Restaurants and bars that abut ferry terminals are prone to being overpriced tourist traps, like a to-and-fro trip to Orlando. They often prey upon lazy sightseers from Idaho who've never been on a big boat and don't want to wander far from the dock. But not the Edmonds-Kingston run: Both sides feature down-home watering holes that cater mainly to locals; their proximity to the sea is a coincidence of nature, a not-uncommon one in these watery environs.
On the Edmonds side, there's Rory's, dimly lit with a fireplace and fare that's slightly more innovative than what you'll find at a standard bar & grill. Rory's Kingston counterpart is Drifter's. It's brighter and more family-friendly, with a separate counter that trades mainly in ice cream. At first glance, Drifter's bar menu looks to be fairly straightforward, with an emphasis on burgers. But as it turns out, there's plenty of ingenuity between those buns.
Case in point: the Ortega. A big burger named for the chili that accompanies the patty, it's as greasy as greasy can be, which is often a turn-off. But here, the Ortega is about as close as western Washington gets to possibly the finest Southwest-influenced burgers served on the planet: those made at the Love Shack near the Fort Worth (Texas) Stockyards.
The best place to ingest chef Tim Love's chili-laden grease bombs, however, isn't at the Shack itself; it's next door at a dirty, raucous honky-tonk called the White Elephant, where the road goes on forever, the party never ends, the patrons smoke Marlboros indoors, and the burgers are delivered in paper bags. When an Ortega's on the table, Drifter's is evocative of that time and place, only quieter and with a view of the Sound. And there ain't no Sound in Fort Worth.