The Hardware Store Restaurant: Great Food & Meeting Place on Vashon Island

A quick ferry ride from either Seattle or Tacoma, the Hardware Store Restaurant has become a local favorite on Vashon Island. The restaurant was created with a vision of providing great food and a community gathering place. Vision accomplished!

Location:  17601 Vashon Highway SW, Vashon, Washington

Menu: The Hardware Store Restaurant provides typical northwest fare for lunch and dinner, including, for seafood lovers, Pacific Salmon, clam chowder, Dungeness Crab Cakes, Pacific Cove Mussels, and classic fish and chips featuring Pacific Cod. For chicken entrees, try the signature “Buttermilk Fried Chicken” a rib warming dish of chicken breast, mashed potatoes, vegetable du jour, and rich, house-made gravy. The owner, Melinda Powers, mentioned: “This is one item we could never take off our menu!” Beef entrees include steaks and burgers. There is even classic mac and cheese to warm your soul!

Particularly inviting is the “Create Your Own Salad Option” where choices of toppings include salmon, chicken, crab cakes, shrimp, and tofu.

The freshness of ingredients is highlighted:  “The fish you see on the menu today will have been swimming in the river yesterday.” As well, all fruit and vegetables are organically grown, eggs are from cage-free chickens, and the chicken and beef are hormone free. Vegetarian menus and gluten-free dishes are also available.

Breakfasts are more traditional including egg and pancake dishes, tofu, kale, and spinach.

Beverages include wines of the Island including “Eclipse” Red Blend and Reisling from Palouse Winery – a slightly sweeter flavor with hints of peach and pear. Other wines include those from the US, New Zealand, France, and Italy. A selection of Vashon Ciders is also available.

A large selection of specialty drinks includes offerings such as “Lavender Lemondrop”,  “Blackberry Mule”, and “Spicy Harvest Margarita”.

Reservations are recommended as the restaurant is very popular.

Thoughts: Previously the building served as the local hardware store (thus the name), the owner Melinda Powers envisioned a restaurant that might “become the heart of the island”. She felt that Vashon needed more than just great food, the community also needed a gathering place. Everyone kept telling her: “It won’t work! Don’t do it!”  Her next statement, made as we looked over the packed restaurant: ”Come in and see for yourself!”

I enjoyed the restaurant so much that I came back the next evening, inviting two friends to join me. We enjoyed clam chowder, salmon topped salad, crab cakes and the vegetarian noodles.

Clam Chowder – Without a doubt, this was the BEST clam chowder I have ever tasted! Locals rave about it also! What makes it stand above other chowders is the very light cream broth – very little use of flour in the roux. The soup is full of tasty chunks of clam, potatoes, and bacon.

Crab Cakes – I enjoyed the crab cakes- featuring Northwest Dungeness Crab roasted with red pepper aioli. Attention to detail was evidenced by the tasty side salad of carrots, cucumbers, radishes, endive and red lettuce all topped with a light vinegary topping. This dish was highly recommended by several locals.

Another dish that locals rave about is the Mussels. Local Penn Cove mussels are simmered in a white wine sauce with green apples, bacon, and shallots. The addition of the apples makes for a unique flavor.

Melinda fashioned the restaurant keeping in mind the “unique spirit and character of the Island” which she further described as “relaxed, informal, welcoming and caring”. Her wish was that the Hardware Store Restaurant “would be a place where regulars are embraced, strangers become friends and for all customers to feel at home”.  Originally dating back to 1890, the building is now listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings.

In giving back to the community, there is a large dedicated space to local artists called The Gallery. Exhibits change monthly, the first Friday of the month. The Gallery can be booked for events and catering is offered. The restaurant also is a sponsor of the annual Sheep Dog Classic held on the island each June.

After the interview, I enjoyed lunch at the counter. One of the servers mentioned to me that the lady 2 seats down was also a solo traveler. “Would you ask her if I could chat with her”? I asked. Heidi, the server, replied “I already did! The answer is yes”! I enjoyed a delightful conversation with Bridget, from Florida. She shared with me “this is the first time I’ve ever traveled solo and everyone has been so wonderful! My faith in humanity has been restored!” She had been referred to the restaurant by a local. Yes, the Hardware Store Restaurant has achieved its mission of creating a warm, inviting gathering place with great food! Be sure to try it out!

Prices: Breakfast ranges from $9-13; lunch from $6-16; and dinner from $6-18.

Disclosure: I was provided lunch after the interview. I enjoyed the restaurant so much that the next evening, 10 friends from the bridge club gathered there after the game – to celebrate and discuss hands! The following evening, I returned with 2 friends to enjoy dinner.

Guest Author Bio: Jo-Anne Bowen is a freelance writer currently residing in the Pacific Northwest. She was born and raised in Alberta, Canada. As a young professional, she made her first overseas trip with a 6-week university class in Italy. That ignited her love of traveling! Since then, she has traveled extensively to Europe, Asia, South Pacific, Central America, Mexico as well as most states/provinces in both the United States and Canada. She is a member of ITWPA.

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