Pam Oates is paging through the master copy of a 30-year-old Budd Bay Café menu. “We still have the New York’s, we have the salmon fillets, we have the pan-fried oysters, we have all these,” she laughs, “and this is an old menu! Our menu is now a little bit bigger – changes and tweaks – different names but many of the same items. People know what they like.”
When my stepmom was getting older and having a bit harder time walking, I knew she would always be able to navigate the shallow steps leading to the front doors of Budd Bay Café. Above all the other choices in town, this was her favorite. Sitting on the deck, shaded by an umbrella, enjoying her favorite seafood salad, we looked out over sailboats, whiling away the lunch hour.
Pam, co-owner of Budd Bay Café, is feeling a bit nostalgic these days too. August 8 marks the Budd Bay Café’s 30th anniversary. And like anyone who has maintained a 30-year relationship can attest, it takes a lot of love and commitment to keep the fire alive.
Saying Yes to Her Future
“I went to Evergreen studying video editing,” says Pam, “and worked my way through school. So I would live in the Virgin Islands in the winter and come back in the summer. Then, little by little, I worked my way into management. They kept asking me to work fulltime, and I would say no, and then finally,” she shrugs and smiles, “I said yes.”
“I purchased the restaurant 17 years ago,” says co-owner, Patrick Knutson, “but Pam has been here since the beginning. She is such a part of this place and a great manager.”
You can tell these two have a lot of pride in their restaurant and staff. “We have had people propose here,” says Pam, “and come back every year. We have staff who worked here and now their kids work here.” She laughs and looks at Patrick. “We have employed entire families.”
“And Tony started here way back when as a dishwasher,” Patrick adds, “about four years after we opened. That’s a long time to be driving from Hoquiam.”
“Tony Fields is one of our sous chefs.” Pam explains. “He is the first one here every day too, even when it snows.” Pam looks toward the kitchen with admiration. “He is so reliable.”
Consistency and Quality for 30 years
It’s not just the staff who is reliable, so is the reputation Budd Bay Café has in the community. “We are consistently voted best brunch in the South Sound,” Pam says with pride, then warns, “But you better bring a big appetite!”
With a tried and true menu, you may be hard-pressed to decide what to order. “It’s hard,” says Pam, “because it depends on what you are in the mood for. A nice Caesar salad? Salmon? You can’t go wrong with the salmon,” she adds, “we prepare it six different ways.” Then Pam stops, pats the table and leans back in her chair, “but sometimes you just get a hankering for a good old New York steak – it really is hard to choose one.”
The kitchen staff can handle pretty much anything you throw at them. They cater events from legislative lunches to sit-down weddings and everything in between.
Jewels from the Sea
The entire month of August there will be celebrations at Budd Bay Café commemorating their anniversary. But on August 8 expect the café to be especially festive. “Pearls are the 30-year anniversary gift,” explains Pam, “so we will have pearls to give away and apparel. Drink and food specials and live music. Roxy radio will also be here with a live remote. It is a time for celebrating the previous owners that opened up 30 years ago,” says Pam, “and especially all of our regulars.”
A Long-Term Relationship
Long recognized as a stand out among local restaurants, many patrons have been coming here for years. One special group has been coming every year since they opened. “Ever since the very first Friday we opened in 1988, we have had a lunch club that comes in,” says Pam. “It’s the only table we reserve on a regular basis, table 35, we keep that one for the Friday lunch club. They order off the menu sometimes,” she says, “because, hey, they are our 30-year regulars!”
“We have trained a lot of servers!” jokes Bill Brant, member of the Lunch Bunch. “
But it’s more than that,” interjects fellow patron, Gary Burk. “We have also seen a lot of young people come through here and use this job to fund their education. They put themselves through college and sometimes they come back and sometimes they move on.”
The Lunch Bunch is a group of Olympians that originated as a group of six men, four of whom had been Commodores of the Yacht Club. Over the 30 years, the group has been sustained as a reimagined gathering of spouses, widows, and friends.
“I can bring any topic to this table and I am guaranteed there will be a spirited discussion,” Lunch Bunch member Toni Weaver says.
The spirit of this group is a good reflection of everyone at Budd Bay Café. “I am really proud of the café,” Pam says. “Proud of the staff, what we do for the community and being good people to work for. Patrick and I are really good friends too, and that helps a business partnership.”
Visit Budd Bay Café anytime the month of August for specials and commemorative giveaways. To dine on August 8, 2018, their 30th anniversary you will want to make reservations right away. Their reservation line is 360-357-6963.
Budd Bay Cafe
525 Columbia St NW Olympia, WA 98501
Monday-Thursday: 6:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Friday-Saturday: 6:30 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Sunday: 9:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.