By Land or By Sea: The Best Dining on Whidbey Island

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by Nancy Zaffaro | Photo © The Inn at Langley

Whether you arrive by land over Deception Pass Bridge or by sea via ferry from Mukilteo or Port Townsend, Whidbey Island’s relaxed lifestyle and abundant, locally produced foods have attracted first-rate chefs who will serve up incredible meals during your island stay.

At Fraser’s Gourmet Hideaway (frasersgh.com) in Oak Harbor, locals step up to the open kitchen counter to thank Owner/Chef Scott Fraser and his team for another great meal, and island visitors come expressly to eat here. Chef Scott is a cornerstone of the community, mentoring island youth in cultivating a passion for cooking and ushering them on to careers in the culinary arts. When it’s time to dine, try for a seat at the chef’s counter, where you can get acquainted with affable Chef Scott while you watch him at work. Starters may come in the form of local Penn Cove mussels steamed in an aromatic curry cream broth or South American arepes—cumin- and chili-flavored goat atop savory corn cakes. The menu changes seasonally, with an array of entrée choices. Fraser’s Gourmet Hideaway is both a well-tuned instrument and a fresh discovery every time.

Captain Whidbey Inn (captainwhidbey.com) was built in 1907 and sits proudly on the National Register of Historic Places. The log-walled inn and restaurant overlooks idyllic Penn Cove; enjoy the large fireplace and period furnishings, or dine outdoors on the deck. Talented and enthusiastic, Chef Ryan Houser has crafted a menu that makes full use of the inn’s raised-bed gardens and relationships with local purveyors. You might start with pan-seared, prosciutto-wrapped sea scallops with basil essence and balsamic-juniper berry glaze and move on to halibut layered with cilantro-ginger salad, steamed rice and tombo tuna poke, scallion essence and lobster oil. The seasonal menu is freshly conceived and incredibly flavorful. Both the setting and the food are quintessential Whidbey.

For a special occasion, travel splurge, or just truly unique dining experience, head to the Inn at Langley (innatlangley.com/dining/) for Chef Matt Costello’s prix fix meal. With one seating per night of no more than 24 guests, there’s plenty of interaction between guests and Chef Matt over the three-hour meal. Part island farm tour, part mad science class, part dinner party, Chef Matt prepares elegant courses such as a buttermilk biscuit with aerated bacon fat and plum and Anderson Ranch lamb loin with puffed grains, vadouvan and carrots. This is Northwest cuisine influenced by international sources and molecular gastronomy. “A lot of places are either all about the technique or else steeped in tradition,” says Costello. “Here, it’s more about having a good night out.”

Prima Bistro (primabistro.com) is a popular, French-inspired mainstay in downtown Langley. Husband and wife team, Sieb and Jenn Jurriaans have created a colorful, arty spot to enjoy a craft cocktail or glass of wine with small plates of house-cured charcuterie, truffle prawns, chickpea fries or duck confit, and European classic entrees such as salade niçoise, coq au vin, good ol’ fish frites and more. The pleasant patio sports fresh flower pots and a water view.