It’s a culinary case of testing the waters — literally.
After two months of putting a unique decorating spin on their new venture, Rachel and Kelly Smith have opened the former Delilah’s on Harrison Avenue as The Waters Restaurant & Café.
The couple bought the restaurant in January when former owner Delilah decided to close and offered the restaurant to them first. Now, it is a shadow of its former self — only the lighting is the same in the 2,200-square-foot space, which is comprised of a dining room, which seats 50, and an adjoining 15-person café.
“We wanted something warm and inviting,” Rachel Smith said. “These tables are actually old ship floors. We wanted a family friendly place where you could still get really good food and really good service.”
Rachel Smith has lived in Port Orchard since she was 17; her husband is from Wyoming but found his way to the West Sound through the Navy.Neither had prior experience running a restaurant, but Kelly Smith said it was their dream.
“We ate out a lot and always commented on what we would do — or would not do — if it was our place,” he said. “That’s why we went with all fresh food. We can’t justify opening a can and calling it our food.”
Kelly Smith estimated that 80 percent of their orders are burgers, all crafted from handmade patties. Their popularity resulted in the dinner menu being cut down to accommodate all of the options, most of which are $9.95. While the most popular is the Bacon Bacon Cheeseburger, with bacon chopped up inside the burger, the Smiths’ personal favorite is the Fire and Ice Burger, which features jalapenos candied in sweet chili and their signature sauce.
“It’s creamy and kind of sweet and spicy,” he said, adding that their menu offerings are a point of pride. “There’s a lot of thought in all of our food. It’s really personal to us.”
They also like their Philly Cheesesteak ($8.95), homemade salad dressings and giant cheese sticks ($7.95), which are made from a wonton instead of being breaded and deep-fried. The spaghetti sandwich ($7.95) — a hoagie roll toasted like garlic bread and filled with spaghetti and sauce — is a hit with customers.
Also unique, Rachel Smith said, “All of our appetizers come in a bucket.”And while they maintain that nothing on the menu is too special, Kelly Smith said that they wanted to open an eatery comparable to Silverdale’s Silver City.
“We’re not fine dining — we don’t have the fine-dining prices — but you’ll still get that experience with the service and your food will be done really well,” he said.
The Smiths purchase their ingredients locally — they are waiting for the farmer’s market to reopen for spring — and get coffee from Fidalgo Bay near Whidbey Island, which is about the furthest that they go for food.
The Waters’ coffee bar opens at 6 a.m. on weekdays and features such as café-style items as muffins, bagels, fruit and yogurt. The Smiths plan to add breakfast sandwiches to the repertoire in the future.
The actual restaurant opens at 11 a.m. — earlier for business meetings and groups — and closes at 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. They are closed on Sundays.