10 Essential San Juan Islands Places to Eat & Drink

By Leslie Kelly
May 12, 2014
By Leslie Kelly  |  May 12, 2014

The beautiful San Juans are about three hours from Seattle - by car to Anacortes and then ferry - but the chill island vibe makes this destination feel like another world. It's a lush, rural paradise where you can see Canada on the horizon, deer bounding through yards and, if you're lucky, resident Orca whales just off the rugged coast. The two most visited islands - San Juan and Orcas - are packed with interesting restaurants, bars and cafes - many of them do true farm-to-table cooking, with the produce within steps of the kitchen. Here are 10 delicious, must-try destinations for your next visit.

  • Photo by: Claire Nelson

    Lime Kiln Cafe

    Why It's Cool: The sun-drenched outdoor deck at this casual spot at the historic Roche Harbor Resort practically hangs out over the water. 
    Must-Order: Fish 'n' chips are done well here: the beer battered cod, fried crisp and served with an extra tart tartar sauce, with a side of vinegary slaw.
    Insider Tip: This breakfast and lunch spot is an order-at-the-counter setup, so if you want full service, head back down the dock to the Madrona Bar and Grill, a sister venue with an equally captivating view of the waterfront. After eating, head over and check out the nearby, 30-acre sculpture park.

    248 Reuben Memorial Dr., Friday Harbor; 360-378-2155

  • Photo by: Claire Nelson

    Crow's Nest Coffee

    Why It's Cool: Seasoned barista Jon Hurley left the Seattle scene to start this sweet shop with his wife, Mary, on the town's main drag, and it's become a favorite place for locals and visitors alike.
    Must-Order: The espresso drinks are excellent, made with Victrola beans, roasted fresh and delivered from Seattle each week. 
    Insider Tip: While coffee is the main attraction, the drink menu also includes old-fashioned shakes and daily food specials. Drink your latte or mocha or Americano there and you'll be served in one of the mix-and-match vintage mugs. 

    70 Spring St., Friday Harbor; 360-378-2010

  • Photo by: Claire Nelson

    The Mansion at Rosario

    Why It's Cool: Dining at the beautifully restored Rosario Resort on Orcas Island is a full-sensory experience with savory fragrances drifting from the display kitchen into the fine-dining space where every table enjoys spectacular waterfront views. 
    Must-Order: Oysters grown in nearby Judd Cove are super fresh, plump and briny. You can order them as single shots, but why settle for less than a dozen? 
    Insider Tip: Reservations are a must, especially during the high season, but you can usually score a table for breakfast, which features a luxe version of chicken fried steak and eggs, customizable omelets and oversized pancakes. 

  • Photo by: Claire Nelson

    Cask & Schooner

    Why It's Cool: This family-friendly restaurant on the waterfront near the ferry terminal in Friday Harbor takes pub fare to a new level.
    Must-Order: The lamb burger is made with meat raised on a Lopez Island farm. It's ultrajuicy and has a subtle gamey flavor that's tamed by the generous addition of creamy feta and sweet-hot Mama Lil's peppers.  
    Insider Tip: This place is very popular, so make a reservation. If you have time to kill before your table's ready, wander down to the harbor for a possible sighting of Popeye, the resident seal.

    1 Front St., Friday Harbor; 360-378-2922

  • Photo by: Claire Nelson

    Coho Restaurant

    Why It's Cool: East Coast transplants Anna Maria de Freitas and David Pass have created a comfortable fine-dining spot with a Mediterranean-inspired menu that looks as if it belongs in the big city.
    Must-Order: Chef Bill Messick's offerings are updated frequently to reflect what's in season, but if it's available, don't miss the outstanding gnocchi: tender dumplings sautéed with pancetta and asparagus. 
    Insider Tip: Wine Spectator magazine loves Coho's list and so do we, with its deep selection of food-friendly Northwest gems. Try the Oriana, a bright, crisp Rhône-style white from Brian Carter Cellars

    120 Nichols St., Friday Harbor; 360-378-6330

  • Photo by: Claire Nelson

    Tucker House Inn

    Why It's Cool: This bed-and-breakfast dates back to the early 1900s, when San Juan Island was first being settled, but it's far from a creaky old house. Comfy updates include flip-on fireplaces, plush robes, whirlpool tubs and the best breakfast in Friday Harbor.
    Must-Order: Guests staying at the Inn start the day with a three-course meal that includes excellent housemade granola, an omelet and cheesecake.
    Insider Tip: Book one of the suites - we like Victoria's Flower Garden suite - and the culinary team will deliver breakfast to you.

    275 C St., Friday Harbor; 360-378-2783

  • Photo by: Claire Nelson

    Westcott Bay Cider

    Why It's Cool: One of the leaders in the Northwest cider movement - now going strong with dozens of producers throughout Washington state - this small operation uses obscure apple varieties like Yarlington Mill, Dabinett and Sweet Coppin to create its complex, yet easy-drinking products that are featured at bars in Friday Harbor. 
    Must-Order: When visiting the tasting room, try all three, from the very dry to the medium sweet. The slightly effervescent dry is spot on with all sorts of seafood.
    Insider Tip: Visit the tasting room between 1 and 4 PM, Thursday-Sunday between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Appointments can be scheduled other days by calling 360-378-2606.

    12 Anderson Ln., Friday Harbor; 360-378-3880

  • Photo by: Claire Nelson

    New Leaf Cafe 

    Why It's Cool: The inviting dining room at Eastsound's historic Outlook Inn on Orcas Island has an extremely talented chef who last worked for Microsoft. Steve Debaste has created an exceptional lineup that's worth the trip from the mainland. 
    Must-Order: Local clams steamed in white wine and fresh herbs are a great place to start, as are the tender mussels finished in a memorable crème fraîche curry sauce the chef learned how to make from family in Southern France. On the main plates, the pan-seared Alaskan weathervane scallops are everything scallops should be: perfectly seared on the outside, creamy within. The fresh halibut with local greens is elegant and rustic at the same time.
    Insider Tip: Get the party started in the lounge during the popular happy hour and then move into the dining room for dinner. Weekend brunch is also offered.

    171 Main St., Eastsound; 360-376-2200

  • Photo by: Claire Nelson

    Brown Bear Baking

    Why It's Cool: You can taste the love that goes into these handcrafted pastries and hearth bread that's served in a cafe setting in the heart of Eastsound, the biggest little city on Orcas, a 15-minute drive from the ferry landing. 
    Must-Order: The blueberry muffin makes a terrific eye-opener, especially if you arrive around 9 AM in the morning, when they're still warm from the oven. 
    Insider Tip: The bakery's signature quiche - one meat-centric and another veggie version - goes quickly, so time your visit to the time when it arrives each morning, usually around 10 AM. Grab a table on the wraparound porch for some fantastic people-watching.

    29 N. Beach Rd., Eastsound; 360-855-7456

  • Photo by: Claire Nelson

    Doe Bay Cafe

    Why It's Cool: It's a drive to get to this remote resort, but so worth the effort, as it sits high on a bluff overlooking a bay where you're likely to spot bald eagles soaring overhead.
    Must-Order: At weekend brunch, the croque madame features a sunnyside up egg from the resident chickens and a side of tender greens grown on-site. It's a lovely preparation that's a departure from the usual super-rich sandwich. Also try a cup of Harmony chai, a spicy, not-too-sweet sipper made on the island. 
    Insider Tip: This no-frills destination is home to an under-the-radar five-day summer music festival recently featured in a documentary subtitled: The Best Music Festival You've Never Heard Of. Doe Bay Fest is August 7 this year, and tickets sell out quickly.

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