Business

Comforts settling in at Colman

Island favorite is at both ends of ferry run.

Commuting just got more comfortable.

Commuter Comforts, the yellow shack known by ferry commuters as the last call for a double tall, opened a new, expanded restaurant in Seattle’s Colman dock terminal Friday.

“I felt like I needed more of a challenge,” said co-owner Carol Jelinek, who has operated Commuter Comforts for over 13 years. “I just love serving people and making people happy. I love feeding people good food, good coffee and adding something to their day.”

Contrasting with the stocky Bainbridge stand, the new digs are roomy with plush seating, a bar, table service and a menu that boasts wine, beer and gourmet cuisine. Of course, the dependable coffee and scone are also available.

“We wanted to have as good as food as possible at affordable prices,” Jelinek said.

Prices range from $5 for a salad, $5.75 for a hot-pressed sandwich and $5.75 to $7.75 for tapas plates featuring pâtés, sausages or cheese.

Jerilyn Brusseau, a fellow islander and Cinnabon’s inventor, helped create a menu that included many local ingredients. While most pastries are baked in-house, Commuter Comfort’s cookies are drawn from a North Kitsap company.

The clam chowder is cooked up at Pike Place, and a Kingston man crafts the restaurant’s sausages. About 25 percent of the wine selection is drawn from Washington wineries.

Bainbridge’s own Port Madison Farm is prominently featured in the name of a signature goat cheese salad.

Farm owner Steve Phillips is excited about his new partnership with the expanding food purveyor.

“We’re very pleased,” he said. “We sell them our fresh chevre, which is a cheese you don’t ship thousands of miles. It’s a true local food. People aren’t eating it in Omaha or even Spokane.”

For Jelinek, who owns Commuter Comforts with her husband Don Riddell, serving up local food makes good business sense.

“Why would I get my cheese from Wisconsin when I can get it on Bainbridge?” she asked.

Commuter Comforts joins three other regionally based food vendors that opened last month at the terminal. A candy shop, newsstand and hot dog vendor are also set to open in the coming months.

Washington State Ferries also plans to open food kiosks near the auto loading zone so car-bound commuters won’t have to sprint upstairs to feed their hungry bellies.

WSF business development manager Brian Volkert said WSF’s new reliance on local businesses for food service has more to do with logic than values.

“It’s not part of some grand strategy,” he said. “These businesses have been very excited and interested in making things work smoothly. And they’re very responsive to their local markets and know their communities well.”

In addition to the Colman dock businesses, a Vashon Island-based company is serving food aboard the Seattle-Vashon run while a Mukilteo business is negotiating a contract for the Mukilteo-Clinton route.

Already doubling her staff size since the new Commuter Comforts opened, Jelinek plans to broaden her successful relationship with WSF. By summer, Jelinek is slated to move her local coffee stand operation inside the Bainbridge ferry terminal.

Whether it’s drip coffee or fine wine, Jelinek said she’s learned how islanders like their food.

“They want a good value, good quality and they want it fast and they want it friendly,” she said.

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