After years of neglect and countless groans from Birch Bay residents at the mere mention of its name, the old Blue Fish building is set to house Birch Bay’s latest restaurant by the end of the week.
Restaurant owner Zeno Oh started the permitting process for the business about five months ago. Since then, he has repainted the exterior and revamped the interior with such accoutrements as a hand-built wooden bench and a vintage 1919 row of windows separating the bar area from the rest of the dining room.
Barring any unforeseen issues with the building’s final permits, Oh expects to be open sometime this week.
“I don’t want to miss the whole summer,” Oh said.
The new restaurant is called Via Birch Bay Cafe and Bistro, and it is the only place to eat on the west side of Birch Bay Drive. It will offer traditional American dining with some seafood dishes.
Oh said he’s seeking a people-friendly vibe for the cafe and bistro, which is why he avoided the too-formal-sounding “restaurant” title in the name. The cafe and bistro will serve beer, wine and hard liquor.
Oh came to the U.S. from South Korea in 1987 and has been living in Washington state ever since. He said he has visited Birch Bay about 20 times over the past seven years, mostly for the beautiful views and numerous opportunities to crab.
“I never thought I would have a restaurant here,” Oh said with a laugh, “but I want to retire here.”
When asked why he set up shop in Birch Bay, Oh said it seemed as if fate made that decision for him. As he made one of the first trips to the area to check out the Blue Fish building, he saw roads named Jefferson and Ham. Jefferson is Oh’s brother’s name while Ham is the maiden name of his sister-in-law.
Oh saw these as omens of good things to come.
“We almost feel like we’re supposed to be here,” Oh said. “I really feel like I belong here, man, I really do.”
Via Birch Bay Cafe and Bistro is located at 7829 Birch Bay Drive.