What local foods are worth seeking out on a road trip in Northern California and Oregon?
May 15, 2012 6:20 PM   Subscribe

We are going on a trip to the Northern California Coast and Oregon. I want to stop in Walla Walla Washington on the way to Portland because of the onions and wine tasting bars downtown. Is there any other local food worth a detour on a road trip vacation?

I going with a group of people to the Northwest coast of the U.S., from San Francisco to Portland the second and third weeks in June. There isn't a set itinerary set but we have a preliminary, general route of: San Francisco North up the coast with a possible camping stop at the Lost Coast, through Eureka to Brookings, over the mountains through Crater Lake towards Eastern Oregon. In Eastern Oregon we were planning on camping near John Day for a few days. We gleaned a lot of great ideas from previously and previously

On the way to Portland from John Day, I want to stop at Walla Walla Washington for at least one night. I have traveled through there once before and thought the downtown was a great place for fantastic food and wine. I love that they are very proud of the local produce, and if they are bringing in the first harvest of sweet onions I might have to bring a sack home with me as a carry on. Also, it is fantastic how many places to try the local wines within walking distance right downtown.

Are there any other places along the route that we should think about stopping based on the local food? Are there any kinds of local produce that we should seek out? Is there any local fish we might be able to pick up at a market along the coast of Northern California? What should we find to grill while we are camping? Also, are their any restaurants, bars, breweries, etc. that we shouldn't miss?
posted by JayNolan to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Patit Creek Restaurant.
posted by mmdei at 6:44 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hood River strawberries. Whenever you see them for sale, buy only enough to consume within 24 hours (for me this is about 3 pints) because they don't keep long. Repeat.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 6:56 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Huckleberries. So many huckleberries.
posted by anonnymoose at 6:59 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Around Hood River there's a set route they call the "fruit loop" that hits a bunch of farm stands and wineries. Very enjoyable. And, if you're going to be camping around John Day, highly recommend the Strawberry Campground (actually outside of Prairie City, but not far from John Day).
posted by cRamsay at 7:30 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you're going up as far as Eureka, be sure to stop in at Cafe Brio in Arcata, just up the coast. It is one of my favorite bakeries anywhere. Stock up on chocolate chip cookies and other snacks for your drive. They also have hot breakfasts (OMG croissant bread pudding) and sandwiches for lunch.

Arcata is also the home of Cypress Grove, maker of yummy goat cheeses. I don't know if they are open to the public, but if nothing else, it's easy to pick up their cheeses for a good price in that area.
posted by unsub at 10:42 PM on May 15, 2012

That area of WA (Walla Walla) is likely to have some pretty awesome authentic Mexican food, thanks to the migrant farm workers who've settled down and started non-transit lifestyles in the area. Look for restaurants with Spanish language signs...
posted by thewalrus at 2:26 AM on May 16, 2012

We've bought Salmon at Cascade Locks (in the parking lot that's nearly just below the Bridge of the Gods. There's a phone number on the Indian Salmon Harvest webpage so you can find out if any one's there selling.

Huckleberry season is August, so you're too early for that.
posted by vespabelle at 11:27 AM on May 16, 2012

I live in Walla Walla.


For fancy touristy sit-down dining, you want The Marc (at our famous Marcus Whitman Hotel, on 2nd & Rose) or the delicious T. Mac's http://www.tmaccarones.com.

You can get comfortable food and drinks at Marcy's http://marcysbarandlounge.com, which is my personal hangout, or around the corner at Pub 124, or a block away at Sapolil Cellars http://www.sapolilcellars.com/, which features its own wines and a full bar and food.

Main street has so many wineries you'll have no trouble finding a place to get wine drunk. (I recommend Sapolil Cellars and Village Winery wines, mainly because they're my friends, but there are so many tasting rooms it ultimately doesn't matter.)

The very, very best Mexican food in Walla Walla -- and there's a lot -- is Rosita's on 9th. Her chile rellenos are ASTOUNDING, and she'll probably serve you herself. (I once went 11 years between visits to her restaurant, and she remembered me when I walked back in. Srsly.)

The second best is Berny's Tacos http://bernystacos.com on Issacs. Cheap, fast delicious--it's like an indoor taco wagon.

We also have a perfectly decent sushi joint on 1st & Main called Aloha Sushi http://www.alohasushi.net and the staff there is great. They sometimes do local wine pairings.


Do not buy sweets in a grocery store. Drive around until you find a stand, and buy them directly from a farmer. Any local can tell you which road to find a stand on.

Walla Walla Sweets are extremely high-moisture, so if you take a bag home you'll need to store them properly or they'll rot immediately.

Either: keep them in a cool, dry place, separated so they're not touching each other (wrap loosely in newsprint, for instance, or lay out with 1" between them on a shelf, or hang in knotted stockings), or dice them and freeze them for cooking (this is what we do in my household when the tail end of the bag starts to think about going soft and moldy). Pre-diced, frozen onions are actually a pretty bitchin' cooking shortcut.

If you leave your sweets in the box or bag, they will rot much more quickly than any hot onion you've ever met.
posted by goblinbox at 12:23 PM on May 16, 2012 [5 favorites]

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