Red Bird Cafe in Roslyn
With gluten-free and vegan options, this brunch oasis is just off the beaten path.
Red Bird Cafe is kind of the unrecognized gem of restaurants in Roslyn, but those of us who frequently pass through its door are consistently pleased with what's hiding inside. Off the beaten path from the main drag on Pennsylvania Avenue and only open for breakfast and lunch, it's easy to overlook the Red Bird Cafe as a dining option for not just travelers but residents of the area as well.
With very reasonable prices throughout much of the menu, it's not just a great breakfast and lunch place, but it also houses a fully stationed espresso bar with cases of pastries, quiches, deli-style salads and sandwiches-to-go and has a nice, small selection of hard cider, hard seltzer, wine, beer and hard kombucha. However, be forewarned, if it's midweek or off-season, the grab-and-go case can be relatively empty.
The breakfast menu sports a number of standard options like biscuits and gravy, bagels, yogurt, breakfast sandwiches, and breakfast quesadillas. But the "House Specialties" are where things get more interesting. The Bagna Breakfast is two poached eggs and veggies slow cooked in butter, olive oil, anchovies and a veritable coal cart of garlic, served over either toast with mozzarella cheese or fried polenta cake.
The Monte Cristo contains three slices of egg bread stuffed with turkey, ham, cheddar and swiss, dipped in egg and grilled. It's dusted with powdered sugar and served with jam. It's perfect for recovering from a long morning of calorie torching hiking, snowshoeing or mountain biking on the local trails. There are a number of "Birds Nest Stackers" to choose from - basically two eggs fried in toast and served with a variety of accompaniments ranging from bacon, jam and goat cheese to a sausage patty and scratch-made sausage gravy.
Lunch is a mix of hot or cold hoagies, grilled sandwiches, croissantwiches, salads and a few soups. With its lunch options, you have the choice of fruit or chips and there are (usually) plenty of cookies and cakes if you are hankering for dessert.
On my most recent visit, we ordered the Roslyn Ridge sandwich and the Tomato Basil soup. The Roslyn Ridge is a fresh hoagie loaded with lettuce, tomato, red onion and seasoned with extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. This vegetarian option contains hummus, cucumber, carrot, radish, sweet pepper and goddess dressing and was the perfect mix of creaminess to offset all the vegetables.
The Tomato Basil soup was, honestly, pretty fantastic. I don't generally glow or get all excited over soups, but this was something I'd definitely order again, particularly in the winter. It wasn't overly blended and still had some smalls bits of tomato in it that gave it a great texture. Not super acidic, like tomato soup can be, it had a sweet and salty, tomatoey taste with just the right amount of basil, without being too overpowering. My only complaint was that it came to the table smoking hot and I had to wait to eat it.
On a previous visit, I ordered the Dill Tuna sandwich and paired it with a banana. The sandwich was a mix of albacore, fresh dill, celery, red onions and mayo, topped with spring mix. It had a great crunch and wasn't dry, like tuna sandwiches can be, nor was it walloped with too much mayo, which is generally the other direction tuna sandwiches tend to go. In fact, I was craving it days later and went back for it again.
The number of times I've eaten there, I've always been pleasantly surprised and generally ask myself or anyone around willing to listen, "why don't I eat here more often?". The food is good and the prices are easy on the wallet and the food options for gluten-free and vegetarian are the best in the area.
Gluten-Free and Vegetarian Options
All toast and sandwiches can be substituted with either gluten-free bread or buns from the Franz Bakery line of gluten-free breads. There are several vegan and vegetarian options on the menu as well, or can be made that way. Occasionally, they'll have gluten-free pancakes on the menu, too. Many items can be made dairy-free with the substitution of their housemade cashew cheese. And, there's generally a large selection of gluten-free cookies and vegan cakes for dessert.
The Environs and Service
Walking into the space, you are greeted by a number of different rooms to choose from to sit down as well as the bar (there's also a kid friendly area). Pleasant art and a cute specials blackboard decorate the walls, adding a cozy feel. The tables are an eclectic mix of diner tables and chairs, giving it a homey feeling, but also the kind where you don't want to hang out all day.
Which, in most cases, is probably by design because when the Red Bird gets busy, it gets busy. Having a small kitchen doesn't allow them for quick turnover to serve large groups and, because most of the food is made from scratch and to order (which is a good thing), service can be very slow if the restaurant is full.
While it's well worth the wait, if you are in a hurry and don't have patience to hang out, it might be wise to try it another time. Generally, the staff is good about letting you know if they are running slow and you can opt for waiting or grabbing something quick from their case. Most of the staff is quite appeasing, but I've experienced a few times where a harried waitstaff was gruff with a customer.
The owner, Stephanie Harrison, is a delight to talk to and should be commended for bringing this bright spot of dining options to Roslyn, providing many choices for gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan diners. Personally, the Red Bird is on my rotation of go-tos for dining in town.
The Red Bird Cafe
102 E Pennsylvania Ave, Roslyn, WA 98941
Open daily 7:00 am - 4:00 pm