A new Oak Harbor restaurant is bringing a taste of Southern hospitality — and cooking — to Whidbey Island.
Hale’s Kitchen opened for business May 10. Owner Jamel Hale, an active duty member of the Navy, said the restaurant’s specialties are its fried chicken tenders and mac and cheese, but there will be plenty of other options available as the menu expands.
“We’re going to have a meal of the week,” he said. “So each week we’ll introduce a different Southern staple.”
Born in Texas and raised in Alabama, Hale said he has always had a passion for cooking. His original idea was to operate his business on a very small scale, preparing and selling food from his home — which he did, on Superbowl Sunday this year.
Island County Public Health contacted him the next day, however, informing him that his at-home restaurant didn’t meet the necessary requirements. It was then Hale decided to go all-in and open a “full-scale operation.”
The business’s first week was full of “growing pains,” Hale said, because at first he and his wife, Roe, were the only two employees.
The couple has plans to add two more team members in the coming weeks.
Hale said what sets Hale’s Kitchen apart from other restaurants in the area isn’t just the food — it’s also the atmosphere.
“We really want to make it more of an experience than just food,” he said, citing “Southern hospitality” as the primary experiential element. “We want to greet you with a smile, ‘Thank you, sir,’ ‘Thank you, ma’am.’”
Right now, the restuarant is delivery and take-out only, but Hale said he has plans in the works to go “full-service” in the near future.