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Edna’s Beach Cafe sits atop the hillside overlooking Lynwood Center, with Bill Nelson (left) and John Clark as part of the ownership group.  - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
Edna’s Beach Cafe sits atop the hillside overlooking Lynwood Center, with Bill Nelson (left) and John Clark as part of the ownership group.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

In Edna’s historic home, one can retrace – literally and imaginatively – the footsteps of island pioneers.

The woman ventured north, penniless, following the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906. She married Emanual Olson, a Seattle mail carrier and boat builder, from whose parents the couple eventually inherited a stately manor overlooking Rich Passage.

There, Edna envisioned Lynwood Center, a concept that with the help of her husband soon took tangible form across the street and still stands today.

It is perhaps fitting, then, that developer Bill Nelson chose the Olson house as the starting point for the area’s latest transformation, and just as fitting that – now a restaurant – the structure bears Edna’s name.

“I felt a need to bring it back to the community,” Nelson said, from the patio of Edna’s Beach Cafe. “The community has supported this project and it’s a neighborhood icon – everyone loves it.”

So much so that the restaurant, despite little promotion, has seen a steady flow of customers since it opened Dec. 22.

Edna’s has been offering meals from a pared down holiday menu that soon will be expanded along with the restaurant’s hours.

Nelson and business partners John Clark and Phil Kummerow had hoped to ease into January quietly and pick up steam as the year progressed, but they’re happy with early buzz.

“It’s felt kind of like a National Park Service operation,” joked Clark. “We might need to put a ticket booth at the front door.”

The restaurant’s lobby holds a healthy stack of menus for drop-ins curious about the fare, dubbed Pacific Northwest comfort food by head chef Audrey Craig.

With all due respect to the fare, Clark said those who’ve dropped by are just as curious to see the building, which although well-entrenched in island lore, has been overhauled and updated since Nelson bought the property two and a half years ago.

At 5,400 square feet, the building is spacious and has what owners characterize as a “Northwest lodge feel.” A corridor was added near the lobby, and the second floor above the main dining room was torn out for vaulted ceilings and an abundance of natural light.

There are three dining rooms in all, two on the main floor and one upstairs. Clark said the “library” at the southern end of the building has been an early favorite of patrons, in part because it hosted many important events in the previous restaurant incarnations.

“People are already calling in to request it,” Clark said. “They’ve had special dinners or engagements or anniversaries in there and they want to enjoy the room again.”

The centerpiece of the room is the fireplace, whose chimney commands similar attention in the upstairs dining room. Upstairs diners can stroll on a new deck that extends over an outdoor patio. Owners say the building’s elements – along with the understated incorporation of a few flat-screen televisions – will make it ideal for special events like parties, business meetings and weddings.

But the focus, Clark said, is on making Edna’s an everyday restaurant.

“We think people should be able to have a nice meal in a nice environment,” he said. “And we don’t think you should have to say bye bye to a C-note to do it.”

Appetizers start at $6.95; entrees range from $8.95 for Edna’s “soon to be famous” burger to $18.95 for a ribeye steak; seafood, poultry and pasta also are on the menu. Lunch and Sunday brunch will be added in the coming months, as will outdoor dining in the springtime.

For now, the dining room is open seven days a week from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; drinks and appetizers are served in the bar every day until midnight.

Over time diners will watch the hillside around them develop, as Edna once did with Lynwood Center – Nelson’s Blossom Hill project is slated to bring 80 residential units to the area.

For now, though, Edna’s owns the hillside, and the island’s collective culinary curiosity.

“The response has been incredible,” Nelson said.

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