Family favorite
SW flavor makes Bainbridge restaurant special
(Editor's note: Lara Dunning publishes the website SmallTownWashington.com and in this article she features a longtime favorite restaurant on charming Bainbridge Island.)

San Carlos Restaurant is one of my parents' favorite restaurants on Bainbridge Island, which means when I visit we often dine there. The food isn't Mexican, it's New Mexican-Southwest, and its over 30-year run is a testament to its good food and popularity.

Also for tequila lovers,  1their 16 tequila creations such as Santa Fe with fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, the Skinny with agave nectar, and their fruit margaritas (mango, strawberry, raspberry, peach) makes it a must-do foodie stop.

The menu at San Carlos Restaurant includes many dishes you'll be familiar with like enchiladas, tacos, burritos, vegetarian dishes, salad entrees, appetizers. Flavor profiles that play an influential role are mesquite smoked, green chili and tangy sauces. All main entrees come with black beans and Spanish rice, and you can also substitute a small salad (which is what I do).

Since this is the Pacific Northwest, there are dishes with seafood, like seafood tacos, mesquite smoked salmon enchiladas, steelhead burritos, and a crab chimichanga. The new owners recently added a burger section, which includes a Southwest, black and blue, and cowboy burgers.

I need to admit up front that I always order the same thing when I dine at San Carlos Restaurant. I know, it's boring, but my eyes always land on the grilled steak and goat cheese open-face enchiladas ($20.95). It's so good I can't bring myself to try anything else.

Since I am a tequila drinker, I like their philosophy of scratch margaritas with fresh lime juice as well as local and seasonal ingredients. My favorite is the Washington peach margarita ($6). They also have a seasonal raspberry, and year-round mango and strawberry margaritas. If I am on the island when the peach margarita is available, I am for sure stopping by San Carlos Restaurant. It is oh so peachy and refreshing on a warm Pacific Northwest day.

Since the small town of Winslow on Bainbridge Island is a 35-minute ferry ride from Seattle it sees a lot of foot traffic, even in the winter months. If you arrive on a weekend and want to sit in the dining area, which has both indoor and outdoor seating, I'd make a reservation. There is also a spacious bar area with a small outdoor patio.

If you are not familiar with Winslow, you might miss San Carlos Restaurant, as it is off the main street, Winslow Way. For those on foot, walk all the way down Winslow Way until it runs into Madison Ave. Take a right, and San Carlos Restaurant is up the street on your left (across for Bainbridge Island City Hall). It's about a 13-minute walk.

If you are in a car, pull into the drive to the side of restaurant and park in the back. If the lot is full, you can drive through to the other side and usually find some spots. If you are driving from the ferry terminal, it's a 5-minute drive or less.

Where: 279 Madison Ave. N, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110 (phone 206-842-1999).

Hours: Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday 4 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday from 4 to 9 p.m. Daily Happy Hour from 4 to 6 p.m.

Want to Try: (I will force myself to try something new next time!) Los Burger with sauteed onions, grilled avocado and creamy salsa ($14.95; San Carlos BBQ Ribs (Bite of Seattle winner) are Texas style mesquite smoked ribs with a touch of cotija cheese ($19.95); Herbed Crab Chimichanga (Bite of Seattle winner) with a spiced crab salad and a creamy salsa ($18.95).
PHOTO CREDITS: Photo by Lara Dunning
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