On a recent sunny summer evening, while sloops zipped around in Pontiac Bay off Lake Washington, the northernmost tip of Sand Point was a lakeside milieu in which children were in a post-swim frenzy and wet black Labs ran, leashless, through the tidy boatyard. It's the scene that, one surmises, unfolds somewhat often during the summertime in front of Magnuson Cafe and Brewery, the Dexter Brewhouse sibling to grace the old naval air station turned community hub.
Cascade Bicycle Club cyclists, mountaineers, sailors, indoor sports athletes, and families alike all converge for a bite and a beer—the former developed by executive chef and director of kitchen operations, Jon Langley, and the latter conceived by brewer Cody Morris; both still work at their posts at Dexter Brewhouse and Mollusk Brewing.
But at Magnuson, Morris and assistant brewer Carey Dixon have the luxury of twice the production space with a 15-barrel system, which will allow Morris to get back to creating more experimental beers, playing with more yeast strains and creating weird-fun flavor combinations (dry-hopped lager or a spruce tip stout) at Dexter. Here though there's 16 taps total, six of which are dedicated to flagship beers, like a crisp lager, a dry pale ale, and a few IPAs of varying hop personality.
Food is as crowd-pleasing as it gets. This menu is like a lesson in menu psychology. Snacks range from pretzel bites with smoked honey mustard and grilled street corn to smoky-crispy chicken wings and buildable nachos for which an add-on includes smoked pork shoulder. The wings alone are a result of Langley's devoted research and development. "Every chef plays with wings," said Langley. His are first marinated overnight in tamari and fish sauce, then glazed with soy sauce, garlic, and honey, dredged in potato starch for crisp exterior, and wet-smoked. "I love me a good chicken wing," said Langley. "This is a good wing."
Elsewhere on the menu, there are soups, salads, and a wide breadth of entrees: a burger on toasted brioche, fish tacos, buttermilk chicken sandwich (yes, it's chicken thigh; yes, Duke's mayo is righteously smeared). There are also a couple of pastas, like a seasonal one of parsley pappardelle—crafted by an Ethan Stowell pasta-wrangler-slash-alum—with summer squash, sweet corn, foraged lobster mushrooms, and doused, lovingly, with lemon butter.
With this kind of range (did I mention there's weekend brunch, too? Or that you can get Seattle Pops popsicles, Lopez Island Creamery–based milkshakes, and wines by the glass or bottle?) Magnuson Cafe and Brewery seems to already be an instant hit. Views, a huge patio, beer, and a solid menu is a winning formula for just about anywhere in Seattle. But in Sand Point the new addition feels especially welcome, in a corner where an indoor soccer team might celebrate a win or where, as the sun's starting to set, a woman with her family mouths "this is an amazing salad" in between bites of lemon-anchovy dressed baby kale and romaine.
Magnuson Cafe and Brewery (7801 62nd Avenue Northeast) is open Monday through Wednesday from 11 to 10, Thursday and Friday from 11 to 11, Saturday from 8am to 11pm, and Sunday from 8am to 10pm.