Over the river, through the woods, and across a no-man’s land in southeastern Washington lies a trove of wine, food and views. With a rich history as the hub of the Seattle-Walla Walla railroad, Walla Walla was once the center of activity in Washington Territory, and is now just as much a hub for spectacular wine and food.
Just under a 2-hour drive from my Leavenworth base, Walla Walla was a fun adventure without a heap of driving. From the Seattle area, expect the drive to run just over four hours. Easy stopovers in Tri-Cities or the Yakima Canyon coming or going are always fun (and delicious), too.
My first stop was TMac’s for lunch. Their menu was well-rounded with local fare, as well as a few middle-eastern selections. While initially excited for either their Ahi BLT or a Greek lamburger, it was their burrata that lured me in instead. Blood oranges and grapefruit were a bright accompaniment to the zesty cardamom gastric that joined my burrata – and I couldn’t have asked for a more photo-worthy shot! A welcome bonus was TMac’s robust wine list (which I’d soon find to be the norm in this wine-centric community).
Walla Walla’s a spot where one of the hardest decisions you’ll have to make is where you’re going to eat — made difficult because there are so many incredible options! My friend Steph (who’s amazing blog Eat, Drink, Travel Y’all really helped in my decision-making), recently moved to the area and gave me some stellar suggestions, thankfully. Saffron stood out to me, with a unique Mediterranean menu with clear Spanish and PNW influences. We capped dinner off with cocktails streetside at 124 Public House, then nestled in for the night.
Breakfast should always include eggs Benedict, and The Maple Counter boasted a huge array of drool-worthy Benny options — along with a long list of other breakfast staples. Walking out their door back towards The Finch (a sweet little hotel if you’re looking for something cute and close to downtown), offered a trove of shopping, sipping, and dining options. Should a mid-day ice cream hankering suddenly wash over you, just a short walk away is Pine Cone Creamery with tasty, creamy sweets to round out your experience.
Now, let’s talk wine! You could throw a stone from nearly any spot in Walla Walla and hit a tasting room where you could cozy up for an afternoon swishing and swirling. We chose to begin at House of Smith Wines — not just for their central location, but because they offer oodles of varietals and a spacious, swanky tasting room. A short drive away, Elegante Cellars, was the polar opposite. This one-man-band winery sits just off the region’s tiny airport in tucked-away chateau. With just a few smooth, silky reds (a favorite of mine), sipping the evening away with award-winning wines watching the sun set was about as close to perfect as I could imagine. Dunham Cellars was another remarkable experience tucked in a converted aircraft hangar. The tasting room has a massive presence, and the story behind each wine was as delicious as the wine itself. If you’re up for a short drive, Rotie Cellars has a perch in the Milton-Freewater’s “rocks” region. Choose from something bubbly, or simply enjoy their traditional Rhone blends with Washington grapes and this southern region’s unique terroir.
Craving a Seattle connection? Dan Thiessen (who I first met years ago when he headed up Sky City’s culinary program) is now at the helm at Walla Walla Steak Co. It’s housed in a unique building harkening back to Walla Wall’s roots: Enter this century-old remodeled train station and find Crossbuck Brewing to the left (with a stellar, more casual pub menu), or turn to the right and enter the world of beefy steak and craft cocktails. I had the opportunity — over two trips to the area — to enjoy dinner at each, and was impressed with each for their unique takes and broad menus.
The beauty of Walla Walla is that it’s a town that’s constantly transitioning, thus every time you visit you’ll undoubtedly find more gems to share!