Damien Cortez, co-owner and chef at The Cove in Coupeville, serves up a “salmon sammy.” Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Damien Cortez, co-owner and chef at The Cove in Coupeville, serves up a “salmon sammy.” Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Restaurant owners see wharf location as a plus

If Damien and Tiffany Cortez could only say one thing about their new Coupeville restaurant, it would be: “It’s worth the walk.”

The South Whidbey couple this month opened a seafood- and wild game-centered eatery called The Cove, located on the historic Coupeville Wharf. The family also owns and operates the Taproom at Bayview Corner, but the husband and wife duo was looking to create something unique that serves a different style of food than traditional pub fare.

“We always wanted to have more than one thing going on,” Damien Cortez said.

And the two don’t tend to hesitate when they want something. The island natives met at a bar where Damien Cortez worked and were married within five weeks. Less than a year after giving their vows, they opened the taproom in the historic Bayview Cash Store.

He is a South Ender and Tiffany Cortez grew up in Oak Harbor, so they said it seemed natural to set up shop somewhere in the middle. They’d been looking for a place for a while before this opportunity presented itself, they said.

When the Cove Cafe owners closed its doors, the two were drawn to the space and its connection to the famed Mosquito Feet, private transportation companies that ran passenger and freight boats throughout Puget Sound until the late 30s.

The two are working with the Island County Historical Museum to bring in old photos of Coupeville as they aim to cultivate a cozy, “approachable” atmosphere.

Damien Cortez has been working in restaurants from a young age.

“It’s in our DNA,” he said. “I’ve tried to leave the industry a couple of times, and somehow I always find my way back.”

As The Cove’s chef, he’s looking forward to branching out from the pub-style food served at the Taproom.

Much of the menu will change with the seasons, but he said there will always be some type of salmon, clam chowder and beer-battered rock fish and chips.

Currently, the establishment is offering dishes such as wild boar tenderloin served atop fresh corn polenta, pan-seared sea scallops with warm frisee salad and a rack of elk ribs with mashed potatoes and local squash.

Chef Damien Cortez plates manila clams with wild board sausage, lemon, garlic, shallots, cooked in Rainier beer.

Chef Damien Cortez plates manila clams with wild board sausage, lemon, garlic, shallots, cooked in Rainier beer.

Baked goods come from the Little Red Hen Bakery, located nearby on Front Street. The Cortezes said they’re hoping to incorporate more local ingredients as they become more established.

The two are aware that their location includes what can sometimes be a cold, windy walk across the wharf and that their distance from parking could be seen as a downside.

Damien Cortez said he hopes the restaurant’s “flavors, staff and atmosphere” make it a top choice for tourists and locals alike. There will always be “staples” such as the burger, fish and chips and chowder that won’t break the bank and regulars can count on being available.

Those looking to splurge on a more decadent and unique entree will also have options.

Children under 12 may select from their own menu that includes chicken strips and kids’ portions of clams or mussels. The family-friendly setting also provides binoculars in the windows, so patrons of all ages can keep an eye out for seals, boats or maybe even a whale.

The Cove is open Thursday through Monday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. The two hope to expand hours, but for the moment, they are kept pretty busy with the Taproom, three children and a burgeoning farm operation.

There are also plans to get the wood stove up and running again and make the space even more inviting and thus “worth the walk,” they said.

The two maintain that their location is more of a pro than a con.

“It’s a beautiful walk,” he said.

More in Business

Rockin’ a Hard Place: Beth’s tasty 20-year road to success at bayleaf

I’m always intrigued by the fascinating, sometimes convoluted stories of how people… Continue reading

Dolls of historical figures are available at Purple Moon.
Whidbey offers unique gift ideas

Shoppers looking for gifts beyond the usual online and big-box options have… Continue reading

Restaurant owners see wharf location as a plus

If Damien and Tiffany Cortez could only say one thing about their… Continue reading

New Oak Harbor chamber director not content to ride others’ coattails

The former “poster child” for the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce is… Continue reading

Pet rehab: Dogs in ‘doggles,’ cats get post-surgery care

For dog and cat owners, seeing their loyal companions endure aches and… Continue reading

Marvelous marbling: New Coupeville business bringing added dimension to Front Street

A drop of blue spreads rapidly across the still water, growing and… Continue reading

New children’s clothing boutique opens in Coupeville

Rain Puddles Kids Boutique has a variety of items for ages up to 5

New take on thrift

‘Storage wars of Whidbey Island’ leads to unique store

Kingsview opens Coupeville office

Kingsview Asset Management recently opened the doors to its new office and… Continue reading

Local brewer taps into neighboring market

Big plans are a-brewing at one Coupeville-based business. Penn Cove Brewing Co.… Continue reading

After 30 years, Whidbey Coffee is strong as ever

Whidbey Coffee’s story began with chicken fajitas at a small community festival.… Continue reading

Oak Harbor’s new gyro hero: Former employee buys, transforms longtime Greek restaurant

Things are a bit different now for Jessie Abrahamson at the little… Continue reading