The Filling Station Will Fuel Your Day!

 

Filling Station

1138 Finnegan Way

Bellingham, WA 98225

Adults: 4/5 Kids: 5/5

$$$/$$$$$

Feeling low on fuel?  Head to the Filling Station!  This funky little gem perched on the brow of the Fairhaven Neighborhood in Bellingham, Washington has a magical combination of great food, friendly staff, whimsical décor and enough fun to go around.

This old-time filling-station themed restaurant is crammed full of character.  From its ceiling lined with license plates to its staff decked out in gas station uniforms you can’t miss the folly in the atmosphere.

We stopped in for a bite during a recent day trip to this relaxed hamlet with its bookstore, art-shop, micro-brewery lined streets and vista views of the sound.

We ordered: an El Camino Burger, a Click & Clack Clucks #2, a Thunderbird with Bacon, and a Volt (w/ Chicken Salad).

The El Camino, with it’s pepper jack cheese, avocado, Sriracha mayo, tortilla strips, lettuce, tomato and jalapenos held the promise of bringing the heat.  However, though it was reported to be flavorful, fell short of being the spicy bit of heaven hoped for, but was said to have “a good kick”.

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The Click and Clack Clucks #2 received moans of yummy delight from its consumer.  The sandwich served on a sesame seed bun included a southern fried chicken breast with BBQ aioli, cheddar cheese, bacon, pickles, coleslaw and crispy onion straws, and was said to be the “best!”  The BBQ sauce and coleslaw added crunch and sweetness while the juicy chicken and melted cheese added a richness. This meal received a HUGE thumbs up.

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The  Thunderbird was a classic cheeseburger served with all of the accoutrements, including the ability to take advantage of the ‘Sauce Station’; a bar of sauces for your saucing pleasure.  This burger was reported to be delicious, but then again, how wrong can a classic cheeseburger go?

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All the burgers were served with ‘tire treads’ which are basically battered thick-cut, semi-curled, pieces of potatoes.  They were scrumptious and we noticed several tables with just large orders of these little delectable treats to share.

The Volt (w/Chicken) Salad with its mixed greens, warm goat cheese medallions, dried cranberries, numerous whole toasted hazelnuts, julienned fresh beets, onions and basil balsamic vinaigrette was tasty, tasty, tasty!  When the warm breaded goat cheese was broken up and mixed throughout the salad it combined with the vinaigrette to create a sweet, creamy bite.  When you add that sensation with the crunch of the hazelnuts and snap from the candy-stripped beets this is one of those meals you would eat time and time again.  Absolutely YUMMY!

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This place is a must try when your in the Bellingham area.  Whether you come for the fun atmosphere, the great food or the Bloody Mary Bar (that’s right they have a bar where you get to create your perfect Bloody Mary just the way you want it), you won’t leave disappointed.

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May your family always eat well!

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Rodeo City Bar-B-Q Hits the Spot

Rodeo City Bar-B-Q

204 North Main, Ellensburg, WA 98926

Adults: 3.5/5 Kids: 5/5   $$$/$$$$$

Barbecue is one of our families favorite categories of food.  We love the feeling of hominess well prepared barbecue can conjure, especially when you are on the road and far away from home.  This said, not all barbecue is equal, and it has to be pretty exceptional to earn high marks.  This reason alone is why, when we walked into Rodeo City Bar-B-Q in Ellensburg, WA,  we did so with apprehension, not sure if our taste buds would be rewarded or if we would be leaving with our heads hanging low and our barbecue dreams dashed.

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The place is your typical ‘trading-post’ looking roadside diner.  With its cowboy artwork, longhorns, cowboy-camp wallpaper border, antique and knick-knack lined hostess area and rodeo motif fabric covered booths it wasn’t difficult to get the western feel the moment we stepped foot though the front door.

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We were greeted by a friendly waitress and shown to a large booth in the corner.  We were one of only two tables filled at the time, but they had only been open for less than a half hour and it was a Sunday.  Service however was not ‘speedy’.

