While it isn’t rare for Seattleites and others to travel to one of our wonderful Puget Sound islands for a nice weekend or overnight getaway, it’s rarer to do it solely for a meal and a drink. The Ruby Brink (17526 Vashon Hwy SW, Vashon) a new restaurant, bar, and butchery that opened right in the center of downtown Vashon in May, is one place that might change that.
The Ruby Brink is commandeered by a talented trio: Lauren Garaventa, Rustle Biehn, and Jake Heil. Chef/butcher Garaventa and Biehn ran popular pop-up Meat and Noodle Soup Club and Heil previously managed Portland’s Multnomah Whiskey Library.
They’ve done a sparkling job renovating a space that was once three separate areas containing several food-related businesses, opening it up while maintaining two distinct sections an over-21 area with a J-shaped bar and antique-y tall bar chairs, some big booths and other seating, and another area with a butcher’s counter and a handful of wooden tables and chairs—all-ages until 7 p.m.. A lovely wooden floor ties it together, with large windows facing Vashon’s main streets that not only provide people-watching but an open feeling.
Luckily, the food and drinks match this jewel of a space. When I stopped in recently for lunch with my wife and pals Tami and Paco Joyce (who own the Vashon-born Seattle Distilling Company, one of our tastiest distilleries). We started, naturally, with drinks. Heil’s cocktail menu features nine classic cocktails that including lesser-known boozy canonical champs, like a refreshing Sherry Cobbler. First popular in the mid-1800s, Cobblers are tall, crushed ice sippers, and this Sherry version was perfect, light but layered with a hint of sherry nuttiness, and perfect for lunch thanks to the lower ABV.
Another highlight was not on the menu, the Air Mail, which had been on an earlier menu iteration. It’s an unburied cocktail treasure, this time from the mid-1900s, with a smooth mix of rum, lime, and honey. There are also solid lists of wine and beer, the latter including Camp Colvos Eurohybrid Wit, made right up the street. However, one drink you will not want to miss— if you’re a carnivore—doesn’t even contain alcohol: the steaming hot mug of 24-hour bone broth, of which Tami said, “[it is] the best thing I’ve ever had in my mouth.” High praise indeed.
The rest of the food tried showed a similar level of craft, beginning with, for us, Mixed Pickles (Garaventa makes them from whatever leftover veggies are available from local farms – we had fermented carrots and radishes and crispy, tangy picked beans)—a popcorn topped with Hayshaker Farms Amish butter and zingy spices, radishes with dreamy Shropshire blue butter, and heritage grain toast topped with Venison Valley Creamery ricotta, honey, and fresh peaches. The latter grown on the island. The Ruby Brink’s really taking advantage of the island abundance, and that’s just items off the Starters.
The "Hold the Meat" & Noodles
It’s a long, enticing list of starters—and there’s an equally-long and enticing list of meals. The Meat & Noodles dish is a good place to start. Vegetarians, you aren’t left out: The “Hold the Meat” & Noodle was also exceptional, with an out-of-this-world rich veggie broth (you’ll be slurping), brimming with roasted shitake mushrooms, egg noodles, thick carrots, greens, spring onions, and a soft egg. It’s so yummy I wouldn’t skip it even on a hot summer day.
Sandwiches, salads, and a few rice dishes round out the meals, and veggies have options throughout, which is nice, as there is that full butcher’s counter, too, with everything from a smoked pork chop to skirt steak to lard to a list of today’s salamis. Following the rest of the menu, it’s meticulously made and locally focused. And the locals are taking notice – but so are the non-islanders, who made up a good part of the bustling crowd. It’s easy after stopping to see why, as The Ruby Brink is worth making a trip for, whether the trip is just up the street or across the water.