Worth A Shot

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By Terri Gleich

After only six months in business, Whiskey Gulch Coffee Co. in Port Orchard has made a big impression on Kitsap Sun readers, who awarded it “Best Coffee House Atmosphere” and “Best Coffee House Desserts” in the Sun’s first Best of West Sound contest.

Ironically, owners Kristi and Robert McGee didn’t intend to open a coffee shop when they bought the long-vacant waterfront building at 2065 Bay St. as an investment.

Kristi, a personal trainer, opened a gym in part of the building and the couple considered adding a walk-up coffee stand. But after they renovated the space and hired a decorator, the concept evolved to a community hangout featuring locally sourced food, live music on Fridays and stunning views.

“It was never the life plan, but it is so much fun,” Kristi said.

“Our coffee experience was drinking it,” added Robert, who also runs a fire prevention contracting business. He said the two quickly got up to speed, doing research at Seattle coffee festivals.

In addition to coffee and sweet treats, the restaurant’s menu features a different homemade soup every day, salads and paninis. There are gluten-free and vegetarian options, as well.

Whiskey Gulch also serves beer and wine, though no hard liquor, despite the name, which hearkens back to a local bootlegging operation from a bygone era.

The coffee house is doing so well that the McGees are considering expanding to the second floor to provide more seating.

whiskey.3Sun readers described the atmosphere at Whiskey Gulch as welcoming. “(It’s) fun, friendly, warm. And the view is to die for,” said one voter.

With an exposed wood ceiling, stained concrete floor, copper-topped tables and roomy deck, the coffee house has a clean, uncluttered feeling. Windows that roll up like garage doors open onto the deck to let the breeze in on warm days.

Kristi describes it as cozy, with an urban ambience. “It reminds me of being in the city,” she said.

Except for the bread all of the food at Whiskey Gulch is made on-site from scratch.

Robert said employees are encouraged to get creative, which has led to such culinary breakthroughs as oatmeal bacon cookies, blackberry basil pie and Irish Sundae soup, a potato soup with broccoli, bacon and cheddar.

Manager Cynthia Mora is responsible for developing many of the popular menu items. “Instead of reading novels, I read cookbooks and food magazines,” she said. “I look at recipes and I experiment.”

Other popular items include flourless peanut butter cookies, generously sized thumbprint cookies with a variety of fillings and chocolate pots de crème. The coffee house also makes homemade chocolate sauce for its mochas.

Bordering a residential neighborhood and located next to Kitsap Transit’s Annapolis Ferry Park-and-Ride Lot, Whiskey Gulch is outside of Port Orchard’s main business district.

But Robert said few days go by without a new customer stopping in, usually because of a friend’s recommendation.

Mora said a big part of the draw for returning customers is the connection they feel to the restaurant’s staff. “It’s a neighborhood place and there’s not a lot of neighborhood places,” she said.

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