We traveled to Friday Harbor, Washington from Anacortes, Washington back on May 2, 2023 for a summer as Interpretive Rangers at San Juan Island National Historical Park. We're fast closing in on our last day on island the middle of September.
While I may edit this list below before then (and now have done so several times), what you find listed are the restaurants and bars we have been to, sometimes numerous times over our months here and consider worth a try should you find yourself in Friday Harbor, Washington on San Juan Island.
Cease and Desist
After trying a few other places in the vicinity, Cease became my (Steven's) favorite place for a double IPA which are rotated out and come from breweries all over the PNW.
Overlooking the harbor and very near the ferry terminal, Cease is a smallish hole-in-the-wall where locals and those in the know find a nice variety of beers on tap.
With three outside tables to choose from, Cease provides a very pleasant way to spend some time sipping a favorite brew while checking out all things happening in the harbor.
San Juan Island Brewery
Melanie prefers the beer selection here because she can get a hefeweizen (generally). They produce a very nice selection of beers, but not my favorite, a double IPA, except seasonally and I'm not here for that season.
There's very solid bar food to be ordered here and the atmosphere and staff are most pleasant. Also a favorite for some of the islanders.
These three restaurants are white table cloth and all are solid choices. None of them are worthy, IMHO, of say a James Beard Award, but they all provide a good dining experience, if you're in need of a more formal setting.
Melanie and I prefer Vinny's for two reasons, bang for the buck and Melanie's love of Italian food.
Westcott Bay Shellfish Company
Got a hankering for oysters? Make sure you make your way to Westcott Bay Shellfish Company and give the grilled oysters accompanied by their compound butters a try. Throw in a nice glass of Rose' and you'll think heaven found you on a shell-strewn beach in the San Juans.
Bakery San Juan
Great island bakery with a menu with breakfast and lunch faire.
I especially like their mushroom pizza and various scones and croissants.
Rocky Bay Cafe & Delicatessen
Solid place for both breakfast and lunch. They've had a Crab Cake Benedict special on the menu this summer that I've eaten several times.
The Market Chef
Our favorite place for lunch. Great sandwiches and salads and a market for great gourmet food items.
From their website:
Over the last year the Market Chef has transformed its dining room into a marketplace featuring a curated selection of provisions and housewares. Come shop for amazing, gourmet ingredients for dinner, linen napkins for your dinner table, picnic baskets and supplies, wines, platters, gifts for the home cook and much more... all hand selected by Tim and Laurie. New products are added regularly and seasonally. Come in and shop today!
Looking for a keepsake or art to take home after your island vacation? Check out Island Collection By Jack Riley directly across the street from The Market Chef.
Van Go's Pizza
Good pizza and great outside patio in back of the restaurant for cool Friday Harbor summer evening dining. Try their cookies or a brownie for desert.
Mike's Cafe and Wine Bar
Mike's is another of our favorite Friday Harbor spots. Good food, service and a vegan menu.
Downriggers definitely has location going for it. Located above my favorite bar, Cease and Desist, which makes it convenient should I want a beer before dinner, it has a view of the harbor and marina.
Enjoy dinner on the deck and watch the seaplanes and ferries coming into the harbor. The menu and food preparation is solid with nice local seafood available.
Downriggers has a very corporate franchise chain feel, but don't let that dissuade you.
San Juan Vineyard
Great spot situated along the Roche Harbor Road just outside Friday Harbor proper. We've stopped in for a Rose' several times while out for a bike ride. They have other types of wine, but I can only speak for the Rose'. Quaffable.
The Bait Shop
They do fish 'n chips pretty darn well. I generally splurge and get the Halibut and chips, Melanie prefers the shrimp and chips. Regardless, for us, The Bait Shop is the spot for a quick fish 'n chips lunch or dinner.
Haley's Sports Bar and Grill
As our friend, Leslie, says below in the comments, "seriously good food and service." There are also large screen televisions for those who may have an interest in sports, Leslie's not wrong.
After dining for two nights with most of the board of directors of the Global Collaborative Law Council, our last evening is Seattle found us with just two other folks, one of whom, John, previously served as president of GCLC's board, and his wife, Kathy at Terra Plata.
John and Kathy planned to stay a day or so beyond the conference to visit with a friend of Kathy's. We resumed our volunteer roles as interpretive rangers at San Juan Island National Historical Park on Monday.
