Surrounded by a sea of spring daffodils and white-topped boats, Anthony’s Beach Café proved a charming venue for my mid-week dinner along the Edmonds waterfront.
As the casual downstairs sibling to , the Beach Café is comfortable and cheerful, its waitstaff clad in whimsical shirts printed with fish. As a solo guest, I was thrilled to be greeted by a curving wooden dining counter with a view into the open kitchen.
I was waited on by a serene, clearly seasoned server who made it her business to ensure that all my needs were met in the way of strawberry lemonade, fresh ground black pepper, extra bread, and anything else potentially essential to my dining experience.
Early on in my meal, the hostess came over to chat with me, curious about my not-so-surreptitious note-taking. Though I didn’t give away my mission, I appreciated her advising me regarding the Beach Café’s seasonal dessert specials. Fire-roasted apple bread pudding with Maker’s Mark whiskey sauce was the current offering. With evident pride, she also informed me of the restaurant’s commitment to heavy use of locally and regionally sourced ingredients, from fish to produce to wine and beyond.
Yeah, I think she knew I was up to something.
I headed out of the gate with the shrimp quesadilla ($7.95), two thick flour tortillas stuffed with bay shrimp, avocado, and tomato, the whole package seared on the grill. The star ingredients were complemented by—not lost in—gooey cheese. A drizzle of chipotle-kissed crema added a hint of sultry smokiness to the quesadilla and its duo of salsas. One version of the condiment featured green chile and corn, the other was a typical pico de gallo. I actually felt the salsas were at their best when blended together, the chile offering a bit of heat to pair with the brightness of the tomatoes.
Though I was tempted by the pan-fried Willapa Bay oysters ($15.95) and the entrée salads ($10.95-17.95) coming out of the kitchen looked lovely, I ultimately chose the evening’s Blue Plate Special of fried trout ($15.95). Trout actually isn’t something I’ve had much of since my days as a youngster on the southern Oregon coast. Even then, those speckled fish were a special treat only if the day’s creek outing with Grandpa and a willow pole was successful. (I know that just sounded really Little House on the Prairie…but seriously, the southern Oregon coast is pretty rural.)
As part of the Blue Plate Special, I received a cup of Anthony’s “award-winning New England clam chowder." There is a lot of clam chowder to be had in the Puget Sound region and I can only imagine there are also any number of entities that bestow honors for seafood soups. But truly, Anthony’s Beach Cafe has a good thing going in the chowder department. The clam chunks were enormous and tender, with bits of red-skinned potatoes and not much else to adulterate the creamy base. It was a comforting hug from the sea, just as good chowder should be.
When my dinner plate arrived, I knew immediately that I’d be taking home leftovers from the generous portions. The two ample pieces of trout were fried golden, bread crumb coating giving way to tender, moist fish. A forkful of the trout with a bit of the toasted almond topping, a dab of tangy tartar sauce and a few drops of lemon juice approached something close to sublimity.
It pains me when restaurants throw carelessly-executed side dishes on a plate simply to complete some version of a “combination” meal. I am thus pleased to report that Anthony’s Beach Café gave proper attention to the “Bud’s Spuds” and green beans that joined my trout. Fried potatoes are one of those dishes that sounds like it should be easy to make, but it actually can easily go awry in terms of the final product being under- or overdone. Whereas Anthony’s (er, Bud’s) spuds could have used a bit more seasoning to kick them up a notch, the tender texture and crisped edges were right on target. The green beans were similarly commendable—fresh, bright green and perfectly al dente.
Although two of the three components on my plate were fried, the meal felt oddly healthful and not at all heavy. I took this as a true testament to well-chosen ingredients and care in execution.
Really, the only weak spot in my dinner was the very first item, the complimentary basket of herbed bread sticks that were exceedingly dry. Not that this stopped me from eating two pieces, an act I would later rue when I didn’t have stomach space for dessert. I did previously mention the fire-roasted apple bread pudding with whiskey sauce, correct? (Run MIDI sound file for “regretful sigh.”)
With a front row seat for the kitchen’s proceedings, I eventually found myself enchanted by the bustle of dredging, grill scraping, and tossing of spices going on before me. Chefs flipped food in sizzling pans with perfect fluidity. Bowls brimming with vibrant produce and steaming seafood slid across the stainless steel service counters. The rhythm was mesmerizing but even more impressive was the clear camaraderie amongst the kitchen team members and extending to the service staff. This was not the stuff of television restaurant drama replete with abusive maestros and catty prima donnas. This was a happy team working in unison to delivery quality to the guests.
This is not a restaurant that’s going to offer ahi pops frozen by liquid nitrogen. It’s also not a particularly intimate setting, with its wide-open dining room and cups of crayons available for younger patrons. And there’s nothing wrong with that. This a laid-back place where friends clad in blue jeans and families with kiddos can go to enjoy a satisfying, thoughtfully-made and cheerfully-served meal featuring our Pacific Northwest bounty. Truly, Anthony’s Beach Café is about seafood house classics prepared simply and prepared well.