Hogstone’s Wood Oven, the major restaurant draw on beautiful Orcas Island, gains a sibling tonight as upscale Aelder opens in its dining room. This unorthodox maneuver — splitting one restaurant into two in the same space — could actually ease some confusion on the part of unsuspecting tourists, who were often stymied by the range of options at Hogstone’s. “What a lot of people do on the islands is they make places that are — I’m gonna get mobbed for saying this — pretty mediocre. Because that’s what most people expect, want, and are willing to pay for. We’re mostly not the pizza place people are looking for,” chef-owner Jay Blackinton tells Eater.
When Hogstone’s started in 2013, it was indeed a rustic, farm-to-table pizzeria, but as chef-owner Jay Blackinton was inspired by the bounty of ingredients available on the fertile island, he added more creative and ambitious tasting menu options. Many of those ingredients come from Maple Rock Farm, where Blackinton also works. Now, casual Hogstone’s will shift its pizza operations to the lovely backyard, while Aelder will remain in the dining room, offering four-, seven-, and 12-course experimental menus almost exclusively by prepaid reservation through the online ticketing system Tock. Walk-ins will be allowed to order the four-course menu, or be directed to Hogstone’s out back.
Aelder is accessible from Seattle only after a few hours’ ride by car and ferry, or, as seen in the photos above, by seaplane from Lake Union. Above, see pictures of Aelder inside, Hogstone’s outside, and some Orcas scenery for good measure. Aelder is part of a growing trend of hyper-local high-concept restaurants separated from Washington’s coast by a stretch of water. It joins the ranks of the revered Willows Inn on Lummi Island and newcomer Ursa Minor on neighboring Lopez Island.