This weekend, I was on assignment in the Kelso-Longview area, a one-two punch of neighboring small towns (similar to Aberdeen and Hoquiam) that serve mainly>"/>
This weekend, I was on assignment in the Kelso-Longview area, a one-two punch of neighboring small towns (similar to Aberdeen and Hoquiam) that serve mainly as a roadside pit stop for Seattleites headed to Portland for a fun-filled weekend. But as with many forgotten municipalities on the I-5 corridor, there's a lot to like in the towns themselves. Tim's Bar & Grill is a great place to take in a game and play shuffleboard with the Kelso locals, and La Hacienda Real across the bridge in Longview is that rare non-hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant where you'll actually find Mexicans eating (i.e., it tastes like home).
On a tip from a friend of mine, I visited Burgerville on Saturday for a late lunch upon rolling into town. From the outside, Burgerville looks like your garden variety regional fast food chain. However, it differs greatly from most fast food chains in that it goes great lengths to ensure that its menu's ingredients are culled from Northwest farms and manufacturers. I never thought I'd see the day where fast food began shifting to the buy local/sustainable model. That day has come, and while the food didn't blow my mind, it was much tastier than I'd ever expect at, say, Burger King or Sonic.
On our way home, we stopped for brunch at the Spar Cafe, a historic downtown Olympia eatery that's now operated by yet another Portland-based juggernaut: McMenamin's . It was only a matter of time before McMenamin's marched their boho beer and lodging empire across the border to Evergreen State soil; they've now planted their flag firmly in both Centralia and Olympia, and have plans to set up shop seaside in Kalama as well (as Joe notes in the comments section below, they've had a handful of bars open in Seattle for awhile, although I'd argue that the McMenamin's here have a decidedly different feel than the ones further south, which is probably why they slipped my mind initially).
The Spar's space is absolutely gorgeous, evocative of an earlier, less tech-crazed era, which sort of describes Olympia itself. It's been awhile since I spent a good amount of leisure time in the Capital City, and wandering the streets there around the Sunday lunch hour gave me the distinct impression that points from Olympia south are more mini-Portlands than mini-Seattles, and not just because of the McMenamin's and Burgerville infiltrations. Maybe it's that these places, like Portland, are more comfortable in their own skin than our uptight metropolis and its "world city" aspirations.