One might say it was love at first sight, on Valentine’s Day, that led to Michael Weeks and Emily Harding Hill to start a new business.
“We were waiting to get back home in the ferry line and decided to come across the street to this little cafe for a cup of coffee, and we saw that it was for sale,” Weeks said. “And that sparked an interest, and we started looking into it and realized that it was an opportunity we could take advantage of.
“That began the long process to purchase this restaurant and relocate our family here.”
“Immediately we thought that this would be a really special location,” Harding Hill said.
Nestled between Admiralty Inlet and Crockett Lake, the property, formerly home of Keystone Cafe, has a spectacular waterfront view and front row seats to watch the comings and goings of the state ferry to Port Townsend.
Kitsap to Coupeville
The couple packed up and moved from Kitsap County to Coupeville two months ago, opening Callen’s Restaurant on July 31.
Already, business is good, Weeks said.
“We have found the local people to be so welcoming and so hospitable,” he said. “They’re welcoming us into their community and telling us they’re going to support us and that they’re so grateful this location is open again.”
The building first opened as The Ripp Tide restaurant nearly 70 years ago. More recently, Keystone Cafe was run by Ray and Christy Kellison, who operated the restaurant for 10 years.
Weeks said he was told the restaurant used to be across the street, where the ferry landing is now located, and it was to be torn down after the location of the ferry landing was changed. Locals reportedly loved the restaurant so much, they got together and jacked the building up, set it on logs and rolled it across the street to where it stands now.
Weeks is no stranger to the restaurant business, having worked at several upscale Northwest restaurants as well as directing food and beverage operations at the Point Casino and Hotel in Kingston for 12 years.
Harding Hill’s background includes 14 years spent in economic development for the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe.
The couple has six children.
Choosing a name
How did they come up with the name for their restaurant?
“It’s our youngest daughter’s middle name,” Harding Hill said. “Callen’s seemed really comfortable and friendly, which is what we are trying to go for.”
“There is no ‘Mr. Callen,’ even though I’m called Mr. Callen all the time,” Weeks said, laughing. “He’s not a person.”
Even their logo they designed with the Puget Sound starfish is intended to be fun and friendly. When they saw the name of the font, “Amazing Kids,” they thought, “Oh, that’s perfect,” Weeks said.
Inside the restaurant, there’s fresh-cut sunflowers on the tables, walls painted in pastel colors and beach-themed decorations. Adding to the beachy atmosphere are the wormwood-lined walls of the dining room. The wood was part of the Ripp Tide restaurant and was originally used to suspend mussel ropes at Coupeville’s Penn Cove mussel farm.
There’s also a saltwater fish tank, one of Weeks’ hobbies. It holds “Nemo” and “Dory,” who are identical to their movie counterparts.
Callen’s offers a quick “to go” food counter with espresso and sandwiches. The restaurant’s menu includes Penn Cove mussels, a sockeye BLTA, burgers, fish and chips, steak and mac and cheese, with the option of adding Dungeness crab.
“We rotate our menu frequently. Every few weeks we add new items and take stuff off,” Weeks said. “We welcome the local community to come check us out and we welcome their feedback.”
The couple hopes to expand the kitchen and be open seven days a week.
Currently, the restaurant’s schedule is 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., except on Friday and Saturday, when it closes at 9 p.m. It is closed on Tuesdays.
“Our mission is not to be a high-end, fancy dinner house, but just a really homey place where the community can go for affordable, great quality food,” Weeks said.
“That’s really how we want to position ourselves — to just be very friendly and have great quality food that’s not going to empty your wallet.”