The 10 Best Bars & Restaurants on the San Juan Islands
What’s better than spending a summer weekend sweltering in front of the fan in your apartment? Um, almost anything: like going on a road trip, or for a hike, or to the San Juan Islands. To help you get the most out of that last one we rounded up the archipelago's 10 best places to eat and drink. Feast your eyes...
There’s barely a trophy case big enough to hold all the awards Chef Blaine Wetzel and his crew have garnered for this out-of-the-way gem, but one drag of the house-made hearth rye bread through the mix of butter and chicken fat drippings, and it’s easy to see why. Since almost all of the ingredients come from the tiny island on which it’s located, it also offers the truest taste of the San Juan Islands, from reef-net salmon caught off the shore to the charred kohlrabi grown on the inn’s own farm.
When you need to impress your date with a great view on your getaway -- but don’t want to sacrifice the wedding of your dreams in order to pay for it, this cozy spot will (literally) fit the bill. Save money with a burger or splurge on steak frites, you still won’t break the bank, but looking out over the water view, it’ll seem like you did.
Local beers fill the taps, and local shellfish liven up a menu of gastropub classics, giving C&S a distinct sense of place. If you’re too much of a landlubber to go for razor clam chowder or fish & chips, don’t worry; the meat pie or eggplant sandwich will still match the Pike Brewing Heirloom Amber.
The biggest problem with the mostly home-grown brunch at Doe Bay is that it might be too early to decide between French toast so big and fluffy you’d like to crawl right back into bed with it, and huevos rancheros so fresh and well spiced you’ll wonder how many Mexican grandmas are in the kitchen making ‘em. We have the only plausible solution: get both.
Like the perfect neighborhood restaurant, The Bay’s menu is filled with a mix of pizza, seafood, and high-end entrees: a pesto, sausage, and fontina pizza for lunch, Dungeness crab cakes and a side of truffled mac and cheese for dinner. And in between, perhaps a bottle of local white on the patio.
Do not be fooled by the name, this spot is about way more than the pizza, or the oven from which it comes. The restaurant originally stemmed from post-farmers' market parties, and the menu still feels like a celebration of whatever is currently growing, served as intense, colorful dishes, like a recent one of Nootka rose, unripe strawberries, fermented barley, fresh cheese, and pea shoots. (What? Don’t worry about it, just trust us and let them blow you away.)
Whether you need a quick breakfast, a pre-lunch snack, or somebody has a case of the hangries, the fresh-baked pear Danish with cardamom syrup should do the trick. Or perhaps you need to complete your picnic with a loaf of brioche or roasted red pepper focaccia? Whatever it is, we’re confident you’ll quickly become as expert at finding reasons to pop into Cafe Demeter for baked goods as we are.
When you walk off the ferry to Friday Harbor, do not pass go, do not collect $200, do not do anything until you’ve stopped in for a local beer on tap and a few kinds of cheese. Sample your way through the selection so you can pick out a few charming cheeses for a picnic, or ask for dairy-based options to go with whatever you’re drinking.
Going to Roses Bakery is like going to your cool grandmother’s house (not the one that always serves linty candy), if said grandmother lived on an island and had a sweet wine selection. Come for the sandwiches on the house-made breads, soups, and seafood, but definitely stay for the blackberry pie.
In Seattle, you can hardly throw a stone without finding a bar making its own shrubs, bitters, and infusions for cocktails, but this kind of devotion to the art of a good drink is far rarer in the San Juans... save for Eastsound’s Barnacle. The cozy bar and pleasant courtyard garden make it a comfortable environment for chilling out and enjoying a cocktail or two made from local spirits. Or maybe three, because, hey, you’re on vacation, right?
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