Since summer returned in glorious full force around Puget Sound, it started to seem downright wrong to spend Monday to Friday toiling indoors unless absolutely necessary.
So I recruited two girlfriends this week and hit the road to do a little research, research being lunch somewhere near the water in Edmonds. We settled on Arnies Restaurant, lured by its waterfront location and spectacular views of the Sound, mountains and ferries coming and going between Kingston.
Seated at a table on the small, covered deck, we ordered wine and deliberated over the menu. It’s heavy on seafood and offers a range of soups, salads, sandwiches and pastas, with Northwest stand-bys such as roasted salmon, pan-seared oysters and crab cakes. But Arnies hasn’t forsaken the carnivores: meat-eaters can find numerous options, such as a prime rib dip sandwich and a grilled miso flank steak (most entrees are in the $11.50 to $18.50 range).
Maybe it was the proximity of the ocean or the sight of the anglers casting their lines off the nearby pier, but all three of us were in a fish mood. We started with an appetizer of salt and pepper prawns ($10.25) seared in the shell and lightly coated with togarashi and black sesame seeds. Served with a delicious lime-cilantro sauce, they were crunchy, a little spicy and we all agreed, divine.
“They didn’t even need the sauce, they were so good,” Tima said.
For entrees, Shireen opted for a prosciutto and scallop risotto ($18.95) from the daily specials menu, Tima went for the Northwest seafood fettucini in a parmesan-garlic cream sauce ($10.50 small, $17.50 large) and I ordered the chopped seafood salad ($10.50 small, $16.50 large). All of our entrees were generously heaped with seafood, but that’s where the consistency ended.
My salad was our collective favorite, consisting of greens tossed in a basil vinaigrette and topped with Dungeness crab, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, cucumbers, blue cheese and toasted pine nuts—a nice, unexpected addition. It was filling, but refreshing and light.
There was decidedly less enthusiasm about Tima’s pasta. Like the salad, it was topped with a tasty and plentiful variety of seafood—prawns, halibut, mussels, clams and salmon—even with the small portion. But the cream sauce seemed a little bland and lacking something, maybe a little garlic or a pinch of dried pepper.
The risotto was downright puzzling. It was smoky and rich and dotted nicely with vegetables, but it was skimpy on the rice and there was so much liquid it could only rightly be called a stew or chowder. Risotto? Definitely not.
“It’s way too saucy,” Shireen said. “It’s like a rice stew.”
(Far less palatable was the music playing from the speakers on the deck. I normally wouldn’t bother mentioning the music at a restaurant, but the shlocky stream of pop ballads was too egregiously bad to ignore.)
We fared better with dessert, a key lime pie ($5.75) that met approval from Tima, a girl who spent a decade of her childhood in Florida and knows her key lime. She liked its crisp but tender graham cracker crust, its hint of mint and dollop of whipped cream.
“This pie hit all those notes, though I would have liked a bit more tartness,” she said. “A little pucker and it would have been perfect.”
My impression of waterfront restaurants has frequently been that they can coast by on the view and too often do. They’re the prettiest girl at the party, the one who doesn’t need to bother making an effort.
Breathtaking vistas will always draw customers, meaning the menu and service alone don’t have to carry the establishment. Restaurants in less desirable locations simply have to try harder, which for customers can mean a happy trade-off of views for oustanding food.
I’m not sure that Arnies, open at the Edmonds location since 1981 (there’s another one in Mukilteo), has managed to avoid the pitfall of the waterfront restaurant. The service was good, but I asked myself if I would have been equally satisfied with the various dishes we tried if they weren’t served up with salty air and a breathtaking view. The honest answer was no.
That said, I would go back. The location directly behind the Port of Edmonds Marina can’t be beat if you’re arriving by boat, and the happy hour menu—a customer favorite, judging from the numerous positive online reviews—looks appealing, though not inexpensive. If I don’t go back to eat, I’d definitely go for a drink on the deck.
After lunch, the three of us strolled down the pier alongside the marina, looking at sailboats, checking out the large, alien-like jellyfish in the water and watching the ferry arrive. With a breeze blowing and the sun shining, it was a quintessentially perfect Northwest summer day.
Lunch could have been a snack bar stashed in my bag. On an afternoon that ideal, with great friends, good conversation and such stunningly beautiful surroundings, did it really matter?