We ordered a couple of sodas for the girls, who were thrilled when they arrived in handled glass boots.

Our order consisted of a Chicken Spud with Cornbread, a Bacon Cheddar Cheeseburger with fries, a Pulled Pork Sandwich with fries and a Rodeo Reuben on a French Roll with Potato Salad.

The Chicken Spud was a delicious fully-loaded baked potato with lots of perfectly cooked bits of chicken, bacon, the house-made Rodeo City Bar-B-Q sauce, sour cream, shredded cheese and green onions.  It did have the slightest bit too much sauce on it, but over all it was quite tasty.

The cornbread was actually quite incredible.  It was warm and moist and sweet!  YUM!!!!

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The Bacon Cheddar Cheese Burger was, according to the one consuming it, “Amazing”.  Between the juicy patty, crunchy bacon, and perfectly toasted ciabatta roll it was a well assembled burger.  It came with all the fixings including: red onion, lettuce, and pickles.  The addition of some of the house-made ketchup and barbecue sauce added just the right amount of flavor to complete the dish.

The fries were almost battered in a well seasoned crust that afforded them a very crispy exterior while maintaining a soft inside.

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The Pulled Pork Sandwich was said to be “Spectacular” with its perfect smoky flavor and just the right amount of the house-made sauce.  It too came with red onion, lettuce and pickles and served on a ciabatta roll.

And again the fries were delicious.

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The Rodeo Reuben on French Roll with Potato Salad was a little puzzling.  It might be a stretch to call it a ‘Reuben’, but it was definitely a good German Sausage sandwich.  This dish was comprised of German sausage, kraut and Swiss cheese  on a French roll.  The sausage was very flavorful and juicy and overall pretty delicious.

The potato salad was good, nothing fabulous, but decent.  It could have used a little salt, but for the most part it sufficed as a ‘potato salad’.

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So if you are ever in Ellensburg, WA and looking for a low-key spot to find some comfort food check out Rodeo City Bar-B-Q.  You’ll find a friendly staff and great food.  There might even be something in their makeshift gift shop that you’ll need have to remember the place by.

 

 

 

 

The Palace Cafe in Ellensburg, WA: Where the Prime Rib Lives Up to its Name

The Palace Café

323 N Main St, Ellensburg, WA 98926

Adults: 3.5/5 Kids: 4/5   $$$/$$$$$

Since 1892, The Palace Café in Ellensburg, WA has proudly served the surrounding community.  There are many restaurants that don’t last 124 days, let alone that many years. After trying it out, we understand clearly how it has stood the test of time.

Our family was passing through the Ellensburg area over Easter weekend, on our way to visit family, when we decided to pull into this quiet little city and eat some dinner.  In honesty, three of the four of us had eaten lunch at The Palace before, which was okay, but thought we’d try our luck and see how their evening service was.

We don’t know that any of us held out much hope of finding an actually ‘great’ meal when we decided to stop. After all, the surface of Ellensburg, with it’s western themed art,  flat, dry open fields and FarmersOnly.com feel, can leave you wanting to pass it by.

We intentionally chose The Palace as we knew the food there was serviceable from our previous lunch and figured we could get in and out without much trouble.  It turns out it was one of our happiest ‘side trips’ while passing through some place that we’ve taken.

The Palace has adorable, unique, hand-made décor featuring fishing boats, planes, and automobiles which some how works well with the pressed-tin ceiling and antique feel of the building.  We were greeted by it’s friendly staff and waited on by our adorable, ultra-friendly waitress.

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The girls both ordered the regular cod and chips basket.  They reported that the fish was crispy of the outside and moist in the center and that the fries were the same. Both the fish and the fries are house-made by the chefs at The Palace.  The slaw that came with the basket was surprisingly flavorful, and actually did not need the sprinkling of salt that most places leave out of theirs.  The girls were very excited about how tasty their whole meal was.

