New owners bring new feel to Bainbridge restaurants

Just in time for the summer tourist season, five restaurants are opening on Bainbridge Island.

All five aren’t just opening, but they do have new owners so they’ll have a new look, feel and taste.

Jessica Perkins of the BI Chamber of Commerce said The Streamliner Diner, Treehouse Cafe, Agate Restaurant, The Plate & Pint, and Amelia Wynn Bistro are all under new ownership.

Agate Restaurant

This eatery is owned and operated by chef Paul Mancebo, a Bainbridge High School graduate who found his passion for cooking while skipping math classes to read cookbooks in the library at Washington State University. After graduating, “I always loved cooking,” so he followed his love for food and moved to Hyde Park, N.Y., where he studied at the Culinary Institute of America and worked for eight years in New York City restaurants.

Mancebo continues the dining legacy created by Susanna Turner. “I’m just trying to wrap my head around being an owner. Susanna has been very supportive through the transition.”

The menu showcases local seafood, proteins and produce from local farms that make up the New American cuisine prepared with Modernist techniques and world flavors. Mancebo said people come to Agate for many reasons—to get a burger and a beer or to celebrate their anniversary. “It’s different things for different people. Some people will come here three or four times a week to get dinner. Other people we’ll see once a year to celebrate something special.”

Mancebo wasn’t planning to own a restaurant yet. He’s 30 and has two small children. But after working things out with his family, it was an opportunity he didn’t want to miss.

The first few months have been challenging, and he lost two key employees. Bar manager Angie Payne left to operate Treehouse Cafe, and the kitchen manager went with her.

Bainbridge Island is a small place, and culinary talent must seek out their next opportunity where they can. “They put a lot of effort into building up this restaurant,” Mancebo said.

Amelia Wynn Bistro

This quaint bistro and tasting room features Amelia Wynn wines with small plate indoor dining or al fresco experiences. Two of the new owners are former employees of Paul Bianchi and Wendy Armstrong.

Nick Van Den Bosch, Erika Johannsen and Chef Gulsidel Velasquez-Ayala bring a combined 100 years of experience to the bistro. They have worked in pressure-filled environments in New York City, San Francisco and around the world, but it took the pandemic to bring them all to BI.

Van Den Bosch and Johannsen were living in the Bay Area at the start of COVID and moved to BI to live near Johannsen’s mother in Winslow. Van Den Bosch took up gardening, which eased his stress from working in the high-stakes world of fine dining, and Johannsen worked at the bistro.

Johannsen took over the front-of-the-house details and elevated the level of service. At one point, Bianchi suggested that Johannsen and Van Den Bosch buy the restaurant, but they weren’t ready.

Velasquez-Ayala was a top chef for Ara Mark in Minnesota with international culinary experience. In April of 2021, he moved to Poulsbo to be with family and help two brothers run a restaurant in White Center. After he joined the bistro staff that September they knew they had the right team to buy the restaurant.

Van Den Bosch loves the garden aspect and location of the bistro. “The ambiance is very warm. It’s very welcoming and very intimate.” The team has a vision and feels, “blessed to have a team of ownership that creates something special with amazing food while working with local purveyors.” The chef has his eye on Pacific Northwest ingredients that are foraged and sustainable, and he is working to bring ethically sourced proteins and produce from small co-op farms.

Johannsen said the bistro is visited by a lot of regulars from Tacoma, Poulsbo, Alaska and Canada, and Van Den Bosch said the restaurant appeals to people who enjoy fine dining but “don’t want the pretentious vibe.”

At Amelia Wynn, the dining service is tailored to the guest. “We want them to be comfortable and know they are about to eat a great meal,” Van Den Bosch said.

Treehouse Cafe

This pub and pizzeria is near the historic Lynwood Theater on the south end of BI. The cafe features specialty pizzas, soup, salad, and sandwiches for dining in or takeout. The family-friendly eatery is under the ownership of Angie Payne and her partner Shawn. They also offer a 21-and-older area with billiards, darts and live entertainment with space for special events.

Payne took ownership Jan. 1. “Neither of us have ever owned a restaurant, but I have been in the industry for the better part of the last fifteen years.” Payne always dreamed of owning a restaurant because the combination of food and community resonates with her.

“The Treehouse was not on my radar as a possibility when we first started seriously looking at buying a restaurant,” Payne said. At the time, she worked at Agate, and Shawn worked in the corporate world.

As things progressed, Payne looked at the Treehouse, which fit what she was looking for. The restaurant has a solid foundation, essential for her as a first-time owner, with a great community of support in a great location.

“I just love that area of the island. I like the old building. I like that there is a story that comes with it, and a lot of the characters involved are ones I know and have known for years.”

There are no plans for any major changes except to enhance the menu, add a full bar, continue with live music and hopefully have some fun along the way. “I hope the Treehouse continues to be a place that invokes community. You can walk in the door and feel like you’re among friends; you can get a great meal and a hearty laugh and leave feeling connected.”

The new owners of The Streamliner Diner and The Plate and Pint did not return calls for comment.