Moveable Feast

When you eat en route to Bainbridge on the Washington State Ferry, getting there is most of the fun.

FINALLY, THE DAYS OF vending-machine cuisine on the Bainbridge/Seattle ferry route are over, as bona fide food provided by Olympic Cascade Services graces the waters of Seattle's Elliott Bay. Since May, those in the downtown area who are bored with the scenery at their everyday sandwich shop have had the opportunity to mix it up a little with a mini-vacation at lunchtime. Even though the on-board chow arrived after the Seattle terminal had finally acquired some decent cuisine (Alaska's Gourmet Subs, Caffe Appassionato, World Wrapps, and other eateries opened this past December when the terminal was remodeled), it's nice that commuters, tourists, and those who want to spend their lunch hour somewhere scenic now have options outside of Chee-tos. Recently, I decided to utilize my sea legs and treat myself to a midday ferry meal in order to test the waters. UPON BOARDING THE ferry bound for Bainbridge Island, I immediately booked it for the restaurant area, knowing that my time to experience the new ferry cuisine was limited—only 35 minutes, to be exact. Gazing at the stacks of plastic trays, the metal counters lining the walls, and the giant see-through fridges holding a variety of goodies, I realized that ferry food essentially works the same way it always has, and that referring to this as a "restaurant" (as the directional signs inside the ferry do) is a bit of a stretch. Although it's set up in the same assembly-line fashion as a high-school or hospital cafeteria, with a variety of prepackaged, preprepared foods from different vendors and nothing in the way of made-to-order fare, the ferry's "restaurant" does function perfectly well as a casual and quick food purveyor. After surveying the possibilities, which include everything from preheated breakfast-sandwiches loaded with eggs and melted cheese to mixed fruit and corndogs, I decided to try one of the sandwiches made by Briazz. Tossing a turkey and Swiss cheese sandwich ($6) onto my tray, I passed the plastic-encased salads and noted that the lettuce was a bit wilted. I decided to opt for a bowl of yogurt and granola ($3.25), and a cup of Ivar's clam chowder ($3.25). Trying to balance my wobbly tray, I headed over to the register in time to eavesdrop on a cashier informing the voracious man in front of me about alcohol guidelines on the ferry, which consist of being of age and staying in the dining area with any purchased beer. After paying, I settled down next to the beer drinker and opened the turkey sandwich, which bore an uncanny resemblance to those made by my mother when I was in the seventh grade. Only without condiments. I muttered to myself about paying six bucks for a couple slices of deli meat and a sliver of lettuce and set out to find the condiment bar, which was actually pretty classy, and completely outfitted with barbecue sauce and Grey Poupon. My Ivar's clam chowder was reliably tasty and buttery. For my last course, I took my dish of yogurt and granola up to the sundeck, settled onto a bench, and stretched my legs out in the sun. As I relaxed, I realized that ferry food doesn't have to be startlingly good—for the love of God, it's ferry food. The beauty of ferry food is that you're eating it on the ferry, so even if my sandwich lacked a little oomph, at least I can say I got a little fresh air and some "boating" in on my one-hour lunch break. What did you do on yours?

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