Budd Bay Café specializes in seafood, including salmon prepared six different ways and award-winning chowder, but it also serves up dry-aged steaks, pasta dishes, chicken, sandwiches, and much more. And its bar boasts one of the larger inventories in the area.
The lengthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus (all available on their website) are chock full of variety.
Seemingly within arm’s reach of the boats docked on Budd Inlet, Budd Bay Café vistas are spectacular year round – whether you’re sitting on the deck in balmier months or cozying up indoors with a hot toddy, watching a winter storm blow through.
General manager and co-owner Pam Oates describes Budd Bay Café succinctly: “You can come in and have a burger, or you can come in and have a filet and lobster.”
Sure, Budd Bay Café sees scores of prom goers on the big night, and anyone dressed to the nines for an important celebration won’t feel out of place. But many flip-flop festooned patrons also come in, straight off their boats. Bottom line? Everyone is welcome at Budd Bay.
“You just have to have on shirt and shoes – the basics,” Oates says with a laugh. “Some people come in and worry that they’re underdressed. We say, ‘No, you’re great!’”
Oates has been with Budd Bay since its inception; she waited tables for the restaurant’s original owners, and then worked her way up. When the popular eatery changed hands eight years ago, Oates joined the new ownership team of Patrick Knutson, Scott Fuller, and Gail Fuller.
She says the changes from the original restaurant were subtle, but executive chef Scott Fuller’s menu, in particular, has been fantastic. “You’re going to get a good steak, a good piece of salmon when you come to Budd Bay. And you’re going to get that every time you come in,” she says.
The restaurant underwent a complete remodel in 2008. Every surface changed and new tables and chairs were brought in. “We needed a new kitchen floor, so we had to close anyway,” Oates explains. “We figured we might as well spruce up the entire place. It hadn’t had any changes since ’88.”
The space is welcoming and warm, cozy but also spacious. Smart choices in décor, such as plenty of soft surfaces, keep the noise level low, even when the restaurant is full.
The water view is the front-and-center star here, but the eatery’s environs are also worth an appreciative look, including an unusual, striking mural of fish swimming through a forest.
Deck seating hugs the waterfront side of the restaurant and every chair is coveted in the warmer months. “We don’t reserve the deck,” says Oates. “That’s first come, first served.” The lucky diners who fill the 30 outdoor tables enjoy salmon-colored sunsets amid the warm summer air.
Budd Bay Café has won an avalanche of awards over the years, with readers of the Olympian regularly crowning them “Best Brunch,” “Best Outdoor Dining,” and “Best Business Lunch,” among other accolades, in its annual Best of South Sound survey.
Budd Bay’s all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch is immensely popular, yet many folks don’t realize they also serve breakfast the remaining six days of the week.
Oates raves about their bacon, so order a side with whatever menu item you choose: from the tried-and-true simplicity of eggs, toast, and hash browns to an extraordinary smoked salmon eggs Benedict.
Looking for a fantastic business lunch spot? “ We can get you in and out in an hour,” says Oates, “with a good lunch and good service.”
And Budd Bay Café isn’t stuffy or corporate. “We don’t script our servers,” says Oates. “We don’t tell them they have to sell the onion loaf.”
Budd Bay’s owners and managers all live locally. They care about Olympia and its residents. To that end, Budd Bay donates generously to community events and charitable organizations. “It’s our community,” Oates says, “so we want to help it thrive and do well.”
Budd Bay Café also offers catering, from small backyard barbeques to full-blown weddings, and provides room service to the neighboring Phoenix Inn.
“Budd Bay’s really been a local’s choice for a long time,” says Oates. “We’ve maintained a good quality of food and good service and I think that’s what’s kept us in business for as long as it has. You know, you see restaurants that aren’t making it, and we’re really fortunate that we’re still going strong.”
The Budd Bay Café
525 Columbia St. NW