A trip to the San Juans is just another great part of living in Seattle. You drive an hour and a half to Anacortes, hop on a boat, and then you’re in another world, surrounded by marine wildlife, beautiful nature, and small-town coziness. And while there are 172 named islands and reefs to visit, Orcas is one of three that you can get to by ferry. Between all the hiking, kayaking, and whale-watching, you’re going to need to eat and drink - which is where this guide comes in handy. Whether you’re in the mood to bounce around outdoor patios or just get some takeout, here are ten of our favorite restaurants and bars on Orcas Island.
Hogstone's Wood Oven
In the Before Times, a nice sit-down meal at Hogstone would be a given on any trip to Orcas. The restaurant just consists of one little magical room where you sit with friends, passing around beer-pickled clams, pizzas topped with goat cheese and garden herbs, glasses of low-intervention wine, and really f*cking good buttery potato balls with cheddar foam. While things look a little different right now and the dining room is closed, they’ve created a new takeout menu with the same excellent lineup of wood-fired pies and bottles of natural wine, along with other tasty things like grilled vegetables, seafood rolls, and smoked fried buttermilk chicken.
Aside from the closed-until-further-notice Champagne Champagne (we miss you), The Barnacle is our favorite bar on Orcas. When the lights are low, all of the reclaimed wood and ambient rope makes it feel kind of like you’re in an old ship bobbing on open water - only you’re a little tipsy from fantastic cocktails instead of seasickness. Their drinks have a ton of variety, from smoked Manhattans to mojitos with freshly-muddled blueberries, mint, peach, and Mexican mole bitters. If you’re more comfortable outside, they have a gravel patio with extra seating. But if you don’t want to stick around at all, Barnacle also offers to-go cocktails with a meal purchase, like a charcuterie board or oysters.
Brown Bear Baking
While there may be a few brunch staples on this island, what you really need instead is a big post-hike latte and a continental breakfast involving pastries from Brown Bear. For starters, we wouldn’t mind requesting their cream cheese-stuffed pumpkin muffin loaded with crunchy pepita streusel in place of birthday cake every year. Between those and orange morning buns, ham and cheese tartines on housemade bread, and crackly almond bear claws, don’t be surprised if you end up stopping here every morning instead of branching out to try something new. Also, don’t be surprised when you grab a couple of bags of granola for the ferry ride home.
Mijitas Mexican Kitchen
Mijitas serves such great Mexican food that we’re almost angry they don’t have a location in Seattle. Silver lining: It’s just another excuse to make the trip. Whether you’re looking for a handful of fried prawn tacos for takeout or a plate of delicious Dungeness crab enchiladas out on their brick-lined patio, Mijitas is a terrific Mexican restaurant you shouldn’t overlook. Even if you just pop by for guacamole and horchata.
Girl Meets Dirt
Girl Meets Dirt isn’t a restaurant - it’s a retail shop that makes incredible homemade fruit preserves, bitters, and shrubs. But we say it still counts, especially if you twist open a jar of quince marmalade for a taste in the parking lot. You may have seen a limited number of Girl Meets Dirt products at Seattle supermarkets, but there’s nothing quite like standing in front of their entire stock, all while sniffing out apples, pears, and plums steeping away in the back. Not to mention they also offer special edition reserve spreads, Laguiole cheese knives, San Juan sea salt, and custom tumblers made by Forest Ceramics. And if you’re reading this with no plans to travel at all, they have an online shop that ships nationwide.
Island Hoppin' Brewery
We might not be able to play cornhole at Island Hoppin’ at the moment, but their outdoor space is still open for drinking pints of their tasty beer - like the “Feel The Bern” chili-infused blonde or their hoppy Elwha Rock IPA. The best combination in the house, though, is a frosty glass of the raspberry wheat alongside a package of Lummi Island smoked salmon. Just be sure you have a designated driver - there aren’t any rideshares available on Orcas Island, and this brewery is pretty far off the main Eastsound strip.
Clever Cow Creamery
Someone wise once said that vacations aren’t complete without ice cream. OK, we admit it, that was us. Still, Clever Cow is the best spot to grab a scoop on the island, whether you have yours in a housemade waffle cone or as an affogato garnished with chocolate-covered espresso beans. Their flavors range from local lavender and vanilla bean to matcha almond and kale balsamic, and everything here is a pretty stupendous treat no matter the time of year.
Doe Bay Wine Company
Our ultimate happy place on Orcas Island is on a barstool in the back corner at this little wine and cheese shop. And even though we can’t be there right now with a flight and a wedge of fontina, Doe Bay is offering curbside pickup and delivery - which still sounds like the recipe for a perfect evening. While you’ll find a lot of locally produced bottles here, we recommend Doe Bay’s own label, called The Orcas Project - their pinot noir rosé is one of the best in the state.
Orcas Island Farmer's Market
No trip to Orcas is complete without a lap (or two) at the farmer’s market, and it’s a great place to get a literal taste of the island in one afternoon. There are a bunch of treats to buy like baked goods, jams, and even personal pizzas, but the one thing you can’t miss are the homemade Salvadorean pupusas. The masa dough is fluffy, the fillings are flavorful, and the accompanying curtido slaw is tangy with the right amount of acidity. Grab one along with a stack of carnitas tacos and watermelon aguas frescas for a pretty perfect to-go lunch.
When you’re getting ready to go back to Seattle, even with a booked ferry reservation, you still need to arrive an hour before the boat departs. This leaves you with some time to kill. We like to think that’s why Boathouse Ciderworks exists. It’s a bar right next to the Orcas ferry docks that serves a few different types of hard ciders brewed in-house, from classic dry and semi-sweet to versions infused with Cascade hops or rose petals. So, you could sit in the car cleaning out your glove compartment for 45 minutes, or you could go drink a flight while snacking on bowls of spiced popcorn on their waterfront deck. Your call.