taste a lot like pulled pork.

Every venue on the property has a burger on its menu. The one here mixes bacon into the grass-fed beef patty. Weighing in at more than half a pound, it could use a better quality bun. The hand-cut fries resemble Dick’s and taste like they are sprinkled with garlic salt — but at least they were seasoned.

Warm beignets piled with powdered sugar appear to be the most popular dessert, with good reason. You can enjoy them at breakfast, lunch or dinner. A dry wedge of Chocolate Terminator Cake (named for the Terminator stout it contains) planted in a bilious eruption of chocolate mousse tasted as unappealing as it looked. A scoop of slimy coconut sorbet that someone in the kitchen mistook for vanilla did it no favors.

I can’t give Tavern on the Square high marks but I admire McMenamins’ penchant for preservation. I’m impressed they actually have a History Department whose goal is “to keep the past in the present, to celebrate and connect us all with the people and events that have helped define each McMenamins property.” They do a very good job of that here.