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Treasure Island

by Kate Calamusa
Orcas Island
Photo by Dana Halferty

Nestled in the heart of the San Juan Islands, Orcas Island offers a wealth of destination dining experiences that are as enchanting as its stunning coastal vistas and charming island vibes. And as midsummer unfurls its vibrant tapestry, the island’s vast array of farm-to-table restaurants, homegrown breweries, top-notch wineries, and culinary-minded inns beckon boating enthusiasts to drop anchor, hop aboard the tender, and head ashore to indulge in gastronomic adventure and more. From sun-kissed patios overlooking serene harbors to rustic dining rooms imbued with local charm, these eateries serve up fresh fare that captures the essence of this bountiful haven, where the flavors of the Pacific Northwest meet the passions of dedicated local farmers and chefs.

[Into the Drink]

Orcas Island Winery (orcasislandwinery.com), a gem nestled in the lush hills near the base of the Turtleback Mountain Preserve, offers a delightful retreat for those seeking a taste of the island’s viticultural excellence. This family-owned boutique winery, the island’s first when established in 2011, boasts a rustic-yet-refined tasting room housed in the modern farmhouse of your dreams; the expansive outdoor patio also provides a splendid setting to enjoy a glass of their exquisite Pinot Noir or Chardonnay. The serene property is both kid- and dog-friendly, offers an array of gourmet picnic provisions to enjoy alongside your wine, and, come summer, hosts free weekend concerts featuring local musicians, as well as a pop-up restaurant on Friday evenings that stars Pan-Asian cuisine from local eatery The Kitchen.

Nestled in the heart of Eastsound, Doe Bay Wine Company (doebaywinecompany.com) is one part wine shop, one part tasting room, and all things charming. With both local and globally sourced options, the cozy, colorful little shop offers a curated selection of fine wines, including rare finds and sustainable choices. Visitors can enjoy tastings that highlight the unique characteristics of each bottle, often paired with local artisanal cheeses and charcuterie.

Also in Eastsound and festooned with old sailor’s ropes, seashells, and rich wood tables, the intimate, eclectic haven known as The Barnacle (thebarnacle.com) beckons you to belly up to the bar to enjoy an innovative, hand-crafted cocktail or meticulously crafted small plate. Pacific Northwest treasures are found in just about every sip on the seasonally inspired menu, from the locally grown herbs, botanicals, and berries that often flavor the drinks to the fir-tip-infused ice cubes that keep ‘em chill.

The first and only microbrewery located on Orcas, Island Hoppin’ (islandhoppinbrewery.com) offers a rotating selection of their own craft brews, which range from puckery IPAs to reds and warm stouts. A hot summer’s day calls for a pint of the Feel the Burn Chili Blonde, a spicy summer sipper that can be served up Michalata style with Clamato, mango juice, Worcestershire sauce, pepperoncini juice, hot sauce, salt, and pepper, all served in a glass with Tajin on the rim. Outside food is always welcomed, but the brewery also offers a plentiful selection of bites that includes a local cheese plate complemented with Girl Meets Dirt jam.

[Get it to Go]

If you need to provision the galley for your return to sea, the aforementioned Girl Meets Dirt (girlmeetsdirt.com)headquarters sits at the ready on the corner of Lover’s Lane and Enchanted Forest Road in Eastsound. There, you’ll find a sweet selection of hand-crafted jams, shrubs, and bitters made with Island-grown ingredients like pears, plums, rhubarb, and lavender, as well as items from neighboring islands, like seasonings from San Juan Island Salt Co. (The limited-edition peppered peach jam is a real friend to cheese, and the Island Pear or Plum shrubs simply need a splash of sparkling water to shine brightly all summer long.)

The smell of caramelized sugar, rich butter, and yeasty bread wafts from Brown Bear Baking (brownbearbaking.com)in Eastsound, a must-stop for all your carbohydrate needs. Sit at one of the picnic tables out front to enjoy a flaky croissant or slice of quiche, then be sure to snag a loaf of Mission Fig Apricot, Tuscan Olive, or Country Hearth bread to take back for building summer sammies. Located on an old island homestead in a small orchard garden in the center of town, Olga Rising (olgarising.com) serves up a great cuppa joe (crafted with Lighthouse Roasters espresso) as well as a stellar roster of breakfast sandwiches, pastries, and lunch items that can be ordered ahead online. Enjoy while relaxing on one of the Adirondack chairs found on the quaint, kitschy patio.

