Business

Coupeville's Front Street Grill open for business

Chef Jerry Ritchie cooks in a tight kitchen of Coupeville’s newest restaurant, the Front Street Grill.   - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
Chef Jerry Ritchie cooks in a tight kitchen of Coupeville’s newest restaurant, the Front Street Grill.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

With a spectacular view of Penn Cove and chefs preparing food originating from Whidbey Island, Coupeville’s newest restaurant is open for business.

The Front Street Grill, operating out of a recently completed building in historic downtown Coupeville, is offering a high-quality selection of seafood and steaks from its location nestled between Front Street and the high water mark of Penn Cove.

“Its emphasis is trying to take the view and put it on the plate,” said consulting chef Vincent Nattress, while he pointed out the windows to the view of the water and the pasture land located north of the cove. He highlighted two local products, Penn Cove Shellfish and Three Sisters Beef, that will be a prominent part of the restaurant’s menu.

“Those products are the backbone of the restaurant,” Nattress said. He also highlighted the regional flair of his menu. The pork is produced by Horns and Hooves in Ellensburg and the beef comes from Painted Hills in Fossil, Ore.

In addition to the eatery’s regular menu, Nattress said the restaurant will offer Kobe beef in coming weeks and he will see if restaurant-goers in Coupeville would be willing to purchase such a pricey, but tasty, item.

The restaurant’s opening is a homecoming of sorts for the chefs and manager of the grill.

Nattress, who graduated from Coupeville High School in 1986, returned to Whidbey Island to raise his family. Prior to that, he had worked as a chef for several wineries in Napa Valley, Calif. He is serving as the consulting chef for the Front Street Grill. He expects to continue helping out for a year or so and then move on to other endeavors.

Chef Jerry Ritchie, who will work at the grill permanently, has spent 21 years working at various restaurants on Whidbey Island and Skagit County.

“The valley and island are unique because you have so many fresh things available to you,” Ritchie said. Prior to joining the Front Street Grill, he served as the chef of the Star Bar in Anacortes.

Manager Sean Anter brings a familiar restaurant name back to Coupeville. His uncle owned and operated Michael’s Your Place and Rosi’s Garden. A graduate of South Whidbey High School, he worked in several casinos in Skagit County and came to Coupeville excited about the prospect of opening a new restaurant.

Coupeville builder Dan Miranda owns the new building and he hopes Front Street Grill will bolster the business community in downtown Coupeville, making the area become even more of a draw.

“Having another restaurant will add credibility to Front Street and bring more people here,” Miranda said.

It took three-and-a-half years to complete the permitting process. That process required approval from such entities at the Department of Ecology and the Department of Fish and Wildlife before construction could begin.

The two-story building’s odd shape can be attributed to the shoreline’s ordinary high-water mark, which determined the shape of the lot Miranda could build on. He broke ground for the new building in October and his restaurant opened last week.

The restaurant seats 66 people in a 1,400-square-foot space and a cramped, 200-square-foot kitchen. The second floor houses a condo that tourists can rent when they visit Whidbey Island.

Miranda, who enjoys windsurfing off the shores of Whidbey Island, points out that the Front Street Grill employs 31 people mostly on a part-time basis.

Even though he opened a little later than he hoped, he picked a good time to do it. Diners simply had to look outside the windows to watch Race Week, as sailboats wove through Penn Cove last week.

In the coming months, Miranda, along with restaurant management, will continue to fine-tune operations. Miranda hopes to soon start a program that will feature Seattle-based chefs visiting Whidbey Island.

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