Bainbridge Island was named in 1841 by US Navy Lieutenant Charles Wilkes for the eponymous Commodore. It has about 25,000 residents who live on a 25-square-mile island nine miles directly west of downtown Seattle on the western side of Puget Sound.
It makes for a very convenient day trip from Seattle . . . and we were off . . .
The 96th best Starbucks in Seattle is located just North of the Seattle ferry landing¹ - it’s a convenient pre-ferry stop for some joe and banana bread. I had hoped to avoid this Mother of all Seattle Memes altogether, but as they say . . . man proposes, fate disposes.
The Ferry to Bainbridge Island departed from Pier 52 at 10:40 am (it runs every hour or so, 20 hours a day). The ticket was $9.25pp (the return voyage is free) and was purchased at the ferry landing from an agent behind bullet-proof glass (it can also be purchased online or from a kiosk at the ferry terminal). The clientele was a mixture of tourists, residents, and vendors. About 10 minutes after departure, there were some great views of downtown Seattle. I previously passed on a $40 harbor tour as I knew the ferry would get the job done at a quarter of the price. Thirty-five minutes after underway, we were safely ashore on Bainbridge Island.
Directly up the street from the ferry landing is the Bainbridge Island Art Museum. I wasn't expecting much from the place but figured that since it was on the way into town, I thought I'd stop by. Wow! Wrong! Again! For the price of free admission, we were admitted to an exhibition of the work of GeorgeTsutakawa, who like other members of the "Northwest School" combined natural elements of the Puget Sound area with traditional Asian aesthetics. When combined with the museum's permanent collection the visit became more enjoyable than the Seattle Art Museum.
By now the banana bread was starting to wear off, and since the Missus had been talking about getting some Halibut, I had done some research in secret and determined it was on the menu at a place called The Islander. I was hoping to surprise her, but I actually surprised myself as the place is closed on Mondays (as is much of the island), though the website indicated the opposite.
By now, the hunger pains were becoming debilitating so we ducked into a Vietnamese place called Ba Sa² for some beer (it is technically a food), some Taro Egg Rolls, and some research. The beer and Taro Egg Rolls were served by a bartender who looked like the character actor Victor Buono. If you know who Signore Buono was, you would know that culinarily or conversationally this probably would not be a bad thing. The research led us to . . .
Doc's Marina Grill reminds me of many an East Coast seafood restaurant with equally folksy names like the Docksider, Barnarancle Billy's, and Moby Dick's. It has a rusticity to it with a small bar, brown butcher paper tablecloths, a marlin on the wall, multilevel inside seating, sprawling outside seating on an attached wood deck, and some tables with plastic chairs on the grass right next to the eponymous marina (that's where we sat). The menu contains the usual suspects: Peel & Eat Shrimp, Crispy Fried Calamari, and House Green Salad. We went with the Northwest Cioppino³ with it being mispronounced by me, her, and thankfully the server. No matter how you say it, it was a delicious tomato-based fish stew - the best thing I put in my mouth during my half-fortnight stay in Sea-town. BTW: It's pronounced, "cho PEE no".
After our feast was completed, it was decided to visit one of the island's seven wineries. The Bainbridge Island bus system appears quite extensive, on paper that is - literally on paper as I was reviewing a brochure that I picked up after getting off the ferry. In reality, buses run so infrequently to make the concept quite unworkable. Instead, a $9.13 Uber was used to transport us to the Eagle Harbor Winery.
I had based my selection of the Eagle Harbor Winery on proximity and the expectation my glass of wine would be savored while overlooking a harbor filled with water, yachts, pendants, and maybe even a pelican. Instead, Uber delivered us to an industrial park and we were now enjoying a flight of four reds overlooking a parking lot under cover of one of those tent umbrellas parents rent for their child's high school graduation.
There used to be a day when wine tasting was gratis, with the winery trying to entice tasters to become buyers - that day is now passed, as our flight of four reds cost $15pp. The first one, a Sangiovese⁴ at $32/bottle, was quite nice, with the other increasingly expensive ones trailing off in quality (although this may actually be a reflection on my pallet as opposed to the actual quality of the wine).
A regular and part-time volunteer vintner named Jose spoke about the wines that he and others helped pick and process. A guest named Hannah Knowles who is a local newscaster spoke with Jose about some of the finer points of winemaking. She seemed quite knowledgeable, but for some reason, I can’t remember a single word she said.
Jose then gave us a lift to the Fletcher Bay Winery - Tasting Room. I selected this location based on the name it shares with a very good high school friend - it brought back fond memories of homeroom conversations about the Mets, David Letterman, and whiffle ball (it was also located very close to the ferry landing - just in case things got a little out of hand). Though as soon as I entered the cool rooftop deck with a pumping beat from the live DJ and beautiful verdant island views, I suddenly forgot about what’shisname and focused my attention on a delightfully fresh and fruity Rosé.
After the second Rosé, it was getting towards sunset so we hurried back to the ferry. After a delayed departure we took in some nice twilight views of downtown Seattle and I thought it was time to head back to the barn.
But after exiting the ferry someone wanted a nightcap, so . . .
Though located in the belly of the Pike Place Market tourist beast, the White Horse Tavern is most definitely a local hangout. It is also the most authentic (and darkest) English pub I’ve ever visited, as the beer selection is limited to one beer: warm beer. It must have been that second Rosé, as I actually bought one, though in my defense it did come with a twist of lemon and a free meat pie.
We settled into the worn but comfy sofa and met a series of betatted locals with the most memorable (and talkative) being Kevin. He quickly brought us up to speed on his 33-year-old tech boy life mentioning more than once that he lived at the hospital. I thought that was a little odd, but in a way quite believable.
After the meat pie was finished we quickly left as it was all getting a little too real. Later when I mentioned how odd it was that Kev lived in a hospital, Mrs. AAR corrected me by saying “he didn’t say hospital, he said hostel.” To which I replied, “at 33, does it really make a difference?” All that being said, the next time I visit Seattle . . . I’m going back.
Endnotes: I wanted to provide some very specific details which while vaguely interesting did not contribute to the overall narrative. Perhaps just wait until the end to read.
¹ The Seattle to Bainbridge Island ferry is run by Washington State Ferries (WSF). It runs ten routes serving 20 terminals located around Puget Sound and in the San Juan Islands. The agency maintains the largest fleet of ferries in the U.S. at 21 vessels. As of 2016, it was the largest ferry operator in the U.S. and the second-largest vehicular ferry system in the world.
² Ba Sa is named after a type of catfish featured as the main ingredient in ca kho to - a favorite meal the owners' mother made for the family growing up in Vietnam.
³ Cioppino is a red tomato fresh fennel stew featuring whatever seafood/shellfish that is available. Doc's Northwest Cioppino is made with salmon, rockfish, Manila clams, Penn Cove mussels, calamari, and prawns served with garlic focaccia.
⁴ Sangiovese is a red Italian wine grape variety that derives its name from the Latin sanguis Jovis, "the blood of Jupiter". It's the main or only component in Chianti.