[Taste of the Islands]

Abutting the lapping waters of Buck Bay in Olga, Buck Bay Shellfish (buckbayshellfishfarm.com) could be described as both as a seed-to-shuck establishment—the briny oysters and clams found on the menu are all cultivated mere feet from the patio dining area where you’ll enjoy your meal—as well as a fisherperson-to-feast provisionary as you can also grab fresh crab and fish at the Buck Bay fish market. (Most of the time, the friendly staffers are on a first-name basis with the local who caught your fish!) With outdoor and tented seating that looks out onto the water, the Buck Bay Bistro exudes convivial, casual vibes as you sup on fried oysters, crab cakes, fish n’ chips, shrimp tacos, and other fresh fare. Do be prepared to while away some time, as the spot is a favorite amongst visitors and islanders alike, and for very good reason.

When one thinks of fine dining on the Islands, the highly-acclaimed Matia Kitchen (matiakitchen.com) and its sultry little sister, Monti (montimontimonti.com), mayimmediately come to mind. Chef Avery Adams—who recently received a James Beard Foundation nomination in the Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific category—helms the kitchens at both restaurants with a hyper-local approach to their creative and adventurous menus. At Matia, dishes are dreamed up the night before service, lending beautifully to selections that capture of-the-moment ingredients. If you can snag a reservation for the nightly chef’s counter, by all means do so; available to just six diners nightly, Chef Adams curates a multi-course feast that can only be described as a culinary journey. Monti, housed in the same building since Matia re-opened there in 2023 after a brief closure, boasts both a sexy, chandelier-lit bar fit for date nights and a breezy patio for drinking in the views. The food here is distinctly Italian infused, often offering fresh pastas in addition to charcuterie, fresh focaccia, and bar bites, and, of course, the cocktails are top-notch.

Eastsound pizza lovers, still smarting from the loss of longtime staple Hogstone, rejoiced late last spring when the gourmet eatery was reborn as Houlme (houlme.com). Piping hot, wood-fired pizza is still largely the name of the game here, but chef and co-owner Jay Blackington is also putting that oven to good use for a vast array of seasonally driven sides, salads, and sweets, too. It’s all super bright and super fresh: a summery salad topped with grilled garlic scapes, hot honey-drizzled carrots with whipped goat cheese, or chilled summer cucumbers swimming in balsamic, with hazelnuts and dill.

[Stay A While]

If you are in need of a night or two on terra firma, there is also stellar dining to be had at a number of the island’s inns, retreats, and farms. The Outlook Inn (outlookinn.com) in Eastsound is all things resting and relaxing, plus the hotel’s New Leaf Cafe (outlookinn.com/newleaf) offers brunch, happy hour, and dinnertime delights that can be enjoyed in their airy dining room or waterfront patio. Locals highly recommend the braised duck ragu that sits atop a pile of ruffled-edge tripolini pasta made by the island’s own Local-Goods. The outdoor soaking tubs found at the spa located within the picturesque Doe Bay Resort & Retreat (doebay.com) would make for a lovely afternoon sojourn, to be followed by an equally lovely meal at the Doe Bay Cafe (doebay.com/cafe). Much of the produce on the menu is grown on-site at the resort’s organic garden, and the vegetable-fueled dishes are, in general, very vegan and gluten-free friendly. Immerse yourself in farm life at Once in a Blue Moon Farm (onceinabluemoonfarm.com), a third-generation family farm located on the sunny western slope of Mount Woolard near West Sound, where you can also take a farm tour and pick up farm goods such as eggs, orchard fruit, and more to enjoy during your overnighter. Or, peer at the 180-degree water views from your suite, pet the rescue animals, and pluck garden-grown produce from the U-pick patch, all with a stay at the utterly charming Pebble Cove Farm (pebblecovefarm.com) in Eastsound.

Orcas Island Feature
Photo by Dana Halferty

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