A popular Oak Harbor restaurant reopened on Friday at a new location.
Hale’s Kitchen serves southern comfort food–dishes like triple-battered chicken tenders, house-made sauces, mac and cheese and fried pickles.
The owner, Jamel Hale, saw a need for southern food on Whidbey Island. He is from Mobile, Ala. and has lived on the island since 2018. He’s been cooking since he took his first culinary arts class his sophomore year of high school.
“I never really thought I’d do it professionally,” he said. “I never thought I’d own a restaurant or cook for a living.”
He worked in the food service before joining the Navy. He is still active duty in the Navy and is married with two young children.
“It’s ironic because that’s why I joined the Navy – to get away from cooking for a living, but I got sucked right back into it,” he laughed.
Hale’s Kitchen originally used the commissary kitchen of the Knights of Columbus on Goldie Road from May to October of last year.For the last six months, Hale worked on getting the new location on Highway 20 open and ready for business. He chose the location because he wanted a populated area that was located in the center of town.
“It was a big process,” he said. “The building needed a lot of overhaul done.”
New tables and a new bar, along with a few mounted TVs and new flooring were installed.
Hale’s Kitchen hosted soft openings on July 20, 21 and Aug. 2.
The community has been very excited about the reopening, evident in the hundreds of Facebook comments from people who have been eagerly anticipating a chance to eat there.
“It’s a good problem to have but it is nonetheless a problem,” Hale said.
He’s glad that the food has been so popular, but this is his first restaurant and he said most of his staff doesn’t have extensive experience in food service
“We’ll get there and hope that everybody is patient and bears with us as we grow through this process,” he said.
For now, Hale’s Kitchen’s menu will consist of a few signature items. In the future, Hale plans to have “Soul Food Saturdays” where the menu will be expanded to include things like gumbo, collard greens and candied yams.