5 Reasons Seattle Should Be Jealous Of Leavenworth

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Photo by Leslie Kelly
Who doesn't love drinking a frosty beer outdoors on a frosty day? You can in Leavenworth.
That's right, the state's faux Bavarian Village has got it going on. And I'm not even talking about its most obvious attributes: America's drunkest Oktoberfest, the town's semi-naughty mascot -- Woody Goomsba -- or the bitchin' putt-putt course just outside the city center.

No, this tourist magnet has got some culinary treasures SEA can only admire from afar. Or, up close, judging by the number of Seattle accents I heard in das beer garten last weekend.

I'm not just sending mad love to the 509 because I spent some of the happiest years of my dysfunctional childhood in L'town. (You can't swing a pair of lederhosen without hitting somebody I'm related to. Hell, my third cousin twice removed is mayor!) For me, Leavenworth's charm begins and ends with sausage.

Photo by Leslie Kelly
The best damn currywurst at the Leavenworth Sausage Garten.
1. Year-round outdoor sausage and beer gartens.

This time of year, I'm like a moth in search of a flame, a heat-seeker who truly appreciates a wood-fueled fire and there's no better place to warm up while sipping a cold beer in the cold than in Leavenworth. There are not just one, but two year-round outdoor beer gartens where you can toast your tootsies while snowflakes drift down.

I've long been partial to Munchen Haus, which serves a stellar lineup from Bavarian Meats, but last weekend, I fell hard for the new kid on the block. The Sausage Garten by Cured has a sweeping view of the mountains and makes a unbeatable place to people watch. Plus, they make their own sausages. I devoured a currywurst while sipping a Black Lager, sitting by a fire. The only thing missing the otherwise incessant om-pah-pah music. Maybe that's a plus.

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Photo by Leslie Kelly
Baby, it's cold outside. So, let's eat some ice cream.
2. Ice cream on every corner.

After you're all warmed up after munching sausages by the fire, it's time to go get some dessert, right?

Leavenworth has enough sweet treats to send anyone into sugar shock. It's especially clear in the summer when nearly every person walking down the street is licking an ice cream cone.

Ice cream shops are to Leavenworth what Starbucks are to Seattle: They're everywhere!

I love the gelato (or as the Web site explains to bumpkins who've been living in caves... "Italian ice cream") at Viadolce. But my favorite place for a double scoop is Das Sweet Shoppe because it's stuffed with retro goodies, too. Why is it so damn hard to find a candy necklace these days?

And before you leave town, you've got to grab a shake from Heidleburger, the little Mom and Pop blast from the past not far from the mouth of Tumwater Canyon.

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Photo by Leslie Kelly
Awesome view near O'Grady's Pantry. Best observed from a spot by the crackling fire.
3. Natural beauty.

All joking aside about a town's earnest efforts to create a mock village in Bavaria, Leavenworth does kick ass when it comes to outdoor scenery. Just drive out of town five minutes on Icicle Road for a killer view of the Enchantments and then stop for a bite at O'Grady's Pantry at the Sleeping Lady Resort.

You'll probably find cross country skier types thawing out by the roaring fire, which is often tended by the regulars who spend lazy mornings sipping coffee and gossiping with other regulars.

What keeps me coming back, though, is the simple, well-prepared fare like a breakfast burrito that you can eat while looking out at the frosty peaks. It's almost like you're out enjoying nature but without breaking a sweat.

Photo by Jessie Oleson, aka CakeSpy.
Always a pleasure to punch in at this Factory.
4. The Gingerbread Factory.

There are plenty of places that promise the Christmas spirit 365 days a year, but few deliver like this sweet spot one block off Front Street.

Walk into this converted house and experience a full-on olfactory assault of the most agreeable kind. Mmmm, ginger and sugar and flour and butter. Oh my.

If you're lucky, you might even get to watch one of the bakers decorating an adorable gingerbread house. All together now: Awww!

5. Try-before-you-buy retailing.

OK, this isn't unique to Leavenworth. You can snack your way across any Costco anywhere. But this town is unusual because there's a high concentration of places that will gladly give you a sample in a four-block area.

Don't miss The Cheesemonger's, bites of the housemade charcuterie at Cured and then end up at the wine tasting room across from Gustav's.

My biggest lament when driving west toward home? That it's impossible to satisfy my craving for a great wiener schnitzel in this slice of Bavaria. Or a decent piece of Black Forest Cake for that matter. So, the search continues.

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