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We both ordered the 12 oz Prime Ribs (which actually looked more like 16 oz ones–there was no way I was going to be able to finish it), and I ordered mine with the coconut prawns.  The prime ribs were DELISCIOUS!  They were huge, thick cut portions, seasoned very well with a great crust and cooked perfectly to the medium rare we requested.  The horseradish (which we had the option of fresh grated or deli style–we chose the fresh) was exceptional.

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The baked potatoes came with ‘everything’ butter, that was super yummy!

Our only disappointment was the frozen mixed veggies that arrived with the steaks.  They were, as you can imagine, wilted, limp and soggy.  And the Au Jus was passable.

The coconut prawns were good, but nothing beyond what you would expect from anywhere else, and the sauce they came with was sweet, tangy and most likely from a bottle.

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For dessert we ordered a piece of their Tower of Power Cheesecake (that boasts that it is so large it needs its own zip code).  It was a great tasting piece of average size cheesecake.  We are cheesecake lovers and we would definitely order this one again.  It was a good size to split between two adults and two children, but if you have more in your party you may want to order more than one dessert.

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The creamsicle  martini I had was delicious too!  Made of orange vodka, orange juice and cream it delivered that reminiscent taste of a hot summer day and those orange sherbet over vanilla ice cream bars the ice cream man would deliver.  YUMMMMMMMYYYYY!

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The Palace serves Pioneer Coffee out of Cle Elem, which was pretty good actually.  It had a nice rich coffee flavor without being weak and noncommittal.

If you are ever in the area, and need a little something to tie you over, try The Palace, it’s a great little gem in the rodeo queen’s crown known as Ellensburg.

 

Ray’s Dining Car & Bar, Snoqualmie, WA–Take the Next Train Out Of Town Fast and Don’t Look Back!

Ray’s Dining Car & Bar

8072 SE Railroad Ave, Snoqualmie, WA 98065

Adults: 2/5 Kids: 1/5   $$$/$$$$$

We have found quite a few wonderful little off-the-beaten-path dining places over the years. We love to visit the places that might not look like they are fabulous restaurants from the outside, because, all too frequently, they turn out to be total gems in the rough.

Ray’s Dining Car & Bar was NOT ONE OF THESE! Oh my gosh! We should have turned around and taken the first train out of town–as the place is kitty-corner across from the Snoqualmie Train Museum this would have been easy to do.

To be fair, we must mention that the waitress that greeted us as we arrived was very friendly and pleasant. She directed us to a both quickly and arrived shortly with our menus (menus that sported way too large of a selection for an establishment as small as Ray’s). She remained the nicest part of our entire dining experience at this establishment.

The place had a previous life, obviously, as a Mexican restaurant that they have attempted to turn into a train-themed dining establishment. Unfortunately, some hand-crafted, train-print covers placed over the old carved Mexican headers on the banquets and some strange train decorations a theme restaurant does not make. The place is still very Mexican looking and not even the admittedly cute train the runs along the ceiling can change that.

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Adult review:

One of us ordered the Medianoche with the horseradish coleslaw.

The other wanted to split a Croque-Monsieur with sweet potato fries with one of the kids, but was told that there was a $2.00 ‘Split Plate Fee’. So on top of the $11.00+ that the sandwich cost originally we would also be charged $2.00 for the use of an additional plate? WHAT!?!?!? We could see this being the policy if two full grown adults walk in and wanted to take up a four-top table and buy one meal, but there was four of us, and it was an adult meal being split with a child. $2.00? FOR REAL?

We ended up giving in to the split fee (not intentionally, but through a misunderstanding by our waitress…well it was a mess and way too long to go into here).

So, as you may know, a Medianoche is a Cuban sandwich that is really all about the mustard and the pickles. This one barely qualified. Yes, it had mustard, and yes, it had pickles, but other than that it was bland and boring. Not to mention the presentation and ‘plate-appeal’ was severely lacking. Even the horseradish coleslaw—which from the name alone would imply lots of flavor—had none!

