In our nearly three years in Seattle, we’ve been lucky enough to have a good number of loved ones come visit. One of my go-to activities is to take the ferry from downtown to Bainbridge Island for brunch. I love grabbing a coffee at Starbucks on the corner of 1st & Marion before walking down the walkway to the terminal, buying a $5 round trip ticket from the electronic kiosk and then walking aboard the ferry. The views of downtown never disappoint, and within 35 minutes (just about the time you realize you’re freezing), the boat docks. After disembarking (I love that word, fyi.), it’s a short 5 minute walk into the town of Winslow, where all the stores and restaurants are easily accessibly along Winslow Way for browsing and strolling.
But the thing is, if it’s a weekend, and you’re heading to Cafe Nola, which is where you’d be crazy not to be heading, chances are you’re not the only one. Awhile back, Giada De Laurentiis did a weekend guide of where to eat in Seattle on the Food Network. To be fair, she’s the one that deserves the credit for the brilliant Bainbridge Island brunch trip. But, anyway, whether it’s because of Giada or just good marketing and word of mouth, lots of Seattleites head to Cafe Nola for brunch. So when you get off the ferry you have to hustle. I invariably am annoying my companions by insisting we speed walk. “Hurry!” They always thank me. Because we get to Cafe Nola and get one of the last open tables, and we’re enjoying our amazing bloody marys while the other suckers are loitering in the entryway waiting for a table.
Brunch at Cafe Nola is devine. Their bloody marys are fantastic; the kind with a garden growing upwards out of them. They have different variations to choose from too, like one with beef juice dripped in. I always go classic though. And as far as food goes, it’s all good. But the must-order here is the Carmel Pecan French Toast. It is life changing. I promise. It comes with orange bourbon butter. Don’t waste any time being indecisive. Just order it. You won’t be disappointed. Especially after running from the ferry dock.
This past week, my dearest friend Alli was in town for a visit. We really wanted to take a ferry somewhere, so Bainbridge was the natural choice. But, it wasn’t the weekend. That meant having brunch at Cafe Nola was not an option. We decided to head there anyway (not walking as fast off the ferry though), and arrived around 2pm. Our friendly waitress popped up to our booth with “Hi! Would you like a Guiness!?” Huh? “In honor of St. Patrick’s Day!” Oh. No thanks. We instead looked at the menu. $1 PBRs!!?! You’re kidding me. “You basically lose money if you don’t order one,” advises our server. We’ll have two.
Lunch food was delicious. We had an arugula salad with roasted squash, blue cheese, and lemon caper vinaigrette accompanied by the more indulgent bacon wrapped chorizo stuffed dates. Yum. But the real clincher was the $1 PBRs. It wasn’t like they brought out the can from the back room. They poured them into the coolest high ball glasses. (It kind of made me want to get some of the same glasses. Until Alli reminded me I have way too many glasses already.) Duly noted: lunch at Cafe Nola is just as amazing as brunch.
Another advantage to the afternoon trip to Bainbridge, we discovered, is wine tasting. Apparently Bainbridge has a growing wine scene, with 8 wineries on the island. We ventured into eleven, where the friendly sommelier Kevin got our tasting started. There are a few other tasting rooms within steps of the ferry (see this guide from Sunset magazine) and I’m sure they’re all nice, but I recommend eleven. The wine was impressive, the prices reasonable, and Kevin provided fantastic service.
We opted to taste all 9 of the available wines (at $1 a taste, why not?!). We sipped away while Kevin told us about the winery, where they source their grapes (all from Eastern Washington except those that make their Pinot Gris port), and life living on Bainbridge. The wine was really good. My favorites were their Pinot Grigio and a red blend called La Ronde (65% Malbec, 28% Syrah, and 7% Petit Verdot). Alli treated me to a bottle of the Pinot Grigio and I bought a bottle of the Sweet Sarah port, so we have two bottles of Bainbridge wine to enjoy at some point this spring.
Moral of the story is this: if you live in Seattle or come to Seattle, make the day trip to Bainbridge Island. While there, eat at Cafe Nola. After some delicious fare, there are many other fun things to explore – one of which is wine tasting!