Starting with our table which was located in front of an open floor to ceiling window looking out on a pleasant Capitol Hill street, a nice cool evening and ending with great deserts, we throughly enjoyed our last evening in Seattle with good friends.
Next time we'll request a rooftop table at Terra Plata.
Friday night in Seattle found our group of 11 (Global Collaborative Law Council) dining at Lark. Located behind our hotel (Silver Cloud Hotel) and only about a city block away, we all walked over and were promptly seated in a semi-private dining area off the main dining room.
This year marks the 20th anniversary for Lark. Our group enjoyed another fine dining experience and I also recommend it to you. A few of us, including myself, had great lunches there too.
From the website:
Celebrating twenty years of business, Lark has elevated the standard for modern American restaurants in the Northwest. We invite you to share in chef John Sundstrom’s award winning cuisine in the heart of Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, welcomed by legendary hosts and co-owners Kelly Ronan and J.M. Enos.
Opened in 2003, and relocated to a stunning new space in December of 2014, Lark is an artisan-focused restaurant in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. Chef John Sundstrom, a James Beard Award-winner, is known for his intimate knowledge and deft use of the Northwest’s unique ingredients and has created the perfect place to celebrate the bounty of the region. The four-course menu changes each month highlighting the best seasonal products available. Lark was honored with Restaurant Design of the Year at the Seattle Design Awards in 2015.
There are many reasons for my wanting to dine at June Baby. But foremost is I'm a Southerner, born, raised, religiously indoctrinated, then educated and now expatriated.
I first gained an appreciation for southern cooking from Frank Stitt at his flagship restaurant, Highlands Bar and Grill, while I worked as a waiter there shortly before graduation from law school in 1987. I continued working for Frank in that capacity until taking and passing the bar in the early 90's.
Frank is also, in large measure, responsible for my love of cooking and the joy of providing a great dining experience for family and friends. Frank was at the time I worked at Highlands still the working executive chef at Highlands. Chris Hastings of Hot and Hot Fish Club was sous chef for a time before leaving to work with Alice Waters at Chez Panisse.
For a person who had little knowledge of food preparation, the culinary education was amazing. There were "family meals" for the staff before every shift where wait staff ate, caught up with each other and where we reviewed the menu for the evening with Frank or Chris.
After Melanie and I were married, I often traveled with her when she had work obligations in different cities around the country and became our travel concierge. Because of this we've had the privilege of dining in some of the country's great restaurants tasting the local Cusine, something we continue to present as we travel.
Our reservation at June Baby was a bit of a continuation of our tradition, but this time not just for us, but for 9 other people who were attending a board meeting and continuing legal education in Seattle for the nonprofit for which Melanie is executive director, Global Collaborative Law Council.
June Baby didn't disappoint. From the cornbread, more aptly described as corncake because of the velvety texture, to my first chitlins experience, the meal was very fine.
Maybe it was because we had southerners sprinkled among us, but to a person everyone enjoyed the items they ordered. Vegetarians in our group also found the menu accessible. Service was impeccable.
Highly recommended even if you lack southern DNA.
Best barbecue Melanie and I have eaten in a while and right here in sunny (or not so much lately 😎) Bakersfield, California.
Melanie ordered the Pulled Pork Sandwich and I ordered the Brisket Sandwich. Her side was potato salad, mine slaw. No alcohol served, but who cares when the barbecue is this good. And the Brisket, not to be missed, if Brisket is your thing.
The service was great and personable and we were able to enjoy the great spring-like weather outside in front of the restaurant on one of two picnic tables.
The owner came out after we finished eating and we chatted with him for a while before we got back on our bikes and rode towards a local car show we'd seen happening in downtown Bakersfield.
He's a great guy, a culinary school grad, but credits his "Mammy" with his love for eating and preparing food. Not sure we caught his name and it's not mentioned on his website. The restaurant is named after nicknames given two of his children.
Porchop and Bubba's BBQ. Highly recommended.o
Alexandra Gates' restaurant, Cochineal, has been on our radar since we first visited for dinner in January of 2019. She was nominated for a James Beard award in 2020.
Last year when we made a pass through West Texas, we happened to be there when Cochineal was closed. Of course the pandemic created a whole other problem for fine dining restaurants.
