Two Bainbridge Island ferries glide past, dwarfed by the three enormous cruise ships carefully edging away from their docks en route to Alaska. Rain clouds as murky as the Sound hover, threatening to drench my tacos with extra nunya sauce. I wash down my sexy tofu tacos with a lychee margarita before the rain closes in at the new Marination Ma Kai on the Water Taxi dock in West Seattle.
I mostly don’t mind abandoning my post, given that I can still see the skyline from the indoor seating, much more ample than that of the Marination Station on Capitol Hill. You won’t get a chopstick in the eyeball here, though I imagine sunnier days will bring the crowds.
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Marination Ma Kai is just one of several local waterside establishments that treat boaters—from ferry riders to kayakers to yacht owners—with vessel parking, views, noshes, and good booze, rain or, hopefully, shine. The list includes historical mainstays like Ivar’s Salmon House and exciting new developments that reflect the city’s ever-evolving food scene, like Westward and Little Gull.
Agua Verde Paddle Club & Cafe
Sunny days are usually synonymous with a long line outside Agua Verde. Most diners are hoping to score a spot on the outside deck (drinks only) or sit in the enclosed space overlooking Lake Union (drinks and food). Just outside, the Paddle Club rents single and double kayaks and stand-up paddle boards daily in summer. After paddling, hit Agua Verde’s happy hour, 4–6 p.m. Mondays–Thursdays. Order a hot-pink Tuna Margarita, made with prickly pear in a glass so big you might need two hands. Fuel up with a number of delicious Mexican treats, like nachos or a sweet and spicy mangodilla, flecked with poblano chilis. 1303 N.E. Boat St., aguaverde.com
Westward and Little Gull
Agua Verde’s in-progress neighbor on Lake Union, Westward and Little Gull plans to open in late July, the brainchild of Skillet founder Joshua Henderson. Paddlers and boaters can pull up to the 165-foot dock and head in for drinks and oysters or a full meal. Westward will be a true restaurant, drawing on its location for its nautical decor and seafood-centric menu. Little Gull is slated to be more of a grocery, albeit one with a 15-seat oyster bar manned by champion shucker David Leck. If the booze menu at Skillet is any indication, there will be tasty specialty cocktails at both spots and well-curated wine and beer lists. When construction on the two spaces is done, there’ll also be a big patio for enjoying the view. 2501 N. Northlake Ave.
Marination Ma Kai
Ma Kai means “by the sea” in Hawaiian, an apt moniker for this latest Marination Mobile spin-off, which takes the place of a forgettable fish-’n’-chips spot at the West Seattle Water Taxi terminal. There’s outdoor seating with views of Elliott Bay and the skyline, plus indoor spots that share the view. The menu incorporates Marination originals like Spam sliders and kimchi fried rice along with breakfast, shave ice, specialty cocktails, and made-for-Ma Kai items like fish tacos and fish ’n’ chips. Take the Water Taxi, rent a kayak at Alki Kayak Tours next door, or moor your own self-propelled water chariot at one of the pebble beaches on either side of the dock. 1660 Harbor Ave. S.W., marinationmobile.com/ma-kai
Ivar’s Salmon House
Also situated on the north shore of Lake Union, this piece of the Ivar’s empire sits next to the Aurora Bridge. The dark wood and stone Whalemaker Lounge was recently renovated with even bigger windows so patrons can take in the scenery while washing down oyster shooters and salmon skewers with specialty cocktails, local beer, red and white wine by the glass, and Woodinville Whiskey Company spirits. The lounge hosts a happy hour from 3 p.m. to close seven days a week. Boaters can moor at the long dock in front of the restaurant, though competition for spots is fierce on sunny afternoons when happy hour’s on. 401 N.E. Northlake Way. ivars.com
Harbour Public House
This Bainbridge Island watering hole once housed its proprietors before becoming an English-style pub. Patrons can motor over and tie up right outside at the Harbour Marina. The pub has outdoor seating; a locally focused menu with items like salmon tartine, oyster sliders, and fish ’n’ chips; and four fascinating poutine options. The beer menu features two casks and 12 taps, most of which are local or regional brews. 231 Parfitt Way S.W., Bainbridge Island, harbourpub.com
Beach Café/bin on the lake
The Woodmark Hotel’s one-two punch includes the casual Beach Café and the too-swanky-for-capital-letters bin on the lake. Both spots are on the waterfront, and boaters can park it at the Carillon Point Marina’s Public Guest Pier. The Beach Café, suited to sandals and trunks, has a daily happy hour from 3–6 p.m. with a slew of signature cocktails, beer, wine, and snacks like calamari and crab mac ’n’ cheese. Comb your windswept locks if you head to the bin, where you can indulge in a locally focused, seasonal menu and choose from a 40-bottle wine list. The wine bar’s happy hour is 5–6 p.m. daily. 1200 Carillon Point, Kirkland, thewoodmark.com