Hello, I’m an Innkeeper at the Bullman Beach Inn, four miles east of Neah Bay. Last year a new restaurant opened in Neah Bay, and it is both a success story, and a family story. This month marks the one year anniversary of their opening.
“Location, location, location” was for many years the mantra for a successful restaurant, and many hung their hats on location and location alone. Having cooked for years myself I’ll bet that the majority of those that did are hanging their hats elsewhere now.
Like a good ship, you need the experience of a captain and first mate. People who know the waters, who can be looked to when things get rough and say, “We’ve got this.” You need a good crew, a group that can work together, often under pressure. You need access to good product, “fresh, local and sustainable” have for many become the new mantra. And, as with any great adventure – and opening a restaurant is that – it helps to have a visionary: someone with an infectious spirit, a childlike enthusiasm, and a glint in their eyes. Someone who reminds you, if not dares you, to dream.
The trick and the reward is to find a place that combines them all; and I have: Calvin’s Crab House in Neah Bay, WA.
At the helm you’ll find Robert and Cinnamon Moss, both former employees of The Makah Maiden Restaurant in Neah Bay, managed by Cinnamon’s mother, Joddie Johnson. On deck, the crew: Robert, Cherish, Cierra, Ryan, Ruth, Ryana, Cerise, Caylee and Rose.
While Robert and Cinnamon run a tight ship, they understand that the best leaders serve as much as they lead. That responsibility falls not on one or two heads, but on the whole crew, equally. They also understand that success is sweeter when shared; a dish best served family style. To that end, you’ll find no salutes, no “Sir’s” from the crew, “Mom” and “Dad” will do. Calvin’s is, in the truest sense of the word, a family restaurant.
While working at The Makah Maiden in the late 90’s, Robert and Cinnamon dreamed of one day opening a fish and chips restaurant and espresso bar. But with six mouths to feed, their Dream took a backseat to more practical matters.
Robert continued to fish commercially, as he’d done since he was 14. Over the next ten years that backseat became more and more crowded. Four children became five, five became six, seven, eight. But it is the nature of Dreams to feed us and so theirs quietly took its place among eight hungrier ones.
In 2012 Robert and Cinnamon welcomed their ninth child Calvin to the family. By all accounts he was a healthy baby boy. But there was something about him. You could see it in his eyes.
Five years later Robert was offshore fishing, Cinnamon at home, tending to their now ten children. Robert called to ask how everyone was doing. Cinnamon told him that that morning Calvin had woken up at 5:30, eaten breakfast quickly, and was down on the beach hunting for crab. Robert hung up the phone, with the picture of his youngest son on his knees in the wet sand, reaching fearlessly into every dark crevasse and crease in the rocks. Then it dawned on him: the fish don’t come to me. I wake up every day in the dark and chase them, kinda like … Dreams.
With the help of Cinnamon’s mom, Joddie they began to design the layout of the kitchen. Joddie is one of the crew too, responsible for all the fresh baked goods. Every one of them delicious. Her Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup cookies are, in fact, The Best Cookie I’ve ever had. Cinnamon is responsible for all of the fresh homemade ice creams. Robert is partial to the Key lime.
Their menu is simple and delicious. Staying true to their Dream, fish and chips is their business, and Petrale sole the star; specialty fish such as halibut and salmon are also usually available. Whichever fish you choose, Robert caught it in the waters off Neah Bay. You won’t find frozen chips here. Each potato is par-cooked and lightly fried on site. Several salads and homemade soups and chowders round off the menu.
“But … but” I hear some of you asking, “what about location?” Located at the southern end of Neah Bay, Calvin’s is – as the bald eagle flies – five miles from Cape Flattery, the furthest northwest point of the lower 48.
From one of their barstools inside or a bayside picnic table seat your view is north across the entrance to the Straight of Juan de Fuca, to the rugged west coast of Vancouver Island. It is a timeless view, unchanged in the 244 years when the first Europeans dropped anchor here; unchanged for millennia, when “The People of the Cape” first called it home.