Ferry Adventures: Old McDonald does Oktoberfest

Sometimes you just need to get out of town and reset, see some new sights, have some tasty bites and you don’t want to travel far or spend a lot of cash. Here in the PNW, we are lucky to have several beautiful Islands and a wonderful ferry system by which to traverse them. One of the closest and easiest Island jaunts is to Vashon Island. Get yourself to West Seattle, queue along the beautiful Lincoln Park and you will soon be taking a quick 15 minute ferry to one of the most charming spots around. Unlike many other ferry trips (Anacortes, I’m looking at you…and don’t get me started with the mess that is downtown Seattle), West Seattle to Vashon is fairly hassle free. There’s one line which becomes two (West Seattle goes to both Vashon and Southworth on the Kitsap Peninsula), there are only 4 lanes and then you are on the ferry quicker than you can say “I’m on a BOAT!” The only downside of this ferry ride is that it is so short! Washington State Ferries have really improved their food and beverage service so, on a longer trip, it’s fun to relax with a local IPA or Washington wine and some Beechers Mac and Cheese. Yum! We’ve only got 15 on this ferry though, so snap a few pics of Rainier and the sound and save that appetite for Island eating!

Vashon is perfect for a day trip but if you want to really have a mini vacay, I recommend staying a night or two on the Island. There are many options through Airbnb. Most are cabins and cottages and even a houseboat! There are also some swanky lodges called Lodges on Vashon that offer high end accouterments right in town, stumbling distance from Vashon Brewing. We stayed at a super cute Airbnb that was a small cottage  on a farm. There was a beautiful garden, which we were invited to harvest from, chickens and deer meandering through the yard at night, munching on grass. It was perfect for a romantic getaway or a solo retreat!

In the past 5 years, Vashon has really boosted it’s culinary cred with several restaurants that celebrate the Island and its bounty. What used to be a place where hippies and chefs moved to escape it all, grow pot or make cheese has become a vibrant little Farm to Table mecca. Bramble House is probably the fanciest offering on the Island. We didn’t check it out this time but I definitely see a date night there in our future! Can’t go wrong with local fare and a female chef!

For dinner on our first night we opted for Gravy, a casual yet inspired little spot run by a chef formerly of Cafe Presse and other Seattle kitchens. The food was delicious and service attentive, bordering on earnest. There, as in most of the restaurants on the Island, the waitstaff seemed to be made up primarily of high school students. Pretty amusing at times but, honestly, I’ll take an eager high schooler over a cranky hipster any day. You can read my full review here.

After dinner, we opted to head back to the farm for a much needed rest. We assumed that the nightlife scene on the Island is pretty sleepy, but I later found out that there is live music on Fridays and a late night bar scene at a Bistro and Sushi place right across the street from where we had dinner. I’m not sure what “late night” means on Island time, but I will check it out on a future trip for sure! Back at the farm, we both read for 30 minutes or so and then lights out by 11. Practically locals already!

The next morning, the sun streaming though the the flower-framed window and the chickens clucking quietly, we made our leisurely way to town for breakfast. The breakfast/brunch options range from fancy to rustic. We landed right in the middle at The Hardware Store, a historic building serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. I am told their desserts are to die for as well. We arrived around 10 and were seated right away. The place was busy but, no Seattle brunch lines here! The food was very good and the cocktails looked tasty, creative and local. We were planning on hitting up some cider spots later so we just opted for coffee, which was Cafe Vita and a perfect morning eye opener. You can find my full review here.

After breakfast, we hit up the Vashon Bookshop where I lingered as long as the hubby could handle it and ended up buying a used paperback (I just can’t help myself!) Then we checked out the Saturday Farmer’s Market, which is tiny but full of yummy Island grown produce and dairy. We then posted up at Cafe Luna, a happening spot with great coffee and food options and nice tables for laptoping or catching up with friends.

