Visitors to Whidbey Island typically dine in tried-and-true establishments found in towns and cities, but there are plenty of places — new and old — tucked away in the woods and off the main highway where unexpected tasty treats — from gluten-free pistachio biscotti to roasted kabocha squash — can be found. Here are just a few such places stretching north to south along the main route, State Route 525/Highway 20. Calling ahead is advised as business hours may fluctuate.
Should you happen to need a good stretch early in the morning followed hours later by a hearty lunch, check out Lotus Tea Bar & Studio. Located one block from Oak Harbor’s historic Pioneer Way, it’s known for a variety of sandwiches named after yoga poses and an extensive array of teas.
Owner Maria McGee set out to combine her passions of yoga and tea with a varied menu of nutritious soups and sandwiches when opening her restaurant/yoga studio 13 years ago.
Specials of the day might depend on McGee’s mood or fresh ingredients on hand — which she lets followers know about via Facebook. One day, she writes about using basil and yellow roasted peppers in her hummus, another day she’s getting ready to make pork spare ribs in black bean sauce with a side of bok choy and lemon pepper rice.
“I always try and let customers know the ingredients and the benefits coming from certain flours, vegetables, teas,” McGee said. “This is definitely not fast food.”
Even desserts come with a slice of advice. For instance, chocolate hazelnut shortbread cookies with millet are both delicious and nutritious. “Millet is a good source of protein, fiber, key vitamins and minerals,” McGee points out. “These are one of my favorite cookies.”
McGee also knows tea. Lots about a lot of tea — some 150 flavors are offered— including dozens of shop-crafted blends.
“Most of the people who come in for tea know what they want already,” she says. “The ones who ask usually want me to recommend a tea depending on how they are feeling. This is how we end up creating most of our own blends.” On Mondays, McGee also prepares and sells a special dinner dish via Facebook orders.
Perpetually in motion — either mixing, stirring, cooking, serving or tending to her customers’ many brewing teas — McGee is the ultimate one-woman wonder. Oh, she also leads yoga classes at 7 a.m. in the studio in the back.
710 SE Fidalgo Ave., Oak Harbor
Open 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Saturday
11 a.m.-2 p.m. for lunch and 5-7 p.m. for dinner Tuesday and Thursday
There’s a new tasting room in town alongside Coupeville’s historic wharf, a place to sample apple brews while taking in a stunning view. Greenbank Cidery, co-owned by Jeff Stoner and Kim Taylor, was founded in 2020 after Stoner purchased an orchard of heirloom apple trees between Coupeville and Greenbank.
Soon, his trademark cider with the pickup truck logo, started turning up on tap at Whidbey festivals. Flavors expanded the following year when Taylor joined the business. Ciders called Cherry Pick and Rhuby Tuesday are modeled after Taylor’s grandmother’s recipes for cherry and strawberry rhubarb pies. The variety called Island Elixir includes the invasive herb fireweed blended with organic lavender and turkey tail mushrooms, all sourced from Whidbey’s fields and forests.
“We have 14 varieties of apples on five acres, and nine flavors of cider,” Stoner said. All the ciders are described as “dry to semi-dry with no extra sulfites or sugars.” The Coupeville tasting room is spacious, uncluttered and offers a panoramic view of Penn Cove. Leather chairs invite sipping at a leisurely pace and on Thursday nights, customers are encouraged to break into a stack of board games.
Tasting flights of three cider varieties are offered and 750 milliliter bottles are for sale. This winter, hot mulled spiced cider topped with whipped cream, cinnamon and a doughnut or two turned into a big hit.
Another unique offering is on tap for summer. “We really want to invest in a slushie machine and start serving slushie ciders,” Stoner said. “I think people will love them.”
12 Front St. NW, Coupeville
Open noon-6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday
The hamlet of Greenbank buzzes with cars and customers despite the closure of its historic country store five years ago. On Valentine’s Day, 2022, a coffee house joined the cluster of businesses that include the post office, Greenbank Pantry & Deli and the Weed Shop.
Called Dolce, the cafe and bakery offers delectable pastries, scones, cookies and cakes that often sell out by closing time. One day there might be slices of a 10-layer Ukrainian honey cake, the next day could be Syrian nutmeg cake with whipped cream frosting. Dolce is the latest reincarnation for the tiny white building whose former lives included a tattoo parlor, real estate office, hot dog stand and Mexican restaurant. Renovated with a commercial kitchen, large glass pastry case and beautiful wooden counters, the coffee house also serves as the bakery for the popular deli next door.
