When asked on what day Admiralty Fine Foods opened its doors to Port Townsend, owners Millie Henry and Toby Warren exchanged wide-eyed giggles and stumbled over a handful of dates. Henry settled on a …
When asked on what day Admiralty Fine Foods opened its doors to Port Townsend, owners Millie Henry and Toby Warren exchanged wide-eyed giggles and stumbled over a handful of dates.
Henry settled on a vague launch in early December.
“It was a soft start and it lasted forever,” she said.
Both Washington natives, the couple met in New York City a decade ago; Henry studying writing and fashion, Warren on an artist residency. Their love of food has been a cornerstone of their relationship from the beginning so, when they brought their fervent creativity back with them to the West Coast, it was inevitable they would become restaurateurs together.
Howell’s Sandwich Co. handed Henry and Warren the keys to their little downtown space (between Lively Oil and The Spice Shop) on Sept. 17. Where a beachside sandwich shop once stood, there is now a full-service restaurant. The space is fresh and airy while cozy and intelligent, cradled in warm lighting, mature tropical plants, white walls, and an impressive view of the bay; a dizzying transformation born of all day-everyday renovations that spanned a rapid 2½months and plenty of extra hands from friends and family.
Looking back at their progress, the couple sat in clean-line stools, leaning on a gleaming, live-edge cedar and Douglas fir bar top (compliments to Edensaw Woods) while they mused on their vision, their wine selection, and their ever-changing menu.
Henry’s chin rests in her hand; she’s wearing a Velvet Underground T-shirt and a billowing plaid skirt as she discusses her exploration of biodynamic wines served in-house. Warren sits next to her, arms crossed in black jeans and an Uptown Pub hoodie, adorned with paint from renovating the restaurant.
When revamping the space, they wanted to create a French café-style setting that could be ultimately malleable. They love that their restaurant is comfortable for the patron who wants to sit alone with wine and a book, the tradespeople looking for post-work happy hour, or folks in their finest heading out on the town to celebrate.
Henry has taken over front-of-house management, which includes curating the restaurant’s bottle shop, soon to become a full mercantile carrying freshly canned salmon from a friend’s Alaskan fishing trip, artful cutting boards made here in town, kelp seasonings, and other unique (and uniquely local) dry goods and art pieces — including the massive, hand-built wooden frames that encase eye-catching photography hanging throughout the space.
Warren has taken charge of the kitchen, taking bits of inspiration from each place he’s been a cook, a server, or a bartender since high school. That experience speaks to his culinary interests as well as his work ethic and the environment he seeks to foster behind the scenes. He loves that there’s some goofiness afoot amidst the hard work and that there are plenty of laughs during service, which is contagious to customers, especially during Sunday brunch, which Warren called “cheeky and fun.”
On such a Sunday morning, one can find a room full of locals watching stormy winter waves splash the windows while they sip on pint-glass mimosas and wait for their Spam sandwich, biscuits-and-gravy, shakshuka, or lox bagel.
On a Saturday night, you’ll find candlelight and craft cocktails, short rib and lamb neck ragú or pigs in a blanket (dolled up with Merguez and spicy cilantro crème fraîche).
The diversity of the menu becomes even more impressive upon learning that Admiralty has no hood vent. They’re making fine food with a convection oven and induction hot plates. They opt to see those hurdles as exciting challenges that encourage exploration and adaptation.
When discussing the challenges of the space, both in its physicality, being a small, low-ceilinged room, and in its kitchen restraints, Henry laughs and gives some credit to their predecessors at Howell’s.
“I mean, it made a lot of sense as a sandwich shop,” she said.
An aspect that has been fairly simple is sourcing their ingredients. Nearly everything comes from The Food Co-op or Key City Fish Company; their spring oysters will come from a friend’s family property off Discovery Bay. They’re interested in providing incredible food by operating by the seasons and using the resources right here on the Olympic Peninsula. And they’re succeeding.
Going forward, they hope to become a cornerstone host for community-oriented events, like poetry readings, paint-and-sips,and merchant pop-ups.
“We want to create a space where we can say ‘yes’ when people in the community come to us and ask for space to show their skills,” Henry said.
They’ll soon host talented friends’ visions in the restaurant’s off days (Monday and Tuesday) who hope to serve anything from vegan Indian food to Peruvian staples. Henry plans to guest star in her own kitchen this May, honoring her late father and her roots with a Jamaican brunch.
In fact, her father is due credit for food being a center-hold in her and Warren’s relationship. On their first date, they cooked one of her father’s recipes.
The sense of conscientiousness, humor, and taste are palpable in Admiralty Fine Foods. Impossibly, they managed to seamlessly incorporate the best “Cheers” qualities of a dive bar into high-end dining.
For locals and tourists alike, comfort and quality can be found in this well-curated space, perfect for sunbathing on the expansive deck with boozy slushies over the summer, or, on those muted Pacific Northwest days, watching roiling waves with pasta and red wine from the warmth of a quiet corner inside.
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