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Agate Pass Cafe makes Suquamish a local food hotspot

Agate Pass CafeNext time the speed limit signs force you to slow down through the sleepy little town of Suquamish, be thankful. If you were going any faster, you might miss the Agate Pass Café.

Tucked into Suquamish’s fledgling restaurant row, the Agate Pass Café offers brunch and dinner, showcasing seasonal Northwest products. Opened in April by the experienced restaurant duo of Marty Bracken and Stacy Grega, the new restaurant is dedicated to using local ingredients simply, with delicious results.

From the gleaming open kitchen to the comfortable bar and well-dressed tables, the experience of the Café’s ownership shows. The colors inside are warm and very au courant, and the peek-a-boo view of the water from tables near the front adds to the appeal. There are also a couple of tables out front with clear shot at Puget Sound beyond the parking lot.

But ultimately, it’s all about the food. My first visit to the Café was for Saturday brunch. A glance at the menu gave me great hope; Lummi Island salmon, Persephone Farms greens, Harley Bob’s eggs from Kingston, Mt. Townsend, Port Madison Farm and Quillisascut cheeses, and Uli’s sausage were among the featured attractions. One taste of moist Lummi Island smoked salmon atop grilled Essential Bakery bread with a layer of creamy fromage-fraiche in between removed any doubt. Finally there was a restaurant in Kitsap County that was doing justice to our wonderful local food.
The Café also features an entirely Pacific-Northwest wine & beer list, including offerings from Bainbridge Island Winery, Eleven Winery, Fish Brewing Co, Georgetown Brewing Co., Hale's Brewery, and many more.

How did Suquamish snag such a culinary star? According to Bracken, “We chose Suquamish as our location because we happened to find the right spot for the right price, in the place where Stacy already lived and where I was looking to move to.  As chronic restaurant-goers ourselves, with limited choices in the area, we knew the climate was right for a new restaurant in north Kitsap.  And the informal market research we did told us there was a captive audience ready for something new and local.”

Suquamish, nestled as it is between Bainbridge, Kingston, and Poulsbo, makes sense as the perfect home for a restaurant committed to using ingredients gathered from around Puget Sound. And Marty Bracken, who heads up the kitchen side of Agate Pass Café, knows just what to do with all of this local goodness. As a chef’s apprentice, she studied under the likes of Jonathan Sundstrom (Lark) and Maria Hines (Tilth).

Bracken is a 20+ year veteran of the foodservice industry.  She recently left her role as Director of Restaurant Operations with Bon Appétit at TasteSAM, the new fine dining establishment in the Seattle Art Museum (another great local foodie destination), to pursue her dream to open her own restaurant, the Agate Pass Café.  She is overseeing the entire kitchen operation at the Café.

On the front end of the Café is Stacy Grega. She was born & raised in Seattle and has lived in the greater Seattle area all her life.  Most recently, after working in the fashion and retail industries, she returned to the restaurant business to sharpen her skills in preparation for the opening of the Agate Pass Café, working as a bartender, server and floor manager at a local Bainbridge Island pub.

Subsequent visits to the Café have been highlighted by an expertly prepared trout entrée, some knockout salads. The beet salad with arugula, ricotta salata and hazelnuts is a gem. There are nightly specials and pastas. The buzz is definitely out. The tables fill up quickly, and at times the service has suffered from pure overload and a touch of inexperience, with lapses in timing and execution. But the experience of this team gives me confidence that they’ll work through all that. The Café doesn’t take reservations, so I would suggest timing your visit away from peak dining hours. If it does get busy, a spot at the bar is a great alternative – Bracken often serves bar customers herself.

The Agate Pass Café is open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday, and for brunch on Sunday. For details visit their website at www.agatepasscafe.com

For those of us who have been waiting for a restaurant in Kitsap to get serious about local food, Suquamish is likely to become a frequent destination.

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