Vics Drive-In, Friday Harbor San Juan Island

Something really unique about San Juan Island is the lack of chain restaurants or hotels.  I’m sure this was a conscious decision on the part of the island council and it is a good one.  The lack of chains means locally owned businesses can survive and thrive on their own merits.  It also means owners are invested in the success of the business.  One such restaurant is Vics Drive-In:  after 11 days on the island, Tom and I have already had food there twice!

No chain restaurants is a little disconcerting.  No Dominoes, Dairy Queen, or even Subway.  Not a single Holiday Inn or Hilton.  But lots of smaller mom and pop shops with personal service and attention.  Vic’s has been this kind of staple on San Juan Island since 1958.  If you read the old reviews, it seems like the previous owner tired of running the place.  Fortunately a new couple, Brian and Theresa Carlson, bought it last year and continue the Vics Drive-In tradition.

Vics Drive-In is equivalent to the Dairy Queen we loved so much in Mogadore.  There are burgers and fries and some seafood sandwiches.  There is also soft-serve ice cream that you can buy as a cone, shake, or “Flurrie.”  There are new specials each month and some are so popular that they make it onto the regular menu.

So far Tom and I have tried the burger, fries, grilled ham and cheese, and egg salad.  My favorite was the grilled ham and cheese.  The toasted bun was perfect and the cheese melted into the nooks and crannies of the folded ham.  It was delicious!  The fries have also been very good both times and we can order them unsalted.  Tortilla chips are served standard with the sandwiches, which makes the fries an easy choice.

You order at the counter and then they bring the food out to your booth.  The booths and flooring look original – kind of run-down – but it is a favorite with the local teenagers so it feels like home to us.  Someone talks to us every time we go there.  This last time it was a sheriff who noticed our NPS uniforms and wanted to know if we wanted to take care of the black bear stranded on Orcas Island.  We laughed and told him we would let him handle it!

Vics Drive-In is the least fancy place to eat on the island, but it feels well-loved by the locals.  I’m sure we will eat there again, especially when we want a quick sandwich at a reasonable price.