BREMERTON — The fast ferry gets you from Seattle to Bremerton in just 30 minutes, but you want the slow boat. There’s so much to love about this Navy town that time forgot until quite recently — as the many new residents occupying loads of new construction will attest — and traveling about an hour each way on a classic green-and-white Washington State Ferry is an imperative part of the itinerary. No need for a car, nor the long lines that can entail in summertime: Walk (or bike!) aboard, then proceed to the stern to watch the Seattle skyline recede picturesquely across the glinting Puget Sound. Then, to the galley — reopened, thankfully, after many dark pandemic moons — to decide whether to save the fine selection of beer and wine for the return voyage (drinks are a maritime bargain at $6.50 to $9, with recommended pairing of a can of Frico sparkling and popcorn).
From the bow, the Olympic mountains — possibly still snowy-capped — grow gorgeously, suddenly much nearer. The captain will make an announcement if orcas are sighted (it happens!). Then the boat bumps gently into dock.
To port: the Navy yard, with the stately Puget Sound Navy Museum (built in 1896). Straight on: the adorable old-school part of downtown, with the typewriters of the Bremerton Office Machine Company at which to marvel (seriously, check them out), the historic 1942 Admiral Theatre to admire, and vintage pinball for the whole family at Quarters Arcade or for grown-ups only at Another Castle (with adult beverages, too).
But you’ve got important eating to do, and from Friday through Sunday between the hours of 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., your first destination — this is not optional — lies to starboard. A pretty 20-minute walk across the Manette Bridge takes you to Saboteur Bakery, a place with pastries so tasty that superlatives cannot be found that are superlative enough.
Formerly a pastry chef at Bay Area Michelin-starred restaurants, owner Matt Tinder brought his genius to his tiny Bremerton shop, where you should get anything and everything that appeals to you, or just grab whatever’s left. His plain croissant, made with the best possible French butter, possesses a shattery, lacquery golden-brown exterior, with the inside a heavenly light whorl like the fingerprint of a small deity. For anything savory, any bread, anything with fruit or nuts or pastry cream, pause for a moment while you bite, then chew, and experience a glimmer of gluten-based enlightenment. I know I sound unhinged — just trust me. (Also: Saboteur is popping up this summer in Seattle at the Magnolia Farmers Market starting Saturday, June 4. Get there early!)
Another 15 minutes’ stroll back across the bridge, then north through a few blocks of sweet little houses perched on a bluff, finds you at Evergreen Rotary Park. Walk along the water, hit the swings at the inclusive playground, and consider the wisdom of sampling the flavors at Sapling Gelato to maximize your day trip’s excellence.
Around the corner, you can peep upstairs for one dinner option, Evergreen Pizza Co. — along with Sapling, new from Manu Alfau of Seattle’s late, great Manu’s Bodega. Chef Adam Paulin, formerly of Seattle’s not-late, great The Masonry, is in charge of the wood-fired pies, which possess a proper thin, pliant crust with charred edges that still stay pillowy, while a lightly applied tomato sauce achieves lovely flavor. The tiled pizza oven anchors the sleek main room, with an airy atrium and outdoor seating also awaiting — add in the full bar, and this parkside corner could very happily meet most of the day’s needs.
But important choices must be made, and another forerunner is marvelous La Poblanita Tienda y Taqueria, a quick and extremely worthwhile Lyft or Uber away. Open for lunch and dinner every day, this friendly, family-run spot feels magically old-school in an increasingly rare way, with order-at-the-counter service, diamond-patterned booths and a glossy light-green linoleum floor. Have a Mexican beer or a Mexican Coke, along with menudo that will cure what ails you (the small is more than big enough); quesabirria tacos that may best any you’ve had yet; or a velvety mole that’s smoky, rich, slightly spicy and cocoa dark-and-deep rather than chocolaty sweet. Do not fail to browse the adjoining market. And you might just get extra lucky, for occasional Mexican wrestling set up in the parking lot may resume soon.
Back across the Manette Bridge — where you’ll also find antique stores and cute-stuff shops, for more browsing — is Bremerton-and-beyond favorite Hound + Bottle. It’s all kitted out for a date-night dinner with prettily garnished craft cocktails, a handsome ceiling with exposed wood joists, and deck seating for warm evenings, if you can score a spot. Right now, the seasonal Northwest menu celebrates spring, as in asparagus tonnato with pickled cherries and poached lemon; with summer comes the likes of grilled peach caprese, slow-smoked baby back ribs and fresh-pressed watermelon martinis. Yes, please!
But wait: another summertime loveliness sits just down the street in the form of Khao Soi, serving Thai cuisine as good as some of Seattle’s best. There’s only room for a few tables inside — the building’s snug, a former laundromat — but the shaded garden seating is where you want to be for a sunny lunchtime or at the end of a hot day. Beat the heat by meeting it with the multifarious spices of curry — the massaman’s a top choice, though the panang will be even hotter. Or make a meal of appetizers and salads: consider bright, refreshing, limey chicken or pork laab with lots of purple-edged shallot, sweet onion and peppery scallions. And/or crying tiger, with eight ounces of marinated steak seared to your order (medium rare gets perfectly done), served with cool sliced cucumbers and a tangy, tingly tamarind dipping sauce. And/or (you’ll probably want to go with “and” throughout) a half-dozen big shrimp simply rolled in wrappers then golden deep-fried exactly right, delivered in a silvery basket with orange-red sweet-and-sour. Beer and wine are available, and everything gets a particularly pretty presentation to feel day-trip special.
It’s too much goodness for one day, I know. Plan ahead, and be sure to check the ferry schedule — you wouldn’t want to miss the last boat back to Seattle. Or would you?