drive-in or take-out


Oof. It’s been hot, and the dog has needed lots and lots of walks, so we’ve been going on lots of forest hikes and we’re pooped. We have been cooking some, but there’s been quite a lot of takeout in our life recently. Also some (cough) fast food. I’m not going to apologize for my secret fondness for Egg McMuffins, but neither am I going to write a blog post about it. Not right now, anyway.

Fidalgo Drive-In

I will, however, tell you that we finally – after 15 years in this area – got around to trying the Fidalgo Drive-In in Anacortes. This is one of those places that looks like it’s been around for decades, essentially unchanged. And they really are a drive-in! We didn’t have to get out of our car at all, which was pretty swell.

drive-in burger

For our first visit we tried some basics: a deluxe cheeseburger, a mushroom swiss burger, tater tots, and a milkshake. The burgers were very decent: the meat was a tad overcooked and dry (as you might expect), but there were plenty of toppings and it all held together just long enough to eat it. The mushroom burger had lots of mushrooms that tasted fresh, but the overall experience was a bit bland, unfortunately.  Still, given how cheap it all was, it was pretty darned satisfying.

tater tots & shake

The burgers, however, were overshadowed by the very fine tater tots, which were served searingly hot and came with plenty of ketchup. The milkshake (we ordered mocha) was also very good, almost too thick to drink through a straw (it came with a spoon as well). It was tasty enough that I suspect we’ll be back before too long. There’s always a place in our hearts for good drive-in food.

where's my cheeseburger?

The only hardship was suffered by the dog, who had to sit patiently in the backseat while we ate our burgers and didn’t share. Poor thing.


candlelitA'Town Bistro

I recently wrote a review for Grow Northwest about a new place in Anacortes called A’Town Bistro (you can read my article here). With the help of various friends and relatives, I’ve been able to try about ten different dishes here, and there has not been a loser among the bunch. They’re trying to focus on local, seasonal produce as much as possible, which should pick up now that the farmer’s markets are opening. I’m really excited about this place and I can’t wait to see what they do as the season progresses!


First, let me tell you about their Sunday brunch. Good mimosas, great beer selection, and a lovely assortment of egg dishes and more lunchy things.

wild boar burger

Such as the wild boar burger. This is already A’Town’s biggest hit, from what I’ve seen, and rightfully so. It’s thick and juicy, good condiments, good bread. And, apparently, made from wild boar knife-hunted in Texas. In case you were wondering how your wild boar was brought down.

ham shank eggs benedict

They offer several types of eggs benedict – this one had ham shank. There was a nice pile of properly cooked vegetables on the side and the English muffins were exceptional.

the best biscuits and gravy

Jon had to try their biscuits and gravy, and after eating for a while he declared it to be the best biscuits and gravy ever. This is really saying something. It was partly that the biscuit was fresh, tasted homemade and was full of cheese and herbs. The gravy also was excellent, with plenty of sausage. But the presentation took the cake, with one large biscuit with a hole punched out of it and filled with gravy, then a sausage sandwich made out of the removed circle of biscuit. This is a lot of food, and so good you might be inclined to do yourself a mischief. Be warned.


They also have pho on the brunch menu, which I thought was such a good idea I needed to try it. The broth was aromatic with star anise and the paper-thin slices of beef poaching in the bowl with the noodles, and there were all the right toppings: sprouts, cilantro, basil, jalapeños. A bottle of Sriracha and some hoisin sauce did very well for condiments. I love noodles for brunch, and this was perfect.

pho toppings

wine with dinner

We’ve also visited for dinner. The wine list is nicely thought out with a mix of northwest, California and European bottles and, I thought, very reasonably priced. This muscadet was on special and we really liked it.

moules fritesFrench onion soup

They have a lot of classic bistro dishes on the menu. I tried the moules frites, which were well cooked and brightly flavored with Spanish chorizo. The fries are small-cut, crispy and seasoned with truffled parmesan, which makes them smell fantastic. French onion soup was also a winner – I find that many places try to make up for a dull broth with too much salt, but this had lots of flavor and wasn’t too salty. We also tried the beet salad, which was a nice variation on the usual: golden beets, greens, and quenelles of soft pungent cheese, very prettily arranged (we had them hold the hazelnuts).

halibut n chips

Halibut and chips were good, too. My father compared them favorably to the best fish and chips place we’ve been to. The tartar sauce was good, plus you get curry ketchup for your fries.

steak and sprouts

Jon got the steak. This was where we really became impressed, because it was perfect. Medium rare, absolutely delicious, tender and juicy. A nice amount of sauce, and a pile of Brussels sprouts and just a few smashed purple potatoes to go alongside. A really well-conceived entree – not many places do steak this well.

creme brulee

There were only three desserts on the menu: a cheese plate, crème brûlée, and gâteau au chocolat. We haven’t tried the cheese plate yet but we covered the rest. The crème brûlée was simple and perfect,  nice and cold inside, with the sugar hot and crispy on top.

gateau au chocolat

The gâteau was rather like the best fudge in the world, with whipped cream and a salted caramel sauce. Oh, and the coffee was good, too.

salt cellar

I look forward to many, many more meals here.

Brown Lantern

Brown Lantern

I’m deeply embarrassed that we’ve lived in Skagit County for thirteen years now and have never been to the Brown Lantern Ale House in downtown Anacortes. In my defense, I have to say I’d been mixing it up with the Watertown Pub, which was not thrilling the one time we went, and we’ve usually just ended up going to the Rockfish. But better late than never: we have now rectified the situation. The only question now is how soon we can get back there.

Whistle Lake

We had gone for a hike in the Anacortes Community Forestlands (a wonderful park full of trails and lakes), and had worked up a good appetite. We thought about driving around the island to try out the Shrimp Shack, but I had just read yet another rave about the Brown Lantern on Chowhound and wanted to try it while I was thinking about it. It was open, there was a free table in the window – perfect.

Brown Lantern

The Brown Lantern is an old pub – I think the sign said it was started up in the ’30s – and has a comfortably dark and rustic feel, with lots of sports stuff stapled to the ceiling. It also has one of the best stocked bars I’ve seen in this county.

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Star Bar revisited

vesper martini 

I wrote an account of our visit to Star Bar, a new restaurant in Anacortes, a few weeks ago. I will certainly admit that events were not optimal for enjoyment at the time, what with us and our friends being a bit stressed out and our waitress being a bit novice. I thought the food was good and had promise, but I was not blown away. Now I have been.

Last Friday after work we felt like going out. Mount Vernon doesn’t have a lot of good options for after-work drinks (besides the Porterhouse and the Brewery, of course, but they don’t do hard likker), and we remembered admiring the lounge area at Star Bar, so out to Anacortes we went.

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Review: Star Bar


So we finally made it to Star Bar. Not that long ago this was a rather granola-looking smoothie place, but the last time we walked down Commercial Avenue in Anacortes we saw this slick looking restaurant and thought, “Why haven’t we eaten here?” We decided to visit as soon as we had an excuse, and decided that surviving the first week of school (for J) and surviving a week of getting their house painted (for our friends) would do. Continue reading