Summer is an exceptional season for food in Seattle, but it is also a great time to explore outside the city limits. In this installation of our summer road-trip series, we head east, guided by suggestions from chefs and insiders. It’s a lot of ground to cover, and whether you head out on I-90, 82, 2, or a flight, there are plenty of experiences to cultivate, mouthfully.
Chef Manu Alfau (of Manu’s Bodega) likes to travel eastward with his family. “During this one road trip, my wife and I had great pastries at Anjou Bakery (3898 Old Monitor Rd., Cashmere),” Alfau says. “We thought about just getting some croissants for the road, but after seeing their pies, we had to get them! It’s one of those important businesses that could bring a town together.” Mercedes & Family (5603 Tieton Dr., Yakima) is “an inconspicuous family-run joint in a small strip mall,” Alfau says. “I wasn’t even thinking about opening a taco joint at the time, but when I was doing R&D for Manu’s Tacos, I thought about their street tacos and wanted to keep that spirit of finding tacos where you don’t expect to and having that be a great discovery.” Just south of Yakima, in Union Gap, is Los Hernandez Tamales (3706 Main St.), a much-lauded chef favorite that’s worth stopping into to pick up enough asparagus and pepperjack cheese tamales—the hands-down favorite—to pack your freezer.
Spokane-raised Seattle bartender Robert Rowland has major favorites when he heads back home, including Domini Sandwiches (703 W. Sprague Ave.). There, meaty sandwiches are piled high and resemble East Coast deli noshes. Also worthy of a stop is Manito Tap House (3011 S. Grand Blvd.), whose extensive beer list “rivals Brouwer’s and Chuck’s” in Seattle. Luna (5620 S. Perry St.) is a must, too, for meals with his mom. The pair share tuna tartare and always take home loaves of the restaurant’s signature sourdough: “It has a permanent home in the Rowland household,” the bartender says, “one in the freezer and one on the counter, always.”
Also in Spokane, chef Jeremy Hansen’s Sante (404 W. Main Ave.) is a charcuterie lover’s haven. Take some sausage or salami for the road. When Hansen traverses the state, he makes a point to stop at El Fat Cat Grill (539 N. Edison St., Kennewick), a food truck where tacos are “amazing and the chilada or open-faced burrito is legit!” A stop at Pybus Public Market (3 N. Worthen St., Wenatchee) is also on Hansen’s list. The market is always packed and the food “mostly really good,” says the chef. Heading to or from Wenatchee, a must-stop is Doña Juanas Tamales (22 S. Wenatchee Ave.) with its sprawling menu of Mexican classics, including a wide array of handmade tamales. (Pro tip: Take some home.)
Seattle chef Mutsuko Soma (of forthcoming Kamonegi) has spent plenty of time in eastern Washington, where she sourced her buckwheat for soba noodles while chef at Miyabi 45th. A must for her is Thorp Fruit and Antique Mall (220 Gladmar Rd., Thorp). “I can spend a lot of time there and you can buy items for a picnic, and also a bottle of wine,” the chef says. The multi-floored building offers all types of specialty foods, with bins and boxes filled to the brim with what’s fresh and in season. When in Walla Walla, Soma points lovers of drinking snacks to Whitehouse Crawford (55 W. Cherry St.). “I really like the onion fries there,” she says. “They’re light, delicate, and crunchy. I can be happy just ordering that with a beer.”
Top Chef alumna Robin Leventhal left behind Seattle kitchens for the bounty of Walla Walla, where she teaches culinary students at Wine Country Culinary Institute. Driving back and forth across the state has led to plenty of delicious discoveries. “Owens Meats (502 E. First St., Cle Elum) is a must for road snacks,” she says. “I love their landjaeger and incredible jerky for the ride, and their gorgeous butchered cuts of beef, pork, and lamb for when you get to your destination.” Another favorite is Garcia’s Drive Thru (1027 Wine Country Rd., Grandview). “Their fresh tortillas and salsa bar alone are amazing!”, she says. “They have killer tacos and tortas—although I have to share the latter, because it’s huge!”
In Walla Walla, also check out recently opened Passatempo Taverna (215 W. Main St.), a revitalized old haunt, bringing favorite cocktails from the former Jimgermanbar in Waitsburg plus classic Italian food under the guidance of Mike Easton of Seattle’s Il Corvo. It’s also hard to beat—and hard to get into—Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen (125 W. Alder St), worth the wait for an array of excellently prepared dishes, only some of which are actually Mediterranean.
In need of great French pastries in Walla Walla? Passatempo owner Jim German loves Colville Street Patisserie (40 S. Colville St.), where “everything is delicious and beautiful” and the espresso is “arguably the best in town.” He recommends the classic pastries, especially the croissants, macaroons, kouign amann, and cannele, and adds that their gelato and larger take-out desserts will “slay any dinner party.” Bacon & Eggs (57 E. Main St.) is an always-packed, always-popular breakfast destination, and German almost always orders the crab-cake eggs Benedict with the “Mac Daddy” cocktail, a pineapple/jalapeño/tequila infusion. Tacos Monarca (901 Rose St.) is hard to miss, as the bright orange truck is a local staple, used for special occasions and lots of wedding rehearsal dinners. German recommends the fantastic tacos and “sublime, fluffy” flour-tortilla-wrapped burritos. When you’re feeling like getting your hands a little closer to the earth, the Saturday farmers market is a must for your itinerary, with just-picked fruits and veggies and some of the best tamales in the state. Or drive south a few miles to Edwards Farms to taste German’s beloved heirloom tomatoes and pick up white peaches for a Bellini.