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A traditional Croque-Monsieur is a French pub-food grilled cheese sandwich, which may or may not contain ham and be topped with a béchamel sauce. This was NOT that. This was a grilled ham and cheese sandwich made from Texas toast, dipped in an egg wash and pan fried. This was far closer to a Monte Cristo Sandwich—and not a very good one of those either. Again, it had absolutely no presentation and was very home-cooked looking. The sweet potato fries were obviously from the bottom of the bag as the longest one was maybe an inch long and they, too, were as lunch-room as you get.

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The chef clearly has no real idea what they are doing.

There was one item on the menu we really wanted to try though. That was the Pittsburg Pirogues. They were described as a ‘ravioli’ stuffed with potato, onion and cheddar cheese. Sounded pretty great! Unfortunately, when these greasy little pockets of flavorless, ‘potato glue’-filled wanton wrappers arrived, they fell far short of the mark. There really is nothing more to say about them. They were gross!

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The one other thing we noticed is that the spirits list conspicuously was missing anything from the town’s hometown pride—The Snoqualmie Falls Brewery, one of the best beers around. The brewery and tasting room is just a street over from the restaurant, but their huge list of beers, wines, etc. had no mention of it at all. Now, to be fair, that might be the fault of the brewery itself. Maybe they don’t allow restaurants so close to them to serve their product, but, if that is the case, then they are missing out on amazing exposure. If it is the restaurant that does not want to serve their beer (why they wouldn’t we have no idea) then they are really, really, really missing out on an opportunity.

Kids review:

The one child that ordered the half of the Croque-Monsieur and sweet potato fries declared the sandwich was ‘disgusting’! She told us she was happy she had only ordered half of it as she would never have wanted to eat any more than that.

The other one ordered from the very limited kids menu. She ordered the Angus Slider burgers and fries. The burger patties were overcooked and very dry. She was highly disappointed and said that under no circumstances did she “EVER want to come back.”

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The girls too decided that the pirogues were bland and gummy and that they did not care for them at all.

Overall, this is an establishment to skip while you are in Snoqualmie, Washington. Go anywhere else! This is not your train stop and defiantly not your ‘dining car’.

May you family always eat well!

Aloha Alabama BBQ, Westport, WA–BBQ in a Fishermans Village?

Aloha Alabama BBQ

2309-Westhaven Dr., Westport, WA 98595

Overall:  Adults—3/5   Kids—4/5     $$$/$$$$$

If you’ve never been to Westport, Washington, you are missing out on this quaint, fisherman village.  With its adorable cottages lining the dock port to its multiple ice cream shops and its overall small-town, not-a-clock-in-sight, nothing-much-to-get-in-a-hurry-about feel, a trip to Westport is a “must do”.

On our recent side-trip to this quiet hamlet nestled on Washington’s coast, we stopped into Aloha Alabama BBQ for a quick bite of lunch and, in doing so, found a gem within a gem.  The restaurant is located right across the street from the docks and just down the street from the Maritime Museum.

The awesome, beach surf décor and bright hues scream, “We are excited you are here! Welcome!” the moment you walk through the door.

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The friendly staff was quick with a greeting and we got seated immediately.

The place was clean and well laid out.

The menu boasts that all their meats are cooked low and slow, in a blend of Yakima Applewood and Hawaiian Klawe smoke–Sounded great and our interest was officially peaked.

Adult review:

We started with the Fried Oyster Appetizer.  We are very picky about our fried oysters, and how well an establishment executes this dish says a lot about their overall cooking ability.

The oysters were perfect!!!  They were breaded in panko and fried to perfection.  Their creamy, warm interior combined with a crisp outer shell of breading made for the perfect bite.

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We ordered the Half-Chicken Platter with broccoli slaw and fries and the Pulled-Pork Sandwich with Coleslaw.

The waitress brought us a trio of BBQ sauces for our sampling pleasure: White BBQ Sauce, Honey BBQ Sauce, and Chipotle Sauce.  We never really figured out if these were all made in-house or not, but they were all very good.  The Honey BBQ was our favorite.

