A quick 35-minute ferry ride from the downtown Seattle Ferry Terminal, Bainbridge Island is an easy day trip with or without a vehicle. Nature reserves and farms dot the commuter town, which was once known primarily for its sawmills and strawberries. Bainbridge is also infamously the first place the United States government forcibly rounded up Japanese Americans for incarceration during World War II, a sordid history commemorated powerfully by the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial, located on the southside of Eagle Harbor. Nowadays, the island is well stocked with interesting shops, restaurants and alcohol producers, many conveniently crowded along a half-mile stretch of Winslow Way, a few minutes’ walk from the ferry landing. This main drag offers a wealth of opportunities to indulge an interest in arts, culture and, of course, delicious food and drink, while other gems are accessible via a short Uber or taxi ride.
As you board the ferry, head for the galley to perk up with Seattle staples like Caffe Vita coffee and Greek yogurt from Ellenos, whose rich base is topped with the likes of lemon curd and marionberries. Be sure to pop up to the top deck for unbeatable views of the Seattle skyline and pristine Puget Sound. Once you disembark on the island, follow the crowds along Olympic Drive SE to reach Winslow Way E, the epicenter of activity. At Blackbird Bakery, sit outside and people watch with a tender seasonal scone and an Americano featuring beans from Seattle roaster Herkimer Coffee, then browse an excellent selection of reading material at Eagle Harbor Book Co.
For more bodacious baked goods, find Coquette, with offerings running the gamut from chocolate croissants and pear galettes to bagels and baguette sandwiches with roast beef. You can sit for a heartier brunch at Good Egg, a comfy counter-service cafe with yummy shakshuka, egg salad sandwiches, cinnamon rolls and a custom blend from Bainbridge’s own Islandcraft Coffee Roasters. Another rib-sticking option is Hitchcock Deli; try the house pastrami sandwich with sauerkraut or the Italian herb-rubbed porchetta with a savory larb gai Thai salad. Break from eating and take time to admire contemporary local works in the beautiful, free Bainbridge Island Museum of Art.
Now that your belly is full, crawl island wineries that have tasting rooms on Winslow Way. Eleven Winery’s founder left bicycle racing to make wine, so the company is named not only for a “Spinal Tap” reference but also for a bike term with similar go-all-out connotations. (When you’re cranking in the highest gear, you’re using the smallest cog, which has 11 teeth.) Create your own a flight from the reserve section, sipping bright, tropical whites and rich, smooth reds featuring Mourvèdre and Syrah. Across the street, snag a patio seat at Eagle Harbor Wine Co. and taste single varietals like Founders Merlot, sourced entirely from Dwelly Farm Vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley and lush with notes of chocolate-covered blueberry. Highly awarded Amelia Wynn Winery’s cozy spot features lovely local art and a secluded back patio. Order a cheese plate and a themed flight to find complex, food-friendly treasures like the 2015 Cuvée from Walla Walla Valley, blending Merlot, Tempranillo and Cabernet Franc.
Now’s a good time to hail a ride to journey the couple miles north to Coppertop business park and Fletcher Bay Winery’s production facility and heated patio. Once you’ve sipped your way through lauded wines like the bell-peppery 2016 Cabernet Franc, refuel next door with a wheat-free peanut butter cookie and coffee hand-brewed with a Costa Rican chorreador at Sweet Dahlia Baking. And don’t miss the national award-winning gorgonzola vegetarian pie at That’s A Some Pizza, where the sourdough starter is more than a century old. For a spirited finish, cross to Bainbridge Organic Distillers, which uses local grains in Douglas fir-infused gins and a whiskey aged entirely in new casks of rare Japanese Mizunara oak.
Back on Winslow Way, get a little fancy at Hitchcock. A chef’s tasting menu will undoubtedly include some pork from the restaurant’s own Mangalitsa pigs — unless you opt for vegetarian, also a strong choice given the kitchen’s deft touch with local produce, fresh or preserved. Want something similarly refined but decidedly French? Intimate Restaurant Marché’s menu is a master class in standards made with local ingredients, like anise-tinged mussels and fries and unctuous cassoulet. The wine list, all French or Pacific Northwest and categorized by terms like “fresh and clean” and “big and bold,” is tightly curated to complement the food at affordable prices.
If you still need a bite to go with your drink, have a glass of rosé and baked oysters at Bar Hitchcock, attached to Hitchcock Deli. Otherwise, the crowd should finally be thinning at buzzy Bruciato, Hitchcock’s sibling pizzeria with impeccable wood-fired, Neapolitan-style pie. Of course, many of the meats are cured in-house, so seek out hot soppressata, coppa and pork sausage toppings to go with a fancy cocktail like grappa-based By the Fire. Just need a nightcap near the terminal before your ferry back to Seattle? The Bainbridge Brewing Alehouse is a friendly taproom serving its own beers — including year-round refreshers like Kommuter Kölsch and experimental batches of sours, herbaceous porters and hoppy lagers — as well as rotating taps from other regional breweries and cideries.
The article originally ran in the summer 2019 print edition of Sip Northwest. For the full article and more like it, click here.