An aside and a particular quirk of visiting Marfa we find is the hit-or-miss nature of whether a particular business may, or may not, be open. This time, for example, one of Melanie's favorite shops where she's found great post cards was closed for "winter break" on Saturday of the Martin Luther King Holiday weekend. So it goes.
Marfa is just interesting enough given the art scene and good food and a couple of nice hotels and El Cosmico (which offers dry camping for $15.00 a night per person with a few amenities thrown in) and tourists who come from all over the world to experience the wonderful weirdness this remote town of about 1,700 souls offers. Some 40,000 people visit Marfa in any given year. For the record, we camped at the Marfa Lights Viewing Area just outside of town where we've camped several times in the past.
Approaching Marfa this year we are on our way to Tucson, Arizona for what will be one of Melanie's last appearances in an official capacity as executive director for the Episcopal Peace Fellowship. She will attend services in Green Valley, Arizona later this month at Saint Francis in the Valley.
We'd been traveling every day for the past three days when we arrived in Marfa and one of Melanie's first suggestions was dinner at Cochineal. We quickly requested a reservation via email and heard back from them requesting a deposit for the Prix Fixe Menu they were serving on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
We roamed around Marfa during the day on Saturday, looking for post cards, checking out a few of the shops and having a drink at the bar of the Hotel St. George where they also have a really fine art collection on the walls of lobby and bar.
We then parked on the street very near the entrance to Cochineal, Melanie worked a bit more, I streamed a show I've been watching and we then dressed for dinner and walked in.
Dinner exceeded my expectations which were already high. While I remember a very fine meal in 2019, dinner in 2023 was exquisite and one of the best we've had in quite a while. Service was personable and great.
Highlights for me were the House Artisan Bread service with Miso Butter and a Truffle Egg Salad, the Antelope tartar, and Wild Boar with Buckwheat Noodles and Cultivated Mushrooms. Dessert, Japanese Soufflé Cake with Mascarpone Dried Cherry Confiture was amazing.
I also ordered the wine parings which Melanie and I shared with each course.
When visiting Marfa, you now know where to dine.
Sometimes a restaurant bears mentioning again. La Fonda is that good.
We've had dinner and brunch there four or five times as we've passed through San Antonio. Each time has been a treat.
The food and service are always impeccable. Highly recommended.
Our friends, Steve and Kim, live in San Antonio and we like catching up with them as we pass through the area. Steve and Melanie attended law school together at Vanderbilt.
Because of COVID we haven't seen them for a few years so we were happy they consented to meet us for dinner. Having access to locals and their knowledge of the restaurant scene is a plus.
Their daughter who now lives on the west coast was in town recently and recommended to them they dine at Shiro located on the North River Walk and just down the street from San Antonio Museum of Art.
If you're in the mood for some very fine sushi, Shiro is the place in San Antonio. Whether single pieces or their very innovative sushi rolls, you'll not be disappointed.
The atmosphere is great and we had a most wonderful time catching up with our friends.
Since we've been on the road, we've found it difficult at times to get our Chinese fix. We were spoiled as we left Birmingham because of Red Pearl located in West Homewood and many places we've tried around the county are not up to Red Pearl standards.
Looking for lunch after she found and received a new haircut (also hit or miss for her on the road), I found Best Quality Daughter near The Pearl district in San Antonio.
I made a reservation for us, but it was a late lunch for us so by the time we finished nobody but us remained in the outside patio area. Still, Best Quality Daughter seems like a popular spot so reservations are recommended.
Melanie had Curry Shrimp Fried Rice, I had Mighty Good Mushroom Co. Chow Mein. Both delicious and both generous portions.
The Pearl is a great place to explore, the River Walk is nearby and there are many great shops and restaurants nearby.
Traveling west through Houston we needed lunch and Melanie found one of the best we've experienced in a while.
Located in the upscale neighborhood, River Oaks, State of Grace is situated in a strip shopping center across from Lamar High School.
While parking was a bit of problem for our 25' van as no parking signs predominated the streets everywhere around the shopping center and High School, we lucked out as The Church of Saint John the Divine was nearby, but closed for the day. Someone at the church did, however, answer their doorbell and graciously consented to allow Miranda a space while we dined.
We walked the short block to State of Grace, entered without a reservation and were promptly seated.
Both food and service were great. Melanie had Crab Fingers (claws for the less well-bred) and Gumbo. I enjoyed the Crispy Oyster Sandwich.
Melanie and Steven