Both are owned by Emily Terao and Alex Pulichino. The couple purchased the classic Greenbank Store in 2018 when its longtime owner decided to sell. After learning of the extensive amount of expensive repairs needed to keep the old structure standing — some parts date back to 1934 — they decided to lease a smaller building in the same plaza so the community would have a place to continue buying household basics. They also decided to sell hefty deli sandwiches featuring top-tier meats and cheeses on freshly baked bread. They don’t sell the bread because all the loaves are needed for sandwiches.
“The sandwiches might just sustain us while we put in a new foundation, all new plumbing, new electrical, and on and on into the Greenbank Store,” said Terao. “It’s been a blessing in disguise. Greenbank residents needed a store for milk, bread, cheese, toilet paper and they needed a place to get a snack.”
Some sweets are made daily, such as coconut macaroons, espresso chocolate chip cookies and tiramisu.
“Growing up, my family always had tiramisu,” explained Pulichino. “I think any good Italian cafe needs a good tiramisu.”
Also know there’s pizza, pie and wine just down the road in the historic Greenbank Farm. The Greenbank Farm Wine Shop has expanded in size and selection, now offering tastings, wine by the glass, pizza and charcuterie trays. Next door, Old Spots Bistro continues to sell Whidbey Pies, which are still baked in bulk in the barn, and it offers an impressive choice of breakfast and lunch items, from bacon-gruyere quiche to biscuits and gravy.
Dolce Bakery and Cafe
25171 Highway 525 • Greenbank
Open 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Weekdays
Open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. daily
Old Spots Bistro
Open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday
Seabiscuit Bakery truly is off the beaten path. But it’s by no means unknown. “When we opened a year ago, we had a line out the door and we sold out,” said Allyss Taylor, general manager and chef.
“Being off in the woods is a novelty going for us. It’s a beautiful location and it feels like a secret.” The breakfast and lunch cafe is located in the former restaurant owned by Mukilteo Coffee Roasters Cafe in the Woods.
Seabiscuit started small as a pop-up bakery in a tiny garage near Saltwater Fish House & Oyster Bar in downtown Langley. It quickly became known for its wide selection of freshly baked bread, baguettes and desserts. Both restaurants are owned by Jenn and Sieb Jurriaans, who also own Prima Bistro, the restaurant and bar above Langley’s Star Store.
Taylor describes Seabiscuit as “a European-inspired bakery but with a local influence.” Customers view daily selections displayed in a long glass case. There’s typically a choice of sandwiches, salads, savory and sweet pastries, yogurt with fruit and granola and a soup of the day.
“Everything is made fresh every morning,” Taylor said. “Once it sells out, that’s all there is. Sandwiches usually clear out by 12:30.” Selections on a cold rainy day in January included roasted harissa carrot salad, turkey and brie on a croissant, tomato bisque soup, triple berry hand pie, soft pretzels, caramel brownies and peanut butter marshmallow cookies. Picnic items, such as cheeses, olives, pickles, tuna, wine and cider are also sold as well as the bakery’s homemade granola, biscotti and loaves of bread. Cary Loopuyt Jurriaans, a well-known Whidbey artist, art instructor and mother of Seabiscuit’s owner, happened to be among a gathering of lunching customers one day.
Asked about her favorite items, she raved about the hippie wheat bread and a dessert she described as “a flaky roll swimming in butter and wrapped in sugar. I can’t remember the name but it’s heavenly.” Espresso drinks are also top of the line. Baristas are trained by Gary Smith, longtime coffee connoisseur and owner of Mukilteo Coffee. Alcoholic drinks — mimosas, Bloody Marys, spiked coffees, ciders, wines and beers — are also sold for consumption inside or on Seabiscuit’s beautiful stone-lined patio.
Surrounding Seabiscuit are Cultus Bay Glass Art Gallery, which opened in the fall and features the work of John de Wit, and a small store run by Mukilteo Coffee, where bags of beans and all kinds of java-themed merchandise can be bought. Both are worth adding to your off-the-beaten-path adventure.
3228 Lake Leo Way, Langley
Open 7 a.m.-2 p.m. daily except Wednesday
Cultus Bay Glass Art Studio
Open 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Thursday through Sunday
Open 8 a.m-2 p.m. weekdays
Sound & Summit
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