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July 26, 2016

Sand Verbena, Serenity Across the Sand

How an endangered plant inspired a dining experience in Tokeland

Story By Kellie Ann Benz Photos By Kyle Mittan
Shoalwater omelet features local Dungeness crab, bay shriimp, cheddar cheese and spinach

(Kyle Mittan | The Daily World)
For $15, the Shoalwater omelet features local Dungeness crab, bay shrimp, cheddar cheese and spinach. Omelets are served with hashbrowns or homefries.

(Kyle Mittan | The Daily World) Sand Verbena's patio offers sweeping views of Tokeland's mudflats and the Pacific Ocean.

(Kyle Mittan | The Daily World)
Sand Verbena’s patio offers sweeping views of Tokeland’s mudflats and the Pacific Ocean.

Chances are good that if you’ve driven through Tokeland, you stopped at the Georgetown Gas station for a fill-up or settled in for a game — or two — across the street at the Shoalwater Bay Casino.

If you did any of these, then you were within steps of one of the Washington Coast’s newest restaurant gems. But no one would blame you for missing it. The entrance hardly gives its location away.

The large dining room

The large dining room is bright and sunny

Tucked neatly into the Georgetown Gas Station complex is the entrance to Sand Verbena. It’s a subtle entrance that you could easily miss, but it’s worth the effort for all who take the trouble to find it.

If you’ve yet to experience it, then let us be the first to introduce you to Sand Verbena, a not-to-be-missed delight along Highway 105 at the entrance to Tokeland. The newest addition to the family of Shoalwater Bay Enterprise complexes, Sand Verbena is the dining experience that the Shoalwater Bay tribe had long wished for.

“We wanted a home to present our favorite dishes to the visiting public,” explained General Manager John MacClain. “And to share our passion for local ingredient-based delicious meals.”

The restaurant started slowly, opening only five days a week and serving only lunch and dinner for guests of the Shoalwater Bay Casino and its motel, Tradewinds on the Bay.

“But we really wanted a place where we could serve breakfast to not only our guests but the people passing through Tokeland, too,” MacClain said.

(Kyle Mittan | The Daily World) Chef James Mullins sautees prawns.

(Kyle Mittan | The Daily World)
Chef James Mullins sautees prawns.

That is perhaps why the restaurant is situated on the inner harbor of Willapa Bay looking out toward the open Pacific Ocean. On a clear day from the patio of the relaxing location, one can enjoy the blue herons fishing in the picturesque marsh the restaurant looks over. In the distance on the horizon, you can barely make out the cresting waves of the Pacific Ocean.

A little over two years old, Sand Verbena quietly opened in October of 2013 and has remained one of the area’s best kept secrets. The restaurant is named after the Pink Sand Verbena, a plant native to the West Coast but currently endangered.

The meals are fresh and inviting, challenging first time guests to narrow their choice. While their lunches and dinners are surefire winners, it’s their breakfasts that are collecting raves.

You have your choice among specialties like Eagle Hill Hash ($12) made from local smoked salmon with bacon, onions and diced potato grilled with two eggs and roasted tomato salsa; Long Liner Hash ($9) that is chopped prime rib with diced potato, onions and bell peppers with two eggs your way; Smoked Salmon omelet ($12) with cream cheese, green onions and spinach or The Shoalwater ($15) made of local Dungeness crab, bay shrimp with cheddar cheese and spinach.

“We smoke all of our salmon on alderwood,” MacClain added. “I think it’s what sets the taste of our local caught salmon apart from other wild salmon you’ll have on the coast.”

You clearly can’t go wrong with any of these options.

(Kyle Mittan | The Daily World) General Manager John MacClain

(Kyle Mittan | The Daily World)
General Manager John MacClain

“We’re very proud of our breakfasts,” MacClain said. “Being good at those was always part of the tribe’s plan and we’re so pleased that our guests are responding so well.”

The Shoalwater Bay Tribe has been resident on this land along the coast since 1865 and generations have grown up protecting this vital area of Washington state. The tribal government manages the local resources by supervising environmental permits, water quality, noxious weed control, wetlands and forest management, recreational trails, shellfish hunting licenses and their renewable energy program.

Their passion for honoring the local resources includes their hiring practices. Recently, Sand Verbena promoted a local sous chef who had trained at the restaurant to be their new executive chef. Today, James Mullins of Ocean City (north of Ocean Shores) heads up the restaurant’s culinary inventions.

Looking around the welcome room of the Sand Verbena, you’ll likely notice the gorgeous artwork that fills the walls.

“It’s all the work of local carvers,” MacClain said. “We have some of the best wood carvers in the country in our tribe, and all of their work is on display here.”

(Kyle Mittan | The Daily World) The Pink Sand Verbena, the bar's signature drink, is made with gin, strawberry puree and grenadine.

(Kyle Mittan | The Daily World)
The Pink Sand Verbena, the bar’s signature drink, is made with gin, strawberry puree and grenadine.

Sand Verbena

4115 State Route 105 Ste B

in Tokeland.

Ph: 360-267-2048 x 248

Open Thursday through Monday, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Weekend breakfast is served from 8 – 11 a.m. Visit their website: www.sand-verbena.com for more information.

Breakfast Menu Must Haves
Eagle Hill Hash: local smoked salmon, bacon, onions and diced potatoes with two eggs and roasted tomato salsa

Long Liner Hash: chopped prime rib, onions, bell peppers and 2 eggs

Smoked Salmon Omelet: cream cheese, green onions and spinach

The Shoalwater Omelet: Dungeness crab, bay shrimp, cheddar cheese and spinach

(Kyle Mittan | The Daily World) Bartender Supervisor Patty Eades pours a Pink Sand Verbena, the bar's signature drink made with gin, strawberry puree and grenadine.

(Kyle Mittan | The Daily World)
Bartender Supervisor Patty Eades pours a Pink Sand Verbena, the bar’s signature drink made with gin, strawberry puree and grenadine.