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Good food, and company, at the Blue Ocean
The Blue Ocean Café is a little different.
While most restaurants understandably want to move people through as quickly as possible during peak hours, the seven-month-old Bainbridge Island eatery emphasizes providing a meeting place for large and small groups.
Food is still the focal point since bills have to be paid, but the community aspect and the need for a meeting-place type of restaurant was the thought behind the creation of the Blue Ocean. The motto? Gather and enjoy your stay.
The original concept of the owners – David and Diane Beck, Charlie and Carolyn Frame – was to fill an obvious need: Bainbridge could use a café that offers good food and, most importantly, a meeting place for the island’s many nonprofit groups – all at an affordable price.
They quickly moved forward, bought a first-floor space at the condominium building at 360 Knechtel Way and opened the small café in the spring.
“We did our research and had a lot of help from people who know this business,” said Diane, who operates Blue Ocean with the help of manager Cynthia Remash. “We found that other than the library and Wing Point (Country Club) there really isn’t a place where small groups of, say, 30 or 40 people, can hold meetings, especially with food and drink. So we decided to start a café by day and a meeting place for the public in the evening. There’s really nothing comparable on the island.”
Relying primarily on word-of-mouth advertising, the 50-seat, 1,000-square-foot café (there’s a pleasant, landscaped veranda adjacent to the café for warm-weather dining) has gradually increased its clientele.
“It was slow at first,” said Diane, who is a career hygienist, “but the word has gotten out.” And hiring Remash as the manager made a huge difference, she said.
Remash has worked as a chef at several island restaurants, and she quickly revised the menu to her liking and that of the people who have become breakfast and/or lunch regulars at the Blue Ocean.
“It’s working out great,” said Remash. “It’s a very happy place...the people enjoy themselves here. It just has a nice feeling to it, very friendly. And, as manager, I have great crew (of five).”
The menu is limited somewhat by the fact that Blue Ocean doesn’t have a full kitchen, such as a six-burner stove and oven with a hood (no exhaust system) that is standard for most restaurants. But it hasn’t stopped Remash from putting together fare that is fresh and appetizing.
Breakfasts feature non-fried eggs and meat, croissant sandwiches, bakery items, fruit, cereal and espresso drinks.
But the favorite is the free waffle (served with an individual order) that the Café serves upon request. We’re talking about a large, Belgian-style waffle (no Eggo here) with butter, maple syrup and an orange slice on the side.
Grilled paninis, a wide variety of salads and three soup choices top the lunch menu. Beer, wine and a variety of sweets are also available.
“What I try to do is to offer healthy food at a decent price,” Remash said. “People have told us they like the food, especially the fresh sandwiches. The lunches have really taken off in the last month or so. We’re in a residential area so we’re getting a lot of regulars now.”
Some groups enjoy meeting during the day, such as a dozen or so of retired teachers who enjoy a leisurely lunch at a café where they can share stories without worrying about being asked to give up their table.
But most of the group gatherings occur in the evening, when spirits are served and food is catered either by Blue Ocean or an outsider.
“We’ve really enjoyed our meetings there,” Bernadette Scheffler said about the island’s Republican Women’s group. “We had a summer event for our husbands there and we did it inside and outside, opening up the room. They’re very accommodating and easy to work with. And at a very low cost.”
Diane Beck said the cost of renting just the space for an evening meeting varies, beginning at $50 for nonprofit groups.
The Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce has also used the Café for its monthly “Just Connect” meeting, which serves as a networking event for business newcomers.
“The experience has been good,” said Kevin Dwyer, the chamber’s executive director. “They have HD that’s set up for a power-point presentation and all that. They cater it with their food and alcohol – nothing lavish, but good.”
Dwyer also likes the fact that Blue Ocean has a piano in the adjacent lobby, and usually someone in the group can liven up the place with a tune or two.