While zipping along State Route 3 between Belfair and Shelton, the speed limit slows through the little hamlet of Allyn. Smack-dab in the middle of town, on the water side of the street, sits “Lennard K’s Boat House.” Part of the building that houses this bustling cafe and watering hole was built in Allyn about the same time Allyn emerged as a place.
Allyn’s origins date back to the 1860s and no one knows just when the Allyn Tavern opened, but probably its libations were brewed in a homemade still out in the back shed. The name evolved to just “AT” and the one-room bar with a roll-up door was a landmark on the shoreline. The owner in those early days was a fisherman with a casual attitude toward business, and when he felt like going fishing, he simply closed the doors and hung out a sign to that effect.
In the early 1990s, Lennard Manke bought the tavern, added some floor space to the original building and hung the sign that is still there today. Present owner Gail McCoy and her husband bought the establishment in 2011 and now Mrs. McCoy is at the helm of this successful and most enjoyable stopping-off spot.
The McCoys worked in the corporate rat-race in a major city in Texas when they realized they wanted a different lifestyle. They used their skills and talents to open an “off-the-grid,” upscale hunting and fishing lodge in Montana where they looked after their guests 24 hours a day for a week at a time.
The lodge was a wonderful experience, but health problems made the McCoys realize they needed to live and work closer to medical services. They both had Pacific Northwestern roots, so during an exploration of rural communities around the Sound, they discovered Allyn and an appealing small business for sale.
“That was lots less complicated,” Gail McCoy explained. “Because our guests at the lodge were only with us five or six nights, we rotated the same menu each week. We served everyone breakfast, our guests were out all day with packed lunches, and we offered a set meal in the evening.”
The Boat House has a fairly large menu, and specials change seasonally with the availability of fresh ingredients.
McCoy brings her sense of color and design — from her skills and experience as a quilter and previous quilt shop owner — to designing the pleasing color combinations and surfaces that create the homey feel of the Boat House. A marine-blue wall studded with a sweep of white sea stars serves as a focal point in the dining room. Photographs of placid beach scenes serve as backdrops over a few booths in another area. Large windows look out over a large dining deck, a grassy lawn and chairs at water’s edge.
The expansive bar area sports tall bar tables and chairs for those 21 years of age and older and offers even closer views of North Bay. There is a small bandstand in one corner of the bar that offers musical entertainment on weekends several times each month. In summer months, musicians play out of doors on the lawn. When the weather is nice, the large bar windows open wide to allow fresh air as well as music to flow freely indoors.
“Our capacity is about 100 customers in winter, but in summer we double our numbers,” McCoy said.
The large outdoor extension of the dining room faces east and is covered by shade sails to cut the heat and glare of the sun. Customers are welcome to carry a drink down to the chairs at water’s edge, although the wait staff does not service that area.
The Boat House menu combines roadside diner with beachside restaurant fare. Lots of local seafood graces the menu, from Tom Farmer’s fresh clams to wild Pacific prawns and wild-caught salmon filets. There is a good selection of half-pound burgers with unusual and creative toppings. For pizza lovers, the restaurant offers 12-inch, crispy, thin pies in five standard choices, or a large list of ingredients for those who prefer to build their own.
Fish and chips are a staple menu item. Served in a basket and steaming from the fryer, the Boat House’s juicy, succulent cod and crispy fries most certainly rival any in the region. Seasonal availability of fresh ingredients is reflected on the daily special menu.
Dinner service begins at 5 p.m. and features several steak and seafood options. All entrees are served with a choice of soup or salad. The Boat House has a reputation in the community for fabulous homemade clam chowder.
Happy hour is from 3 to 6 p.m. daily, and according to the menu, has “special deals on brews, cocktails, wine, appetizers and tasty morsels of wit and humor.”
The community of Allyn has a public pier and dock area for those out exploring by boat. Lennard K’s is just a short walk south from the dock area. There is ample off-street parking for those visiting by car, and wheelchair-accessible parking right outside the door.
The Boat House is ideally located for a rest stop to enjoy just a cup of coffee or some ice cream, and as a destination for an evening dinner. Summer evening dining on the deck, with great musical entertainment, is definitely worth the trip.
When asked what she enjoys most about owning and managing Lennard K’s Boat House Restaurant and Bar, McCoy says, “My customers!” as her face is lit up with a smile. “It’s all about the people. We have a large customer base of local residents and many, many travelers who stop by regularly or find us on their way through town. It’s all about the people we serve.”