Just returning from my second visit to the Pacific Northwest, Washington city of Seattle to visit my best good friend Raquel and my nephew Spencer. There was a lot in store for this 10-day visit. Multiple locations, stunning natural beauty, gut busting laughter and always on the hunt for the best bites!
No more than a couple of hours after landing, we were packed up and on the road down state for Memorial Day weekend revelry. All for my nephew, we headed to Tenino and our well-equipped guesthouse on the hill, as it was within a 15-minute drive of the “whaddah pawk”, a.k.a. Great Wolf Lodge.
Two and one-half hours post departure and near our destination, we stopped at The Iron Rabbit in Olympia for dinner. This tavern is a local favorite serving comfort foods made with local ingredients. We had some mac n’ cheese for the kiddo, of course, but with shaved asagio cheese. For the adults we split fried calamari, steak Caesar salad with polenta croutons and our best bite, the poutine. A Canadian standard of fries covered with cheese curds and gravy, this one featured their house Who sauce with prosciutto, gorgonzola and stone-ground mustard. Everyone devoured it, including the munchkin.
I need to give a couple of honorable food mentions to our guest home proprietor and to Great Wolf Lodge. To our proprietor for, among the other great welcoming touches, the fully stocked gourmet kitchen with everything needed to make us want for nothing including a first try using a Chemex coffee maker. And to Great Wolf Lodge for their limited but turns out delicious menu. We fully enjoyed Greek salads and those hot shoestring yam fries…oh, and the local pale ale on tap hit the spot!
Raquel and I did the necessary research to find the number one restaurant in Tenino for our one night out, confirmed by the one-hour wait with a reservation. Well the wait is always worth it at Don Juan’s Mexican Restaurant.
For first timers, servers bring out a sample of all of their sauces so guests are certain about what they order.
While we might have over done it on the chips and salsa, chunky guacamole (really an avocado tomato salad), and queso fundido with chorizo at Don Juan’s, their special mole verde was outstanding over carnitas with housemade flour tortillas, rice and refried beans. A combination of their chile verde and mole sauces, this sauce had both deep, slow cooked notes and bright fresh ones in the same moment. I would by a case if it is ever bottled! If all of that wasn’t enough, Raquel gave Don Juans the flan test…they passed with flying colors with thee most perfect texture and level of sweetness. If time were on our side we would have gotten another before we headed back north.
The next day, after a pretty awesome visit to the Hands On Children’s Museum in Olympia we stopped into Pacific Northwest seafood chain, Anthony’s. While the dated decor and Muzak said, “no, no” and “no”, the food said, “we have some hits”. Since Raquel and I are good for a smorgasbord of small bites over a plate of food, sharing a bowl of delicious clam chowder, Hawaiian ahi nachos (poke on taro chips), and oysters grilled, fried and as a shooter, did the trick. However, the clear star was the baked Dungeness crab, shrimp and artichoke dip with its creamy, hot seasoned seafood and crispy French bread transfer vehicles. It had to be my last bite.
Our route back up north to Seattle had a couple of stops along the way starting with the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. Our hike provided stunning vistas and lush foliage and a horny toad too. We were then ready for the final push, but not before our last stop in Tacoma by the water, for another seafood smorgasbord would be had at Lobster Shop.
Perhaps it was sitting on the deck overlooking Commencement Bay that we went a little overboard with the happy hour menu at Lobster Shop. Lots of seafood again and too many desserts, but the clear winner was fried Beecher’s cheese curds with chili jam. Rest in peace mozzarella sticks! And look for me @BeechersNY!
It was a great family weekend in Washington State. Now back to Seattle for all great new foods and restaurants!