Bilbo's Festivo: Don't Bother
The food was okay. The service was the worst. We made reservations for 7:30pm indoors. At 8pm we ended up with an outside table and it was cold. We were told we would be given blankets. We're still waiting for them. The waitress was busy shmoozing with some locals and totally ignored us. We finally got our food at 9:20pm. We were charged for food we never got and items we did not order. The overall service was incompetent and extremely rude. I felt like I was creating a problem when I told the waitress that she over-charged us by $20 on an $80 bill.
Favorite Dish: Forget it. The service makes you lose your appetite.
The Inn at Ship Bay: Great Food, Great Location
The Inn at Ship Bay, which grew out of the 1869 Adams’ farmhouse, sits amid an heirloom plum and pear orchard, and looks south over the bay. In good weather, sit on the pretty terrace and watch the kingfishers in the madronas overhanging the bay. The craftsman style farmhouse with its tile fireplace welcomes diners in cooler weather
The menu features local, sustainable, organic ingredients, prepared with great care and beautifully presented. Ice cream and sorbets are home made, as in the bread -- from 100 year old starter. There are vegetarian options and, with advance notice, the kitchen is happy to accommodate special dietary needs.
The wait staff is superb and not spread too thin. Many staff are long-term.
The restaurant is fully accessible and there is generous handicap parking.
Reservations are absolutely essential and, at the height of the summer season, best made at least several days in advance unless you are willing to eat very early or very late. Dress is casual.
Favorite Dish: For starters, we've enjoyed the organic greens, toasted hazelnut and blue cheese salad with cabernet sauvignon vinaigrette, despite the fact it was a tad overdressed. The golden and Chioggia beet salad with goat cheese and walnuts is even better. Judd Cove (local Eastsound) oysters on the half shell are hard to beat.
The scallops with lemon aioli, citrus risotto and baby summer vegetables is a wonderful main course. The nightly seafood specials are reliably great -- and may sell out as early as 7:30!!
We've enjoyed the orange rosemary crème brulee (plenty for two to share) and the blueberry clafoutis.
First courses are $7-12; main courses $19-24 and desserts $7-10.
The large and well thought out wine list offers some bottles of very good value, as well as some splurges. But a caveat -- it may not be up-to-date as far as vintages. The 2001 Willakenzie Pinot Blanc we ordered (and were quite surprised to see!) turned out to be a 2003. Perfectly fine, but a sign the list may need some editorial attention.
In summary: the Inn at Ship Bay would surely be on any short list of Orcas' best.
- Food and Dining
Olga's: New location for Olga's. . .
When Olga’s landlord decided to sell the venerable general store in the old village of Olga last spring (2005), Shelley packed up her pots, pans, and crew and moved the restaurant into “downtown” Eastsound. The new space is no larger than the old, but in good weather tables spill out into the pretty courtyard of Eastsound Square, giving additional seating.
Olga’s features exceptionally fresh and carefully prepared frittatas, omelets, soup, salads, pasta and seafood. It is one of my favorite places for lunch. The plates coming out of the kitchen are the most beautiful presentations on the island. Elsewhere this can be an indication that the food will not live up to its looks. Happily that is not the case here; the food is every bit as stellar as the presentation.
Open daily 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Call ahead for winter hours.) Reservations recommended, or be prepared to wait. When they are busy, which is often, meals can take a long time to get to the table. They are worth the wait.
Meals are in the $10 to $20 range, not including beverage, tip or tax.
Favorite Dish: The dish I order most often is the conchiglie (shell pasta) with tiger prawns and pea pods in poppy seed parmesan cream. It sounds weird, but it’s absolutely delicious. The version with sea beans, when available, is even more spectacular. If the whole Dungeness crab is available as a special, that's a winner too. I've also enjoyed the Portobello bruschetta with smoked mozzarella. The basil, tomato and mozzarella salad sounds like your basic insalata caprese, but it's not. It's stunning -- visually and gastronomically.
The desserts look wonderful, but, alas, we're always too full to try them.
The wine list consists of about a dozen carefully-chosen selections, all in the $23-$25 range. Wine by the glass is $8 and it's a generous pour. Four beers, including Moose Drool Ale out of Montana and the local Skagit Valley Yellow Jacket Pale Ale, are $4 a bottle.
Portions are large – and the efficient and pleasant staff will box leftovers to go.
- Food and Dining
Rose's Cafe: New Restaurant in Old Firehouse
Islanders were delighted when Rose’s bakery took over the old firehouse building in Eastsound. Long as source of first-rate take out gourmet groceries, wine, and home made soups, pot pies, desserts and baked goods, Rose’s has expanded into a topnotch full service restaurant.
The completely renovated space puts the immaculate kitchen in full view of the dining room. The custom made wood burning pizza oven dominates one end of the kitchen, while locals stop by to chat with the chef working at the other end. The wait staff are exceptional and work seamlessly together.