The chicken was really rather tasty.  It had a wonderful light smoke flavor, but wasn’t exactly falling off the bone nor was it sauced—both things that we would have liked to have seen.  But overall the flavor was really good and we would eat it again.  We added the honey sauce to it which brought it from just okay to a couple notches above ‘OK’.  The broccoli slaw was passable, but needed some seasoning and the fries were…fries.

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The Pulled Pork Sandwich was yummy, with a nice smoke flavor and good texture but, as far as BBQ goes it was the middle of the road.  The Baked Beans were tasty—perfectly seasoned, sweet and smoky.  The coleslaw was bland, but had a nice creamy texture and, once it was salted, rather flavorful.

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We washed it all down with the house-made ice teas (one peach and one Arnold Palmer) which were delicious and refreshing.

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Kids review:

First the girls’ thoughts on the oysters:

“They were horrible”

“I like them!  I like them with cocktail sauce!”

Obviously, a split review—but hey, a 50/50 percent ‘like’ rate for kids when it comes to oysters, that’s not bad!

The girls ordered from the Keiki Menu (kids menu).

One of the young ladies ordered the Fried Mac n’ Cheese with baked beans.  The other ordered the Pulled Pork Sandwich with House-Made BBQ Chips.

It was declared that the Pulled Pork Sandwich was “the best pulled pork sandwich I have ever had!” and that the potato chips were “AMAZING!”

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Parental side note: The BBQ chips were AMAZING! (We had to request one as ‘parent tax’ of course!) They were thick and seasoned with this delicious blend of spices that put Lays potato chips to shame.

The fried mac n’ cheese received rave reviews as well, but again it was the baked beans (after adding liberal amounts of the honey BBQ sauce to them) and the chips that made the biggest impact on her taste buds.  She couldn’t stop talking about how good both of them were.

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For the most part both of the girls liked their meals, but even more so than that I think they enjoyed the overall youthful, young, energy-filled feel of the place, not to mention, just watching people go by along the docks.

Looking for a fun spot while in Westport, WA?  Stop here!  Have a peach ice tea and some good BBQ.  Then take a walking tour of the town and enjoy this community’s charm and colorful local personalities.

Sunny Beach Cafe: What they lack in looks, they make up for in taste!

Sunny Beach Cafe

687 Point Brown Ave NW, Ocean Shores, WA 98569

Overall:  Adults—4/5   Kids—4/5     $$$/$$$$$

This is one of those places you might notice, but has very little in way of curb appeal to draw you in.  We tried it only as it was day four of our five-day vacation in Ocean Shores and we had run out of places to try that looked like they might not be on the health department’s watch list.

When we walked in we were less than ‘Wowed’.  The very cavernous, tall ceilings and bland, baby yellow walls are ultra-generic and do nothing to hide, or distract one’s attention, from the odd, weird, mismatched artwork, standard four-top nondescript tables and chairs and plain floors.  The coolest part of the entire restaurant is the large roll-up garage doors, but the day we were there they were not open and, as a result, were unimpressive.

We were taken aback by how busy the place was though, which, in the restaurant world, is the true telling of how well a business is doing.  This place was hoppin’!  It was packed and loud! We were lucky to get a table, one of the very few that were open.

The place was clean too!  We couldn’t see anything on the floor and the open-for-all-to-see wait station was spotless–Another fabulous sign.

Our waitress was very friendly and happy to answer questions.

Adult review:

We both ordered the Sharkey’s Burger which was comprised of hand-breaded, flakey, cooked-to-perfection fish, onion, lettuce and pickles on the ABSOLUTE best hamburger bun we have EVER tasted!  It was delicious! We had to know what made it so great and that was when our waitress sweetly smiled and let us know that they made all of their own bread products in-house—including these fabulous hamburger buns!  OH GOSH!!! They were scrumptious (this is one of the very few times you will ever see us use that word in one of our blog posts, but it’s true!).

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The fries that came with these delectable fish sandwiches were also quite wonderful and, again, hand-cut in-house. Yum, yum, yum!!!

