The Wild Mermaid, a new restaurant next to Vashon’s north-end ferry dock, opened last week featuring specialty coffees, buttery baked goods and sandwiches-to-go, all served up with a stunning waterfront view.
For more than a decade, the building where The Wild Mermaid now resides was home to La Playa Mexican restaurant, which closed in June.
Hita von Mende, who owns the building with her partner Karl Craine, said she was excited to see islanders flocking to the new restaurant.
“I’ve never seen people so happy and comfortable in that space,” she said.
The building’s site had had a long history: since the early 1900s, it has been home to a grocery store, a gas station, Vashon’s first post-prohibition bar, called the Beach Tavern, and numerous restaurants. After the original building burned in 1950, the building that presently stands on the spot was erected, and in 1962, it opened as a restaurant called the Dock and Dine. It has had several subsequent names, but it has remained the island’s only waterfront restaurant.
Its latest incarnation — a seaside gathering spot that is both comfortable and stylish — is the creation of islanders Adam Cone and Megan Hastings.
The married duo also owns Snapdragon Bakery & Cafe, a vegetarian restaurant and community hub in town. Snapdragon has expanded, over a period of years, to include an art venue, The Hastings-Cone Gallery, and an adjacent bar called Home Sweet Home.
Both Cone and Hastings said they have long been interested in opening another restaurant in the north-end location.
The Wild Mermaid, like Snapdragon, will be a work in progress, evolving over time, they said.
In February, it will expand to include a bar called The Seagull Lounge, adjacent to the eatery. Sometime after that, when work on the kitchen is completed, a full restaurant specializing in Mediterranean vegetarian cuisine will be open for dinner.
The menu, Hastings said, will reflect her and Cone’s love and familiarity of Sicily and the food and cultures of the entire Mediterranean region.
“It’s going to be a culmination of a lot of different flavors, from our travels, that we have fallen in love with,” she said.
A rooftop patio is another future plan, as is a red neon sign to announce the building.
All of Hastings and Cone’s goals for the site are ultimately intended to revitalize it and help islanders create new memories there.
“We want it to be a fun hang-out place for people to come and enjoy, and be on the waterfront,” Hastings said.
Currently, the Mermaid’s official hours are 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., seven days a week.
When the eatery first opened, Hastings and Cone had planned to only stay open only until noon, but the foot traffic in the first few days made them change their minds.
“We’ve had such a warm response, we decided we’ll stay open into the afternoon,” Cone said.
Along with a team of workers, Cone and Hastings have been renovating the space since July, and the resulting transformation — from a Mexican restaurant to a cozy coffee shop, centered around a roaring gas fireplace — is startling.
Just inside the front door, there is a long counter with full barista station. The counter — embellished with tile work by Cone in the colors of earth, sky, and sea — leads customers to bakery cases loaded with cookies, croissants, scones, cinnamon rolls. Hearty and rustic vegetarian and vegan sandwiches, filled with roasted vegetables, cheeses and flavorful sauces, are also currently on sale.
Exposed woodwork in the ceiling mirrors the dark wood floors of the space, and there are more exposed wood beams throughout. Creamy stucco walls hung with the work of local artists, along with thrift store finds, give the place an old world feel.
But the real scene-stealer of the Wild Mermaid is Puget Sound. There is a mesmerizing, floor-to-ceiling view of it from a wall of windows — formerly half hidden by the Mexican restaurant’s booths — that comes complete with diving seagulls, banks of tall clouds and ferries pushing back and forth like lumbering brutes.
There are three other large windows on the north side of the building, overlooking its small parking lot. For those, Cone and Hastings have commissioned Vashon artist Jessica DeWire to create stained glass in homage to Princess Angeline, Chief Seattle’s daughter.
“We learned, with building Home Sweet Home, that we can work with artists slowly and enjoy that process,” Cone said.
In the meantime, Cone said, Snapdragon Bakery & Café will continue its operation, unchanged.
“The old lady Snapdragon has figured itself out,” he said, as a surveyed the bustling scene at The Wild Mermaid — a brand new venture, just lifting off the ground.