Friday island photos: the restaurant

today's special

The island where we live doesn’t have any stoplights. Most of the roads curve open, unfettered by slowing traffic or stop signs. You can drive by the water and feel like you are in the only car on the island.

When you’re in ferry traffic, coming down from the north end into town, however, you know you are not alone.

In the middle of town — about 5 streets long and 3 streets wide — sits the only four-way intersection on the island. This is as close to a traffic jam as we come.

On the southwest corner of that intersection, right smack dab in the middle of the island, is this building. It has sat there since 1890. (On the West Coast of the United States, that’s pretty old.) One way or another, the building has displayed that sign: “Today’s special. So’s tomorrow.”

When I lived on this island in the 1990s, teaching high school, the building contained an old hardware store. In fact, when I lived here it was sort of a hardware store museum, with creaky floors, dusty windows, and a giant train set in the middle. I loved going in there, even though there wasn’t much point to the building anymore. It was a slice of time, gone by.

great good food

Now, it’s a restaurant.

It’s a homey restaurant, with no pretensions of changing the face of gastronomy or winning rave reviews from national publications. The people who run this restaurant want to serve “great good food.”

They do.

the inside of the restaurant

When you walk in, you feel warmth, right away. Wooden tables, worn rugs, high ceilings, and little sprigs of flowers on the table — this place feels comfortable.

This is one of the main island hangouts. If you want to meet people for fish tacos after the softball game has finished, you come here. If you’re feeling hungry after the farmers’ market, but you don’t want to go home to cook the produce yet, you stop in here with friends for steamed manila clams. (Sometimes, you see your favorite farmer in the booth next to yours.) If it’s in the middle of the holidays, and you don’t want to cook one more meal for your family, you come in out of the rain for grilled pork tenderloin.

It’s an island place.

local art in the back room

And in the back, along the long hallway, are paintings and photographs by island artists. It’s an art gallery and gathering space, both.

sunlight burst through

When I was there the other day, taking photographs, the sun emerged from behind the clouds for the first time all afternoon. That sun splash is what the restaurant feels like to me. I just want to sit in the booth with friends, sharing a plate of chickpea ragout, holding my hands around a hot cup of coffee.

seattle metropolitan

This restaurant isn’t a diner, though. It’s more than that. It’s something special.

As the writer of this piece in Seattle Metropolitan wrote: “Everything, cracker-bread pizzas to lavish salads to the signature buttermilk fried chicken, is brought off with more vibrancy and exactitude than captive island audiences can typically expect, and the fizzy ambient spirit of the place is simply irresistible.

Friends from the city who have been to this restaurant almost always say: “That place? Oh, I love that place.”

wall of wine

There’s a pretty decent wine selection.

balsamic mixture for the bread

Everything in the place is made from scratch: the chicken stock, plus all the soups and sauces. That’s balsamic, oil, and herbes de provence for the bread plates. (I don’t have that, of course.)

the burgers look fantastic

The burgers look so damned good. (I have it on good authority that they are.)

This poor couple. Their burgers had just arrived, and they were about to dig in, and I asked if I could take a photograph. That light. The height on those burgers. That pile of fries.

If I can’t eat it, I can take a photograph of it. (And then I told them to ignore me and eat.)

homemade baked goods

I can’t eat these, either. But oh my, if I could eat gluten, I would want a piece of that pie. All the baked goods in the restaurant are handmade by staff, including doughnuts every day.

There aren’t many times I wish I could eat gluten. Standing in front of that rack would be one of them.

clam chowder

However, the clam chowder is gluten-free, which is unusual. I hear this soup’s so good they might be selling it commercially soon. On a cold, high-skied winter day, a bowl of this is just what you want.

the vegetarian special

Recently, the food at this restaurant has taken a turn for the better. The daily specials are vibrant, in season, something pretty special.

This is the vegetarian special: an island-grown white acorn squash (peeled and roasted), with quinoa, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, parsnips, and a curry vinaigrette.

It’s gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, and meat-free. The restaurant is serving it through the month of January. Next month, there will be another one.

Who’s making this food?

Danny cooking

Why, it’s Danny! Danny’s making this food.

You see, Danny has returned to a life he loves: working in a restaurant kitchen. Fate and good fortune brought him to his place, the best restaurant on the island. He had gone more than a year without being a professional chef, home instead with me and the Bean, working on our cookbook and making elaborate breakfasts for us all.

Eventually, he missed the excitement of dinner service, the urgency and rush of putting food on a plate, the camraderie with other cooks, and the chance to give joy in the belly to people besides me and our daughter.

I couldn’t be happier for him.

And for you, if you have the chance to come to the island and eat his food. He’s working Saturday through Wednesday nights, and he’s making up specials every day. Tonight’s fish special was pan-seared scallops with a mushroom risotto, roasted brussels sprouts, and a bacon-red-wine vinaigrette. The ravioli special (sadly, not gluten-free) was a three-cheese with roasted chicken, red peppers, Greek olives, parsley pesto, and island goat cheese.

