Captain Dragonfruit sailed the Indian Ocean, a would-be pirate hunter lured into the world of exotic foods by epicurean taste buds.
Now the 18th Century sailor is the namesake of a new Eastsound eatery: Dragonfruit Cafe.
“My kids are adventurous eaters, and we wrote stories about a Southeast Asian captain named ‘Captain Dragonfruit,” said Curt Waller, restaurant owner and creator of the fictional character. “I thought he’d be the perfect mascot.”
Waller has taken over the lease of the Sunflower Cafe in Eastsound. David and Heather Johnson closed the restaurant on Sept. 25, after three years in business.
Dragonfruit Cafe is debuting on Dec. 1. It will feature local coffee, pastries, traditional breakfast, weekend brunch, and Southeast Asian lunches, including Thai curries, Vietnamese sandwiches, Indian vegetable dishes, and hot and sour soup.
“I am doing half what I think the community will want, and half what are my favorite foods,” Waller said. “Breakfast is my favorite meal. Eggs and toast are just so satisfying.”
Waller, who grew up in Victoria, B.C., popped his first dish in the oven at the age of eight with the help of his grandmother, a master baker.
“I’ve always been in the food industry,” Waller said. “I did an equal amount of cooking and baking.”
Waller has split his time between Seattle and Canada for most of his life. In addition to being a chef, he has managed several restaurants. Within the last 10 years, his interest has turned to Asian cuisine.
“I love all the flavors,” Waller said. “As an eater, I really notice the way food feels after you eat it. My cooking is homestyle. I can cook gourmet, but I prefer to keep it simple and wholesome.”
Waller launched Domovoi Happy Foods three years ago in Seattle, selling salads, wraps, and sandwiches wholesale to coffee shops. While he enjoyed his work, Waller developed an itch to try something new on Orcas, a place he has always loved.
“I always feel happier when I am on an island,” he said. “I was originally looking at doing a bed and breakfast on Orcas. I looked at properties, saw the lease was up at Sunflower, and it called to me.”
Waller is handing over Domovoi Happy Foods to his daughter, who is 19, and has been on Orcas for the past few months. He is planning to have a liquor license and be open for dinner by spring.
“Dragonfruit will be open seven days a week,” he said. “I want to be the steady and reliable joint … I love the industry. It’s been fun doing Domovoi, but it’s the same thing every day. I miss the restaurant dynamic.”
Waller’s interests include sailing, kayaking, writing, and painting. Although he is a chef by trade, he has a degree in visual arts and once managed an art gallery. Waller has four children, ages 13, 15, 19, and 21, who all live in Seattle.
And as for Captain Dragonfruit? Waller says his story is not quite done.
“I’m hoping that over time I can write up stories about his adventures and work it into the menu,” he said.