Although it’s right on Main Street and has a waterfront view, the old Vern’s Bayside building sat vacant for more than two years.
Now it’s got a fresh breath of Irish air with the arrival of White Horse Pub.
“I want islanders to enjoy this spot because we almost lost it,” said restaurant owner Shelbi Mattila-Patton.
Part of the charm for her is the history. The front portion of the building was constructed in 1940 and the addition was built in the late 1970s. The interior still showcases solid Orcas wood beams.
“We are slowly but surely getting the building back together,” she said.
Mattila-Patton is embarking on her new venture with her dad John and stepmother Dellarae, who are renovating the downstairs portion of the building for banquets and wedding receptions.
John fell in love with the building but it took a year to finalize its purchase.
“It was quite a rollercoaster ride,” Mattilla-Patton said.
They started cleaning up the restaurant in late October and opened its doors on Jan. 1. The cosmetic makeover included new flooring and paint and a lot of “de-greasing.”
“I always wanted to open in January so the locals can enjoy it before the tourists show up,” Mattila-Patton said.
Her husband Aaron saved a black walnut tree that was slated for firewood in Lake Stephens. It has now been immortalized as a gleaming bar top in the pub, which offers beer and wine, hard liquor and a large inventory of scotch.
The menu has items like shepherd’s pie and fish and chips for the winter and local seafood for the summer. The primary chefs are Stephen Wright and Sally Krup. Mattila-Patton prepares the soups and desserts.
The restaurant serves lunch and dinner starting at 3 p.m. daily. For later in the evening, there is a pool table and jukebox and entertainment like karaoke. Every Sunday from 4 to 8 p.m., a local group performs Irish music.
For Matilla-Patton, who has been in the restaurant industry for 20 years, opening an Irish pub on Orcas has always been a goal. Prior to managing the American Legion in the 1990s, she worked in restaurants in Seattle.
Her extended family owns a bar in a Northern Ireland called the “Diamond Bar,” which is the inspiration for the White Horse. She says that in England and Ireland there is usually a pub called “black swan” or “white horse” in every town.
“And in Ireland there are stone-laid images of white horses all over the hill sides,” Matilla-Patton said.