Kids review:

The girls ordered a BBQ Bacon Burger and asked that it be split.  Our waitress graciously agreed to do so and had it arrive from the kitchen already split for them.

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After their first bite of this juicy, BBQ slathered, bacon clad burger, also on one of the house-made buns, the girls were declaring them delicious.  They both DEVOURED their half and all their fries before we had even eaten a fourth of ours.

They decided that the BBQ sauce was what really made the burger and that it was “sweet and smoky, without being too spicy to eat.”

They said that the place was a must come back to when we are in Ocean Shores again (we agree).

Overall the Sunny Beach Café might not look like much from the outside or even from your first peek of the inside, but their friendly staff and wonderful food makes one turn a blind-eye to all that they don’t have and, instead, causes one to zero in on what they are doing really, really, really well.

They are open for breakfast too and, by what we could tell, might serve it all day long.  Some of the other patrons were having delicious looking breakfasts while we were ordering a late lunch.

Check them out next time you’re in Ocean Shores and then remember this blog and post your thoughts in the comments.

Breakwater Seafood and Chowder House–Aberdeen, WA

Breakwater Seafood and Chowder House
306 South F Street, Aberdeen 98520

Over All Experience:  Kids–3.5/5  Adults–4/5         Cost Out of Five: 3.5

The Breakwater Seafood and Chowder House located on the shores of the Wishkah River and near the Kurt Cobain Riverfront Park offers both fresh to-be-prepared-at-home and cooked ready-to-eat seafood.  It is a spendy place for a little off-the-beaten-path-establishment, but not horrible.

The overall feel of this restaurant is a little like Mel’s Diner meets The Old Man and the Sea.  With its nondescript decor and super sticky floors it’s a restaurant that uninspires on appearances alone.

The staff was some combination of tolerant-pleasant and annoyed-frustrated.  Depending on which one you talked with it was a crapshoot as to which personality you encountered.

Adult Review:

We ordered the Clam Strips and Chips and the Cod and Chips both served with Cole Slaw.

The Cod is, according to one of the friendlier staff members, panko breaded in-house–it was cooked perfectly.  It was crispy on the outside while remaining moist, flaky and not rubbery like some fish gets when cooked poorly.  The fries were great too, sporting crunchy exteriors while maintaining soft insides.

The Cole Slaw was a surprise! It was creamy and tangy with just the right amount of salt–usually restaurant prepared slaw requires additional salt at the table.  This was slaw we could all agree was delicious.

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The Clam Strips and Chips were tasty as well, but the clams were a pre-made product (again according to the pleasant staff member) they ordered in from elsewhere (as are the chicken strips)–that was disappointing.  Clam strips are some of our favorite seafood and when they are fresh and in-house battered they can be absolutely amazing!

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As we said earlier the floor was exceedingly sticky, so much so we found it difficult to slide our chairs across it.  The bathroom was out of hand soap and in its place was an industrial size bottle of Dawn dish soap–odd!  But the place was packed, both inside and on the outdoor deck area, so the floor cleanliness and hand-care products alone are not keeping this fisherman’s dream from doing a good clip of business.

We felt the food was good, but if service is a deal breaker for you, then you may want to seek other places for your seafood options.

Kids Review:

The kiddos ordered the Clam Chowder and the Cod and Chips served with the Cole Slaw.

The house-made Clam Chowder was creamy, smooth and hot and came instantly. It was delicious! The clams were cooked well without being rubbery. It got two huge thumbs up from the chowder connoisseur among us!

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The other one liked the Cod and Chips, but gave it no rave reviews nor a diminishing one.  She decided it was just ‘okay’ although she did add that she had to admit it was flaky and moist and fairly tasty.

Overall the Breakwater has the feel of eating at some hole-in-the-wall establishment on the wharfs complete with salty sea-weathered staff and tasty seafood.

If you ever find yourself in Aberdeen, hungry and looking for someplace to eat you should check it out and when you do remember this blog and post your thoughts in the comments.