With its sweeping seaside views and majestic Deception Pass Bridge, Oak Harbor is a feast for the eyes.
For the stomach, not so much. When asked about the best place to eat in town, most people answer, Applebee’s.
For his part, Fred Bishop is partial to Olive Garden. “I love the soup,” he said.
At 76 years old, Bishop has lived in Oak Harbor for 43 years, and says getting a decent meal in town is becoming a royal pain.
“We've got Dairy Queen, Burger King. I call it the king and queen of fast foods.”
Now, Bishop says a new McDonald’s is opening up in the old Berg Ford lot on Highway 20. It’s more of a Number 3 Meal Deal, as it would be the city's third McDonald’s. Bishop actually wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper demanding the city bring in less fast food and more family style restaurants.
“I think the demand is here for a nice, affordable place everyone can enjoy,” he said. “Like an Olive Garden.”
A third McDonald's in Oak Harbor would mean one for roughly every 7,400 people in the town of just over 22,000. That's more that Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Little Rock, Arkansas.
John Youngsman just opened Louie G's restaurant in May, right next door to where the new McDonald’s would be. He worries that the lower than average income in this Navy and retiree town (approximately $21,000 per person, annually) is driving business to the drive-through.
“Eating out is something you can do maybe a few times a month,” he said. “They can go eat at Burger King or McDonald's several times a week. It isn’t easy to survive.”
For now, many are making the nearly hour long drive to Mount Vernon to escape the fast food trap…and you know where you can find Fred Bishop. “If you can’t tell, I do like the Olive Garden.”
McDonald's Development Director Robert Stamm released the following statement in response to our story:
At McDonald’s, we are always looking for opportunities to better serve our customers. Plans to further develop in Oak Harbor, WA are still preliminary, and therefore it would be premature to comment at this point. We look forward to continuing to serve our customers in Island County.