A Food Lover’s Guide to a Bainbridge Ferry Ride
I’ve often recommended Bainbridge Island to Seattle tourists interested in doing something that’s not-so-Seattle. But Bainbridge is for far more than just tourists. The food scene is so improved that locals will enjoy at least a day-trip via the ferry. Even better is an overnight or two to really explore all the eateries. There’s no need for a car if you just want to wander the downtown area known as Winslow. Steps from the ferry terminal, Winslow has a walkable stretch of street (and adjoining areas) with a number of interesting cafés, bakeries, and restaurants worth a look.
There’s more. On Winslow Way, the Eagle Harbor Book Company will inevitably have food-related books in the window. And with stores like Churchmouse Yarns & Teas (with teas, jams, and shortbreads to go along with knitting supplies), Paraffine (more teas, plus candles), and Salt and Sea (salt and other gourmet food products, as well as vintage and new home furnishings), your food tour can extend to retail shops. Plus there’s a new hot spot called the Intentional Table which will whet your appetite in more ways than one.
Time your visit right, and you can make your own mochi snacks by attending Mochi Tsuki, sponsored annually by the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community. At this new year celebration, you can watch and participate in mochi-making, sampling some sweet rice treats while getting wowed by a taiko drum performance.
Back to restaurant bites, there are a number of old-school spots in Winslow that will suit those with more conventional palates. But if you’re willing to throw caution to the culinary winds, you’ll want to try an interesting restaurant that’s getting national acclaim for its innovative food. From snacks to sandwiches to full-on suppers, here are my recommendations of places to eat in Bainbridge Island’s Winslow—as well as a romantic place to rest and relax.
In the heart of the Winslow Way shopping district you’ll find Blackbird Bakery, a popular place with the locals. I stopped by this bakery three consecutive days, sampling a Pear Anise Scone, a simple but delightful order of Toast, and then my favorite: a “Downtowner.”
Another breakfast option is Pegasus Coffee House, a local roaster that serves food throughout the day and occasionally live music at night. The Baked P-Egg-asus is a menu mainstay, and I enjoyed a version with red chile. Plus, of course, some pretty good coffee.
Fork & Spoon, the sister restaurant to Blackbird, is a fine option for lunch, especially if you indulge in the bakery’s bread. The Bacon & Veggie Sandwich is one I’d recommend for interesting texture and flavor.
For a retro experience, the Madison Diner offers old-fashioned booth and counter seating in a 1948 stainless steel dining car. It’s the kind of place where a “Wafflewich!” will call out to you from the menu.
The best sandwiches of all are at Hitchcock Delicatessen and Charcuterie. I sampled three and found them to be fantastic, especially the Pastrami and the Roast Beef. Interestingly, Hitchcock Deli also served me the best coffee drink of my Bainbridge stay, using their Bosco espresso machine.
Bon Bon is a whimsical little candy store with 21 varieties of fudge, including Snickers, Penuchi Nut, and Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt. The store is also packed with licorice, taffy, caramels, and chocolates—and a bunch of nostalgic candies.
For food shopping, Town & Country Market is a fun place to go. It was the island’s first market, and a destination for many islanders today due to a good meat section, a decent deli, a nice selection of cheeses, and much more.
Recently opened is Intentional Table. Serving as a sort of community food center, Intentional Table sells cookbooks, wine and food products, and a carefully curated selection of cooking equipment. You’ll want to keep track of their calendar, as the in-store kitchen offers classes and cooking demonstrations.
Across from Intentional Table on Madrone Lane is the highly acclaimed Mora Iced Creamery, which may be reason enough to make the trip to Bainbridge Island. Owned by a lovely couple from Argentina, Mora makes its own ice cream bases and scoops a wide variety of interesting flavors (such as marron glacé, sabayon, and pink grapefruit), with full invitation to sample.
Last year, former Canlis chef Greg Atkinson opened Restaurant Marché, bringing the French countryside to Bainbridge Island. Here you’ll find Onion Soup, Moules Frites, Trout Meunière, and more in a contemporary setting. I especially enjoyed a delicate Parsnip Flan as well as the Salade Niçoise.
By far, my top recommendation in Winslow is Hitchcock Restaurant, where chef Brendan McGill was recently voted The People’s Best New Chef in a Food & Wine magazine national contest. The best way to experience this eclectic restaurant is to pick a price for a tasting menu, then sit back and enjoy all the dishes that showcase pickling, fermenting, preserving, roasting, grilling, and more.
Eagle Harbor Inn is “a petit hotel” of five unique rooms and suites plus three townhomes that are built around a landscaped garden courtyard. Deservedly recognized as one of the most romantic places to stay in western Washington, this hotel is ideally situated close to Winslow Way and is the perfect place to call home while on Bainbridge Island. It’s charming and comfortable, with outdoor seating and views of the harbor. If you stay in a townhouse, you’ll have a kitchen where you can cook fresh eggs from Hitchcock Deli, slice cheese from Town & Country Market, spoon up Boat Street Pickles from Intentional Table, and perhaps pour wine from the Eagle Harbor Winery.