He’s back.

where danny works

Many of you have written to us, wondering if Danny would ever cook at a restaurant again, and especially cook gluten-free food. He is. Danny’s cooking at the Hardware Store.

He’d like you to know that it’s not a gluten-free restaurant. (The fried chicken is “…amazing. The best fried chicken I have ever had,” says Danny.) However, the folks at the restaurant understand what it means to be gluten-free. (I hear tell there might be gluten-free desserts soon. Maybe even pie…) Danny and the rest of the staff can feed you gluten-free, easily. Most of the daily specials will be gluten-free, naturally. Tell your server what you need. Tell them you read this site. They’ll take care of you.

Danny would love to feed you.

The Hardware Store
17601 Vashon Highway SW
Vashon, WA 98070

49 comments on “Friday island photos: the restaurant

  1. Juanita

    Yay – that was fun to read 🙂 It's so good for people to be living their dreams out loud. Happy cooking, chef D!

  2. Hannah

    Makes me long for my Washington days. So happy that the knowledge of gluten-free is working it's way to beautiful restaurants. So many happy wishes for you.

  3. Tracee

    Oh, how I want to live on the island, not just for the fabulous food, but also the ferry rides, the light,the sea and the sense of place.
    Perhaps some day…



    That was a nice twist at the end. Really nice.

    Somehow I foresee a Celiac pilgrimage happening soon to this island.

    Any independent restaurant worth it's salt would be lucky to have a competent chef who understands GF cooking as well as your man!

  5. Trish

    I love the restaurant and I haven't even been there! Perhaps I shall head down south one of these days this summer and drop on in….Congrats to 'the chef'. Wonderful photos again!!! I just reread your 'about' section and I am so inspired. My son went through extensive tests and found out he was not gluten intolerant yet still his stomach and digestive system does not seem right. Sigh. So I am going to try and make more GF items whilst he is away at University to learn to mix it up a bit. It sure is better for all of us if we eat GF from time to time.

  6. LaurieA-B

    I've loved seeing the outside of the Hardware Store when we've visited the island; this is my first time seeing the inside. I'm looking forward to eating their delicious food.

  7. Allison the Meep

    This makes me want to hop on a plane right now and go to The Hardware Store for some lunch.

    I'm not even a big seafood person, and that clam chowder looks so delicious to me.

    Also, I'm glad you mentioned that those are donuts over the apple pie. I sat puzzled for a minute, looking at the picture and wondering why they would put fried chicken on a tray right over apple pie. Heehee.

  8. Paige Orloff

    Really, really, I need to get myself to the Pacific NW. How great is this that he's back in a kitchen?? I'm sure it's a challenging adjustment for you all,but your neighbors are awfully lucky, and I can't wait to hear what new adventures this brings to all three of you. HUGS. P.S. If you're so inclined, swing by and check out the cookbook swap over at The Sister Project–would LOVE for you to participate. xx

  9. Laura

    I hope to eat there soon. My husband is doing business in Washington and one day I want to join him in one of his trips for a long weekend. I always wanted to visit Seattle and the islands, so if we come to visit I will let you know. And I can make some gluten free treats for you, or stage at the restaurant one night and make gluten free dessert. Oh the possibilities…

  10. Nurit - familyfriendlyfood

    Oh, I remember this place from the last time we went during the strawberry festival. It was so crowded we didn't even go near it. I didn't know it was so beautiful inside!
    I always thought it's hard to find jobs in small towns, not to mention small islands. What a great thing it is that Danny found a job in a place where he would love to work and cook! Congrats!

  11. Dave -nibbleanibble

    Restaurants the make everything from scratch is the best. It feel like there is an actual connection.

  12. gemma

    Congratulations. Wish we could get there since everything looks and sounds wonderful. We are, however, here on the Northeast coast and it's unlikely we will make the trip. Sad to say.

  13. McDolan

    That is great for the three of you, living on the island and working on the island… nice "easy" commute!!! That is the only way in my mind and i am envious!

  14. Brianne

    Congratulations Danny! I'm considering a pilgrimage to Vashon island now, it's only 5 hours away… All the best to the three of you.

  15. Lori

    Thank you for this post! Perfect timing- my husband & I will be in Seattle all of next week for a dear friend's wedding and we would love to be able to eat Danny's food.

  16. CherylK

    This is terrific! My husband and I are housesitting on Bainbridge Island for a few weeks. We'll definitely take a day trip to Vashon Island and have a meal at the Hardware Store. Fun!

  17. Sarah

    This one gave me goose bumps Shauna… so happy to hear he is back to doing what he loves in a restaurant kitchen!

    Someday we'll make the trek back out that way and we will be sure to stop in.

  18. Hannah

    Congratulations! So lovely to hear you've found such a wonderfully-fitting lifestyle for each member of your family on your island 🙂

  19. deborah

    so great to read this! i often think about that delicious quinoa salad danny made when we were on the island last year. lucky to have sampled such honest and nourishing food.