Now, fully caffeinated, we set out to taste some cider. Nashi Orchards is en route to the other end of the Island from the West Seattle Ferry dock. On the way you might pass by Misty Isle Farms, a huge cattle farm on the Island, You have probably seen their beef in local grocery stores. In the event of a Zombie Apocalypse, you will find me on Vashon. It’s got everything, produce, protein and pot.

Nashi Orchards is open from noon to 5 for tastings on Saturday and Sunday. The owners are very friendly and knowledgeable and happy to discuss the finer points of Cider and Perry (pear-based cider). They are passionate about cider in a nerdy way that I love and we tasted a couple nice dry ciders and perries as well as a burly perry fermented in french oak barrels and clocking in at 16.2%. We shared the tasting flight and got an additional pour and were feelin’ fiiiine!

Thinking that it would be best to get some food in our stomachs, we skipped the second cider tasting (there’s always next time!) and headed to a Mexican spot we’d spied on the way in. Inside decor was colorful and trippy (psychonaut approved!) and the food was delicious. Good, authentic Mexican cuisine. The fish tacos were amazing and the wet burrito with rice a beans was very yummy! The prices, though, were ridiculous! $16 for the burrito! It was good, but not any better than what I can get for $9 or even $7 in Seattle. I am thinking they are taking advantage of being the only game on the Island. There are one or two other Mexican spots but they seem to be more on the Tex Mex side of things.

Bellies full and pocketbooks a little lighter than we had hoped, we headed to Oktoberfest. We hadn’t planned on attending the shit show…er Fall Festival in Seattle but I discovered a flyer for the Island edition in the restroom at Cafe Luna and we decided to check it out. Judging from the size of the Farmer’s Market, Vashon Oktoberfest was sure to be a more low key affair.

Yep, just my speed. There weren’t a million beers to try in 4 oz increments, just six honest to god pints that were all very tasty. The hubby used his wizardry to, once again, score two free beers. That guy is better at man flirting than I can ever hope to be. We relaxed and enjoyed the Fall day, which bestowed upon us both intense sun and stiff breezes. So perfectly PNW! Where Seattle Oktoberfest can feel like a huge frat party, Vashon Oktoberfest felt like a country fair, something out of an episode of Midsomer Murders. Quaint, peopled by the 40+ set and a dead body might be discovered in the cider vat at any moment. Perfection.

Ok, friends, we have almost reached the finish line at the end of this delicious excursion! One final entry for the record of note. And it must be…the Pad Thai that I have been craving for nearly five years. Yes, we accidentally stumbled upon a former Seattle staple transplanted onto this little Island. My Seattle friends may be familiar with the elaborate house, transplanted from Thailand to Wallingford called May Thai. The authenticity does not end at the decor. The Pad Thai served there has always been my favorite in the city (no ketchup for color, only real tamarind paste) and I hadn’t been there for years. Buzzed on Oktoberfest libations, we meandered into a nondescript doorway, through a heavy curtain and into…a familiar setting. Dark wood and jeweled artwork created a cozy, yet elegant vibe and, the name, oddly familiar…May Kitchen + Bar. We ran into an old family friend having dinner (ah Seattle, still a small town at heart) and quizzed the high school aged waitress on the origins of the place. Wood panels brought in from Thailand. Pad Thai prepared in a banana leaf. Hmmm…A quick Google search yielded the answer. Yes, they were related. May apparently relinquished control of the Wallingford spot in 2012 and hightailed it off to Vashon to delight locals there. Fine, I will take a ferry to get my fix! And, maybe, I will one day order something else from the menu! I was too excited to take a pretty picture of the banana leaf with all the accouterments nicely laid out so here you get an unpretty picture of tasty goodness. And some rolls (also very yum!).

Satiated, we retired to our cottage and enjoyed a glass of wine on the porch, while a deer couple munched happily on the grass a few meters away, and finished the night with an episode of Midsomer Murders, naturally.

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