Read on to see photos from the Eagle Harbor Inn (courtesy of the hotel), scenes from Bainbridge, and all the restaurants mentioned—including every course in my tasting menu meal at Hitchcock Restaurant.
Departing Seattle en route to Bainbridge Island.
Blackbird Bakery: pear anise scones, subtle in flavor.
Blackbird: a sign for the much-heralded “Toast.”
Blackbird: the Toast (whole wheat oat bread), buttered and served with homemade jam.
Blackbird: The Downtowner is sort of like a kouign amann, the caramelized vanilla sugar turning this pastry into a sweet, buttery treat.
Looking down from the Eagle Harbor Inn to Pegasus Coffee House.
Pegasus: Baked eggs in red chile: eggs baked in housemade red chile sauce and topped with cheese.
Pegasus: Interior, with menu and sourcing.
Fork & Spoon sign.
Fork & Spoon: Bacon & veggie sandwich, served on whole wheat oat bread with Butler Farm greens, shaved sweet onion, and house green goddess dressing. Nice textural contrast between the crispy bacon and creamy avocado.
Outside the Madison Diner.
Madison Diner: The “Wafflewich!”–which is two scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese and two strips of bacon sandwiched between Belgian waffle halves.
Hitchcock Deli’s pastrami sandwich on rye with cabbage slaw, Swiss cheese, and Russian dressing. Option to get it “piled high” with a half-pound of meat, or New York style with a pound. Served with chips.
Hitchcock Deli: Turkey sandwich on sourdough with lettuce, tomato, red onion, Swiss cheese, mayo, and whole grain mustard (all condiments made in-house).
Hitchcock Deli: Roast beef sandwich on a potato roll with horseradish mayo, caramelized onions (delicious!), and Swiss cheese.
Hitchcock Deli: Macarons. (There’s a pastry chef on-site.)
Hitchcock Deli also sells products like fresh eggs, charcuterie, wine, and much more.
Hitchcock Deli: Mmm…meat.
Bon Bon’s fudge.
Bon Bon: licorice.
Bon Bon: Interior.
Town & Country Market is the popular place for grocery shopping.
Inside the Intentional Table.
Intentional Table: wine and whimsy.
The exhilaration (and exhaustion) of making mochi at Mochi Tsuki.
Mochi demo at Mochi Tsuki.
Mora Iced Creamery sign.
The menu at Mora.
Green tea ice cream at Mora.
Scooping at Mora.
Mora: A triple scoop of green tea ice cream, raspberry sorbet, and dark chocolate ice cream.
Amuse bouche at Restaurant Marché.
Marché: Salade Niçoise with grilled northwest albacore, haricots vertes, fingerling potatoes, and nicoise olives.
Marché: Parsnip flan (so delicate and delicious) with chervil salad.
Marché: Saturday special of grilled pastured pork loin and rillette-filled raviolo.
Marché: Mussels and fries (made with Kennebec potatoes) with fennel, cream & Pernod, served with aioli.
Hitchcock Restaurant’s sign foreshadows the whimsy of the food.
Hitchcock: Baywater Sweet oysters with sauerkraut granita, Shigoku oysters with buttermilk and horseradish foam, and Kumamoto oysters with lemon pearls
Hitchcock: Yam and sweet potato charcuterie with pickled watermelon pith and cardamom crème anglaise.
Hitchcock: Cold-smoked steelhead, squid ink sauce, steelhead caviar, pickled red onion, and parsley.
Hitchcock: Charcuterie sampler of foie torchon, beef tongue-strami, and Basque chorizo with chocolate.
Hitchcock: Red and gold beets with cultured cream, Napa cabbage, and rye toast.
Hitchcock: Marmitako, which is a Basque fish stew with Pacific albacore, giant Pacific octopus, mussels, clams, and sweet heirloom tomatoes.
Hitchcock: Albacore bloodline with elderberry sauce.
Hitchcock: Duck hearts stuffed with Cognac cherries with witloof, treviso, chicory, and Pedro Ximenez sherry.
Hitchcock: Pleasant View Farm Duck Breast with sauerkraut, elderberries, gin, and pickled mushrooms. (It was so good that I went back a couple of nights later to eat it again!)
Hitchcock: Braised beef short ribs with delicata squash, parsnip, and chocolate-chili mojo.
Hitchcock: Ricotta salata with quince jam and rosemary lavash.
Hitchcock: Dessert sampler.
The courtyard at the Eagle Harbor Inn.
Eagle Harbor Inn: Inside a townhome.
Eagle Harbor Inn: A comfortable bed for a food coma.
Back to Seattle after a feeding frenzy on Bainbridge Island.