For those of you that know me, you know I love food. My first job was at a local cafe in Freeland, where I learned my way around a kitchen. I followed the culinary career path for awhile, working in several different restaurants until I became Executive Chef at a BBQ joint down in Portland. Eventually, I pursued my career in marketing and left the Restaurant business behind, but I still have a love and passion for good food, good atmosphere, and good service – the 3 things that make a great restaurant.
I’ve lived on Whidbey Island my whole life, and I love to eat out, so I’ve been to just about every restaurant on Whidbey, only missing a few up in Oak Harbor. I’ve seen (and tasted) the best and worst Whidbey has to offer. So, without further ado, I present to you, in my humble opinion…
The Top 10 Restaurants on Whidbey Island
by Alex Bonesteel
Front Street Grill offers a beautiful dining room and full bar with awe inspiring views of Penn Cove and Mt. Baker. Pair the beautiful setting with a carefully crafted and exquisitely executed menu that provides a classic American Grill experience plus authentic Pacific Northwest fare, and you have the recipe for a perfect Whidbey island dining experience.
Highlights include the Penn Cove Mussels and Prime Rib. Front Street Grill offers take-out service, as well as full service catering in their dining room or at a location of your choice for your special event.
Located just 3 doors down from the Historic Coupeville Wharf, Front Street Grill is the perfect place for causal dining in a warm atmosphere. Bring your whole family for Weekend breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Their menu includes vegetarian and gluten free options, as well as a kids menu.
The menu at Christopher’s is small, but foolproof. Anything I have tried here has always been delicious. I’m a bigger guy, and the portions are so generous, even for someone with a large appetite like me that I can count on taking something home to enjoy later. The prices are very good for the food you receive, for instance; Linguine Alfredo is $13.95 and comes with a salad as well. The Penn Cove Mussels are prepared correctly. Chef Andreas uses just the right amount of garlic, cream and white wine. If you are looking to try the famed Penn Cove Mussels, this would be my first choice! Other highlights include the Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin, and Raspberry Glazed Salmon and Wild Rice.
They have a great wine selection, including local wines, as well as an extensive beer selection.
The service is generally top notch with attentive and timely wait staff who know not to ask you how your meal is when your mouth is full. Atmosphere is generally quite nice, with stylish decor, optional outdoor seating, and warm ambient lighting.
Christopher’s gets a special nod from me because when my wife was in the hospital, recovering from her caesarean section after the birth of our first child, she got tired of hospital food. So I ordered The Pork Tenderloin and Linguine Alfredo to go, and brought it back to the maternity ward. They put a lot of care into that to-go box and we had a wonderful meal.
The moment you enter the rightly named Frasers Gourmet Hideaway, you will notice an attention to detail and a feeling of pampered senses that continues throughout the evening. I’ve been here twice and it was a truly high-end dining experience each time, with food and service both among the best I have had the pleasure to enjoy.
Opened in July of 2006, Frasers Gourmet Hideaway immediately has a strong client base of locals and tourists alike that continue to name the restaurant a hometown favorite. This restaurant has received some local and national press for the quality of food they serve.
Decor includes rich wood floors, plush leather chairs, and golden light from blown glass sconces and chandeliers. The look is sophisticated, but casual all the same. Frasers features a dramatic open kitchen where guests can enjoy the lively ambiance of the dining room or cozy up to the action at the illuminated onyx chef’s counter.
Executive Chef Scott Fraser graduated from the French-focused Pierre Dubrulle Culinary School understands the importance of food. He creates a seasonal menu that takes advantage of the freshest local ingredients and promotes the bounty of the Northwest.
Every time I go to Pickles, I tell myself I’m gonna try something new, but I always end up getting my favorite: The Spicy Italian. It is undoubtedly the best sandwich you will ever have the pleasure of tasting. Sometimes, because I’m in the mood, I’ll order a Spicy Italian, and a Smokey Beast, then just save half of each for when I get home. The sandwiches are that damn good. Macklemore eats here…
The menu is awesome, offering something for everyone, and every single item is so damn good I can’t even put it into words. Kim Bailey, the Executive Chef and Owner really does it right, extremely high quality standards so every time you eat here the quality never suffers, no matter how busy they get. If I lived in Seattle, I would hop on the ferry and walk up the hill out of Clinton just to eat here. If you’re on Whidbey, you gotta stop here.
They even serve beer and wine…at a deli. Perfect.
As the name suggests, the atmosphere at Rustica is visually warm and inviting, with a décor that has a rustic influence. When they built out the space, they used re-claimed, locally harvested, ancient woods for the front entry double doors, as well as the huge slab wood bar and vertical wood slats on the walls. It truly was a labor of love and artistry when they created this space. No cookie cutter corporate touches anywhere here. Oh, and the stippled copper wall covering behind the bar is so cool!
Serving locally sourced (whenever possible), seasonal farm to table ingredients, Rustica has an Italian-Mediterranean-Spanish inspired menu. Quite a sumptuous combo! With this rich and diverse foundation of culinary traditions, Rustica serves up very creative menu options. You’ll likely find dishes and flavors here you won’t find anywhere else on the island.
