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A hidden jewel on Vineyard Lane

Ann Morford and Tad Mitsui in their “little jewel.” She’s the manager of the Inn at Vineyard Lane, and he’s the chef at the Vineyard Bistro. The inn features four rooms, and the bistro serves residents, guests and the public alike.  - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
Ann Morford and Tad Mitsui in their “little jewel.” She’s the manager of the Inn at Vineyard Lane, and he’s the chef at the Vineyard Bistro. The inn features four rooms, and the bistro serves residents, guests and the public alike.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

An inn and bistro give this hillside condominium complex a little something more.

As Ann Morford recalls the creation of the Vineyard Lane complex, she speaks of the core philosophy of its developers, Bill Carruthers and Andrew Lonseth.

“They really visualized having a diverse group of people come together and build community, rather than just building condos,” she said.

With concepts like sustainability and diversity in mind, the complex was constructed to include different types of dwellings, from flats to townhouses to luxurious stand-alone homes.

It also included four lower-priced units intended to broaden Vineyard Lane’s accessibility in the community by providing much-needed affordable island housing.

Yet along with a design that fostered diversity came a wish for commonality. It’s there, Morford hopes, that the newly opened Inn at Vineyard Lane and its companion, the Vineyard Bistro, will serve both Vineyard Lane residents and islanders at large.

There are a few challenges.

“The problem is that people really don’t realize that this is open to the public,” Morford said.

A cornerstone of Vineyard Lane is its large common area, which serves as both the residents’ gathering spot and as the Bistro. The airy, flexible space, with a large fireplace flanked by comfy chairs, supports multiple scenarios. A Vineyard Lane resident could stop in any time for a cup of coffee and a chat with a neighbor, or attend a neighbors’ social gathering one evening.

Someone working or living on the island could grab a friend for lunch and walk the trail from Cave Road up to the complex to enjoy a springtime patio lunch made from fresh, local food.

Or, a business traveler could check into one of the inn’s four cozy rooms and enjoy a chef-made breakfast, which is included in the price of the room ($149 double occupancy off-season).

The restaurant serves breakfast and lunch; Mitsui has special events in store for the evenings like cooking classes and visits by guest chefs. He’ll also offer take-home meals for those in need of a fresh, fast dinner. Starting in May he’ll partner with a new island business, Farm Courier, to deliver them.

Menus will change monthly, with the seasons, and maintain an emphasis on locally grown produce and house-made stocks and sauces.

A Bainbridge native, Mitsui has been in the food business on the island since he started working at Cluckers as a disher at the age of 15. A stint at Winslow’s San Carlos was followed by years at Tom Douglas’s Seattle venues including Etta’s, Dahlia Lounge and Palace Kitchen. He obtained a culinary arts degree and also spent three years at Ruby’s, when it was still next to the Lynwood Theatre, where he eventually worked his way up to head chef.

After a few years as a freelance caterer, Mitsui welcomed the opportunity to finally own and run his own establishment, especially since he recognizes how difficult it can be to both live and work on the island. And by nurturing the Bistro as part of the larger Vineyard Lane gestalt, he hopes to do his part to help sustain Bainbridge Island’s sense of connection, even amidst growth, change and increasing cost of living.

“That’s one way I can influence some of the change here,” he said.

Will the vision sustain the Inn and the Bistro? Morford and Mitsui hope that people will take the leap, or rather, walk up the hill, where the rewards are worth looking for.

“It’s kind of a hidden jewel,” Mitsui said.

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Get there from here

The Inn at Vineyard Lane and the Vineyard Lane Bistro are located inside the complex on SR 305. For driving directions, hours and room availability, call 842-9300. Visit www.vineyardlane.com/inn.htm for more information.

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