The restaurant has a small but very thoughtfully-built wine list – or you can buy a bottle of wine at the shop and have it with your meal for a $10 corkage fee.
The restaurant is fully wheelchair accessible and there are two disabled parking spots directly in front of the building.
Lunch prices $6 to $15, with the majority in the $8 to $12 range.
Dinner prices $9 to $19, with most entrees in the $16 to 18 range.
Limited breakfast menu also available.
Favorite Dish: The insistence on only the best seasonal ingredients means the menu changes often, so it’s hard to pick a favorite. Most recently we had a great cipolline onion, wild mushroom and fresh mozzarella pizza. For two people, a good lunch option is to split one pizza and one of the splendid salads.
Currently, dinner is served Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings in the summer. Main course entrees feature seafood, along with chicken and lamb, although this varies too.
Multiple vegetarian options at lunch. At dinner vegetarians can have a pizza or combine appetizers and salads for a great meal.
You really can’t go wrong here; whatever you order will be good. Enjoy! And be sure to browse the food and wine shop on your way out.
Patio dining in good weather.
- Food and Dining
Christina's: Internationally Renowned Destination Restaurant
For more than two decades, above a renovated gas station, Christina and Bruce Orchid have been serving some of the freshest, finest food in the San Juan Islands -- some would say in the entire Pacific Northwest. The restaurant has been featured in national magazines including Bon Appetit, Town and Country, and Harper's Bazaar. Last year “Christina’s Cookbook” was published to great critical acclaim. Locals flock here even as the restaurant has become what one reviewer called “a cult destination for foodies.” Despite that, the restaurant remains as welcoming and unpretentious as ever, and Christina is still at the stove. The ingredients are local, mostly raised right on the island itself, and sustainable.
The restaurant is not air conditioned and can be stifling on those few really hot days. Then it’s best to sit on the outside deck, which has a spectacular view over East Sound. (Little bowls set on the railings with scraps of meat and fish help keep the yellow jackets at bay.) Unfortunately, the restaurant is not accessible for those with mobility problems -- it’s up a steep flight of stairs, with restrooms at the main floor entrance. Blessedly, the restaurant is smoke free and a no cell phone zone!
Favorite Dish: The menu changes seasonally, but the saffron seafood stew is usually on the menu and is always wonderful. In fact all the seafood is reliably fabulous. This summer (2005) the cold beet soup with carroway creme fraiche is a dish I keep coming back for. We’ve never had anything here that was less than excellent. For dessert, the buttermilk sorbet with Rainier cherries poached in wine is sublime.
Starters run from $7.50 (salad) to $22 (seafood sampler, suitable for sharing among three or four diners); Small plates are $9.50 to $14.50; large plates run $28 to $30. Excellent wine list; full bar. Open for dinner only. Reservations are essential.
- Food and Dining
ALL Restaurants: Off Season Hours - Operations
Off season -- especially winter -- hours may vary dramatically from summer hours. Some restaurants close altogether in January and February. Unless you are absolutely sure of the off season hours, it's best to call ahead to confirm.
Cafe Olga: Small Out Of The way Treasure
Café Olga located south of Moran State Park in a former a strawberry cannery, the place is small and very popular, so don’t be surprised if you have to wait. The café is housed within Orcas Islands Artworks and is downstairs from a bookstore, so there are plenty of ways to pass the time if you must wait.
They have amazing homemade cinnamon rolls. These are so popular they’ve been known to sell out an hour after they’ve been baked. The are also known for thre freshly baked homemade pies, a Café Olga hallmark. Typical pie offerings, which vary daily, include blackberry, lemon Shaker, and a French chocolate. The lemon Shaker pie is a tart pie that uses the whole lemon, including the peel. The French chocolate pie has a baked chocolate crust with layers of chocolate mouse and chocolate shavings.
Entrees are wonder to look at as well as to eat. The smoked salmon salad is great, served with two crescent rolls, salmon lox and dill cream cheese. Sandwiches range from the basic, such as hot pastrami, to roasted eggplant and hummus. The breakfast menu is limited -- with an option of baked eggs, eggs rancheros, a bowl of hearty granola, or a healthy breakfast milkshake. The dinner menu has many wonderful choices as well.
- Arts and Culture
Sazio di Notte | Chimayo: "Show-Stopping Pasta"
The best Italian food I've eaten this side of the Atlantic. The house-made ravioli stuffed with squash was amazing. The Redemption salad as a starter was very good. We also tried the seafood linguini. You couldn't go wrong ordering anything from the menu. Best dinner we had on Orcas! We'll be back to Orcas - even if it's just to eat dinner there again. Good wine selection as well.
Favorite Dish: Lamb Ragu: It was served with roasted veggies and risotto.
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons