Washington’s Hood Canal, one of only two seawater fjords in the United States, holds plenty of hidden gems, but none is more delightful than Bonnie Peterson, owner of Halfway House Restaurant and Halfway House—the pie lady of Brinnon.
Halfway House is located in Brinnon, a tiny berg, about halfway up highway 101 on the Hood Canal (thus, the restaurant’s descriptive name). The small restaurant, which is set back off the highway so it’s easy to miss when you’re driving by, has been here for 30 years. It’s a place that serves more locals than tourists and you’ll see plenty of men in flannel shirts, suspenders, and baseball caps who’ve just come in from logging or fishing. It’s a casual, friendly sort of place where long-time wait staff call customers by their first name.
Bonnie came to the Northwest from North Dakota and purchased the restaurant seven years ago. And, as our waitress who’s worked the tables here for more than a decade, said, “The pie has been better ever since.”
The little restaurant specializes in making nearly everything in-house, including a creamy, briny New England-style clam chowder that’s loaded with chewy clams and just the right balance of potatoes, celery, and chunks of bacon. They also feature many local products, especially seafood the area is known for, like fried oysters from Hama Hama Oyster Company just a stone’s thrown down the road.
I ordered the Arctic Cod which comes breaded and fried with French fries and coleslaw. It featured three big pieces of crispy cod moist and not overly breaded. This is hand-cut, hand-breaded fish, not something that comes pre-made from a food supplier and it shows. The fries were fresh and crispy, but the house made coleslaw was too creamy with a mustardy flavor that neither of us really enjoyed.
We also ordered the Biggie Burger, a hand-formed half-pound patty of charred goodness (their smaller burgers come pre-formed from a food supplier). The burger was moist and juicy with a smoky flavor and was served with lettuce, tomatoes, and, like we requested, grilled onion, and fries. The waitress asked if we wanted cheese and we agreed, but they use an American cheese that doesn’t really compliment the burger. They’d be better off using Tillamook cheddar or, even better, Cougar Gold from Washington State University, for a cheesy flavor that would complement this otherwise delicious burger.
On a recent return trip to Halfway House, Bonnie was in the upstairs kitchen cutting fresh chicken for Fried Chicken Sunday. Given all of Bonnie’s other food, this has got to be fantastic and I’m marking my calendar for a fried chicken dinner here very soon.
Pies, Pies, Pies
While lunch was satisfying and hearty (the servings are huge), pie and cobblers are the stars that elevate Halfway House Restaurant from good to extraordinary. Bonnie makes all the pies herself using as many fresh, local ingredients as possible. She’s also got the touch when it comes to pie crust—melt-in-your-mouth flakiness that kept us coming back for “just one more bite” when we were already stuffed.
Bonnie bakes and sells 10 fresh pies daily. She refuses to sell pie that’s not baked the same day. She’s also known for her cobblers, individual bowls of fruity goodness topped with her signature pie crust that bubble over the sides of the dish. The pies change daily and, when we visited, these pies were available: coconut cream, Butterfinger, banana cream, white chocolate toffee, strawberry banana cream, apple crumb, marionberry crumb, and double crust raspberry (top and bottom crust). She also had her signature triple berry cobbler on hand.
We tried the coconut cream and double crust raspberry and both were wonderful. Both slices of pie were big—she gets six pieces out of a large pie. The coconut cream featured creamy pudding virtually stuffed with coconut, topped with a pile of freshly whipped cream, and sprinkled with toasted coconut. It’s encased on the bottom with Bonnie’s delightful crust.
The double crust raspberry, our favorite, was made with fresh raspberries that gave the pie a satisfying tart-sweetness. It had just come out of the oven and hadn’t even set up yet, so rather oozed onto the plate–deliciously so. The top and bottom crust allowed us to enjoy Bonnie’s crust even more. We ordered a scoop of vanilla ice cream and the warm pie and cool ice cream made for a delightful combination I still dream about.
Bonnie’s pies not only satisfy locals and the occasional lucky tourist who wanders in, they also support community programs. Recently, Bonnie donated a pie a month for a year for an auction raising money for a local school. The winning bid was $300 and we’re betting this buyer is going to be one happy camper all year long.
Real bottom line: Bonnie Peterson’s Halfway House, which she calls “a place she always dreamed about,” should be a must-stop for travelers along the Hood Canal. The food is good and hearty and the pie is out-of-this-world. Treat yourself—eat the pie first. Next time, that’s what I’m going to do. – Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor, Photos by Anne Weaver, RFT Editor
41 Brinnon Land
Brinnon, WA 98320