  20. Christina

    I clicked on your post with my 4 year old near by. (She is the reason we are now gluten free.) She started chanting, "The recipe, the recipe!" Apparently she is in love with the little pumpkins with the quinoa and broccoli and would like the recipe. She is now chanting, "Yum, yum, yum, a-yum,yum,yum!" I think she would would like to go to your restaurant. If we didn't live so far, I'd take her. Do think Danny would mind sharing the recipe?

  21. Shannon

    My in-laws live on the island we are just in Port Orchard. Next time we're in town, I'm stopping by for some of that clam chowder. It looks sooooo good.

  22. Karen

    Whenever I am visiting my sister on the island we have to eat at the Hardware Store at least once. My favorite table is the one with the cozy chairs next to the hostess station. My dad would buy tools there with his dad in the 40's, my niece's adoption party was held there before it was renovated into the restaurant, and now we are making new memories there. This was my first time visiting since discovering my gluten intolerance…but I knew I would be able to enjoy my meal worry free…simply because it's Vashon and life is better there.

  23. alison

    I love how you wrote that post. You kept me intrigued throughout and for some reason I was totally surprised that it was Danny. Very cool. I have no doubt that there will be gluten-free goodies there soon!

  24. Looking For Freedom...

    It's awesome that he can get in there and modify the menu a bit so that it offers some gluten-free options… Looks like such a warm, fun place to eat!

  25. kirsten michelle

    Hurrah!! I experienced his cooking once before and that is the only way to describe it: an experience. It was a delight to find I could eat out, deliciously AND safely.

    Hurrah!! Vashon Island, here I come!!

  26. Megan Gordon

    Well, shoot. Next time I'm in Seattle visiting my sister we'll head over to Vachon and see what this place is all about. Looks wonderful. Congrats to Danny!

  27. Deanna

    Congrats to Danny! If I ever make it back up to Washington I will have to visit.

    I worked in a restaurant awhile back and someone called to see what we had available that was gluten free. Thanks to reading your website (and a small dash of culinary schoool) I was able to correct our chef's mistakes when he told them the gluten free options.

  28. melinda

    We are so lucky to have Chef Dan (our nickname for him) cooking at The Hardware Store. Our food has taken a lovely and delicious turn
    down a road I've been wanting to travel for a long time. He's the real deal! I watch him come up with the best specials in 60 seconds flat. When our servers try all the nightly specials at the beginning of their shift, they say, "I hope there's some left at the end of the night for my dinner." And there rarely is – we sell out of Dan's delicious specials most every night. Thanks, Shauna, for the beautiful photos and lovely words.
    Melinda Sontgerath, Owner
    The Hardware Store

  29. La Niña

    Oh beautiful! Congratulations Danny- you so deserve that spot of light, that spotlight.

    I've been meaning to ask you where Danny was cooking, and Shauna, you read my mind and answered poetically as always.

    If they keep our ferry running I'll come visit soon…

  30. Swiss

    I was guessing every since you mentioned Danny was working on the Island. You know I will be there- and soon. We have eaten there countless times and enjoy it and now we have another reason.

  31. Mel's Kitchen

    OH! What a great post! Great photos, great and happy reveal at the end!

    And so great of you to be so supportive of this exciting change, when at the same time, I'm sure you'd rather still have him home with the 2 of you! 🙂

    I WANT the Clam Chowder! Ahhhh….!

    If I weren't 3k miles away, I'd be there with bells on! Yumm…

  32. Learning to cast, love and follow

    I keep wanting to go up and stay at the hostel on your island…so now there is even more incentive for me to just do it.

  33. Tartelette

    I would not be surprised if they carried your pies and other gf treats there very soon 🙂

    I understand Danny. I get the itch just about every week except it's nearly impossible to find a team I'd be happy to work for here in town. Sad to say but true.

    I just can't wait to go and see him in action soon!

  34. Sho


    As soon as I saw that beautiful dish of squash with the broccoli on top I had a feeling that Danny was the chef there. CONGRATULATIONS!

    I think your photographs are amazing.


  35. Anonymous

    There IS light at the end of the tunnel! I just found the GFGirl & Chef website and had emailed to find out where Danny worked. When I went back to the website I read this great post on The Hardware Restaurant… so now I know where my family will be dining tomorrow night! : ) We live in W. Seattle & will soon be in Port Orchard, both are well in ferry range of this gluten free culinary oasis (I know it isn't all gluten free, but at least Danny will understand what GF means when we come in! Can't wait to meet him (and his delicious food!).

  36. Karen

    I have been wondering when he was going to be "available" again. We would go to the wine bar in Seattle where he used to be the chef but the kids aren't 21 so that was tough. Now we need to make the trek to Vashon. Very exciting news.

  37. dining table

    It is very fun to read your post. It is like an advertisement that I can’t resist. It is pulling me to go to that restaurant. And I think I will definitely go.

Comments are closed