They’ve chosen some diverse wines from around the world to accompany the flavors infused in the food they serve, so if pairing a wine with your food is a consideration, I think you’ll be pleased.
From light fare to filling full course dinners, starters to desserts, Rustica is a favorite.
Ah, true Neapolitan, wood fired pizza baked at 800 degrees! If you’re not fond of pizza with tons of gooey cheese and processed toppings, then you’ll love what you find at Ciao. At Ciao’s you’ll find imported cheeses and olive oils imported from sun drenched Italy, plus ingredients from Whidbey farms as the seasons allow.
Ciao is an island favorite featuring authentic Italian food, with Neapolitan style pizza that will make you think you’re in Italy. Owner/chef Mark Laska told me he conveys his love for people by cooking for them, and I’ve found this passion throughout the menu he’s created.
If pizza is not on your list, the salad pizzas and seafood bowls are a great alternative. There should be something here for the whole family.
There are two levels of dining. Main floor seating lets you see the open kitchen and pizza oven, while the upper level includes a full bar and views of Penn Cove and the Cascade Mountains. A seat on the deck outside upstairs is a coveted spot (but only if the weather allows).
You’ll find local, live music to enjoy, but call ahead for the schedule. Times changes by the season.
They’ve recently added new, outdoor patio seating out front, with huge stone landscaping effects, umbrellas and heaters. It’s a great place for an outdoor meal … (again, it depends on the weather).
And last but not least, their gelato is to die for. Sourced from Gelatiamo in Seattle, the recipe dates back to the 1700’s. Ooh la la!
Alfy’s Pizza made the cut to be included in our Top 10 restaurants on Whidbey Island because they offer a great value. If you’re looking for an affordable, yet high quality dining experience, Alfy’s is the place to go.
I’ve probably visited a hundred pizza joints in my lifetime. I haven’t seen another pizza place that offers what this place has. Alfy’s is a great combination of food and amenities. Voted best pizza and salad bar, there is seating on two levels, each with a wonderful, expansive view of the water. Newly, and completely remodeled throughout, there’s an “all you can eat” salad bar and half price pizza (lunch time only), wine and beer (on tap too!) to compliment your food, an arcade game room, and an assortment of sandwiches and pastas.
Owners Brett and Tina Olson are hands-on proprietors. They work hard and pay attention to make sure every dining experience at their restaurant is a good one. The service is friendly, the prices are fair.
It’s a really nice experience overall, and a great place for a quick bite, or to bring the family or group of friends for a casual outing.
Chef Gordon has a special place in his heart for New Orleans and you will find his menu peppered with the Cajun influence he holds so dear. In addition, there is vast array of choices which incorporate Contemporary American Cuisine, Northwest seafood dishes, steaks, chicken, pastas and more
Chef Gordon is known by many for his exquisite ability to layer flavors, and create delectable combinations, all while producing beautifully-presented meals with a simple elegance. That reputation is well deserved. Your meal at Gordon’s is sure to be one of the best you’ve ever had. In addition, with a farm-to-kitchen philosophy, Gordon works with several local producers to provide fresh local ingredients, supporting community while providing the very best in fresh seasonal fare.
Gordon’s offers happy hour and small plates as well as a full bar. Service is always top notch, and atmosphere is always nice, as long as you get a good table.
If Southern Italian cuisine with a Northwest twist is what you’re craving, I think you’ll enjoy what you find at Charmers Bistro in Freeland. It’s a relaxed dining experience with full bar service, including an out-of- the ordinary selection of wines from Italy and other regions to compliment the entrees.
Chef/Owner Linda Coffman has carefully selected everything you’ll see on the menu, and her attention to detail shows through. She’s added a bit of Northwest fresh flavorings and accents to centuries old recipes, and the result is quite wonderful. All sauces, dressings and desserts are made in-house. They also offer a limited selection of vegetarian and gluten free items.
Entrees include what you’d expect, and hoped for…pasta, gourmet pizzas, hand cut rib eye, seafood and more.
Sunday brunch at Charmers Bistro is well worth checking out. While the menu may change, it has featured a seafood tower salad with tomatoes, avocado, Dungeness crab and prawns, leading to tantalizing entrées and desserts. Quite decadent!
This is a South island favorite!
If you’re looking for good Chinese food and a nice atmosphere, you can’t go wrong with either of their two Whidbey Island locations.
China City has an exceptionally wide selection of American Chinese cuisine. Included in their menu are excellent entrees for beef, pork, seafood, and chicken. They also offer complete dinner combos for the whole family. In addition, they offer a variation of traditional Chinese dishes that include chop suey, egg foo yong, mei fun, chow mein, vegetables, tofu, and rice.
Both locations offer a full bar, with happy hour drink and food specials.
Yup, it is good ol’ fashioned Texas BBQ, as well as Carolina style and Pulled Pork to boot, great sweet cornbread and when in season, the Greens, oh the greens… And all the fixins for sit down or take out.
Tim and Sonna Ryan have been serving up BBQ on Whidbey Island since 2006. They make all their own rubs, sauces, side dishes, cornbread and desserts. They hand select the best cuts of meat on the market to smoke slowly over Hickory for up to 15 hours in their Southern Pride Smokers, Big Daddy & Little Mama.