Passing a white fire place and fleur-de-lis wallpaper, a gentleman sits his spouse at what appears to be an old kitchen table, before returning to the worn wood counter. Two shortcakes, towering with thick whipped cream and brilliant strawberries, wait for him.
His wife has already begun on her soup and fresh baked bread, when he returns. Lips puckering with excitement, he says, “This is what we come here for.”
Everything at the Boarding House Restaurant reckons nostalgia for home – grandfather clocks, food made from scratch and unbeatable desserts.
For its loyal customers, the simplicity outmatches sophistication. The beauty is in the tradition, and the Boarding House has been Issaquah’s tradition for 39 years.
Appropriately centered in the Anderson house at Gilman Village, the historic home with its stained glass door and church pews maintains its old world charm.
“It has its own soul,” says co-owner Jene Kramier.
Although the restaurant’s pastry chef, she also runs front of house. When she’s not breaking change in a wooden cash drawer, she’s making rounds with a coffee pot.
Four women started the business with a handful of good recipes. When Kramier took over 11 years ago, she learned past owners had altered them. She pared down the menu, brought back the original recipes and added a few of her own, including the shortcake.
She admires the creativity behind the first owners. The business would have to close if it ever lost its recipe for potato dill soup, she says.
The thin cut apples in the crisp aren’t gooey sweet, relying instead on a heavenly topping, which has such unexpected ingredients it even surprised Kramier. Want a whole pie? Drop by your plate the day before. Their signature salad is a mouthwatering amalgam of flavors, including housemade three-bean salad.
Kramier and Mary Anne Mizokawa, the second owner who prefers her spot behind the counter, did make a few additions to the menu, especially with the sandwiches. They roast their own turkey and added a BLT with guacamole.
The pair began shopping local and organic, before it was cool. Regularly hitting Issaquah’s farmers market, they even make annual trips to Eastern Washington to find peaches for shortcake.
An insurance adjuster, it had been Kramier’s dream to open a restaurant since graduating high school. When she heard the Boarding House was in trouble, she scoped it out for nine months, before deciding to buy.
“It needed a rescue,” she said. “We had to figure out how to save it.”
She replaced the wallpaper, which reckoned the ‘90s farmhouse themes, with a French country look. The menu and its reputation for being a warm place made up the difference.
“For them, it’s a wonderful feeling,” she said. “This really is a gathering place.”
THE BOARDING HOUSE
10 a.m.-5 p.m., Mon.-Sat.; 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sun.
317 NW Gilman Blvd. #7, Issaquah
Cash only, $7-$10
Jene Kramier, co-owner of the Boarding House, purchased the business after eating there several times in her youth. BY CELESTE GRACEY, ISSAQUAH & SAMMAMISH REPORTER