Walla Walla – The Town So Nice, They Named It Twice
Until about 2 months ago, I had never heard of Walla Walla, Washington. I had absolutely no idea where it was on the map…but that’s not saying much since geography isn’t my strong suit…or math…or history. But whatever. My strong suit is eating. I’m REALLY good at eating. And luckily, Walla Walla has some insanely amazing food and fabulous wine to wash it down. So when the opportunity arose to explore this adorable little town, I hopped on an Alaska Airlines flight to land at the Walla Walla airport that has just 1 little gate! How cute is that? This was my first Alaska Airlines flight and I was pleasantly surprised when they served free wine for our hour flight from Seattle to Walla Walla. And it was wine that actually tasted good!
When I landed around dinner time in Walla Walla, I went straight T Maccarone’s to grab some food with a couple locals! And you guys…this meal was INSANE. It was the perfect meal to set the tone for how the rest of my trip would go. T Maccarone’s may offer lots of pasta dishes, but they also have a ton of gluten free options and specify those options on their menu! So it was super easy to order right away and what I ordered was probably the best decision EVER. Their roasted boneless half chicken, truffled potato pave, and local baby carrots was all crispy, tender, flavorful and so filling. I had never heard of a potato pave, but now I want to eat it for my last meal…and every meal in between. You can see it under the chicken and it’s this layered thinly sliced potato dish where the potatoes are so incredibly crispy on the top while soft as can be in the middle. It’s crazy bomb. I would go back to Walla Walla for those potatoes alone. I would leave my husband for those potatoes.
I’ve gone too far…
After dinner, I stepped into my apartment for the week. In the heart of downtown, 51 East Main features five renovated loft-style apartments. And each apartment is totally different than the other! I stayed in 304 Homeroom which had a huge bathroom, a full kitchen, living room, and a super comfy king size bed. Walla Walla locals Ron and Dana saw the potential in the historical Whiteside building and were able to bring their vision to life to create these amazing vacation rentals. And since you’re right in the heart of downtown, you can walk EVERYWHERE. Walk to breakfast, walk to lunch, walk to a tasting room, or walk around the college campus. It’s such an amazing location and it feels so much more comfortable than a normal hotel room!
After waking up in my comfy bed and walking to Starbucks just across the street to work early in the morning (it opens at 5am which is so helpful to me since I work extra early while traveling), I then walked my way to Destination CrossFit Walla Walla. I’ve been to A LOT of CrossFit gyms and because of that, I usually set my hopes low. There are so many CrossFit gyms nowadays and if they are new, they often have a long ways to go. So I was pleasantly surprised and impressed with how amazing Destination CrossFit Walla Walla was. Not only is the space large and beautiful, but the coaching there is AWESOME. Five members of the Walla Walla community came together to start this CrossFit gym and it’s obvious that every single one of them and their coaches care deeply about their members and spreading the joy of fitness to the community around them. I know that sounds super cheesy, but you can just tell when people have had their own lives changed from physical activity and they want the same for others. This gym was super cool and kept me feeling my best while completely indulging the whole trip.
After a great workout, I headed to Graze with one of the Destination CrossFit Walla Walla owners. This tiny little sandwich and salad shop has A TON of different choices on their menu, but the best part is that you can get any sandwich made into a salad. So I ordered the Banh Mi as a salad and it was delicious. And HUGE. I kind of hate salads because they are so much damn work, so I just ate all the toppings off the salad and left behind the greens. Now if they could just get some gluten free bread for their paninis…now THAT would be perfection.
Once I filled up on my salad toppings, I wandered around the downtown area and all the side streets. Downtown is extremely easy to walk around and pop into any shop. You’ll find all sorts of vintage shops, tasting rooms, boutiques, and restaurants. But one of my favorite little stores was Thirty Fifth + Butter. Probably because whoever was working was INSANELY nice and complimented my greasy hair. I’m a sucker for a hair compliment. But also because they had so many adorable small gifts, candles, beauty products and everything in between.
And another store I couldn’t stop myself from walking into was Bright’s Candies. This adorable candy shop has been open since 1934 and just smells like heaven. You walk in and can watch people making candy and ask for samples at the front. I knew I would be finding myself some dessert that day, so I held back at the candy store. But I love little places like this that are still in business and such a strong part of their community. And they still use traditional candy making equipment so you feel like you’ve almost stepped back in time.
Back to a time where chocolate sea salt popcorn reigned as King. Just look at those little drops of poo-looking joy. I wish I would have bought 4 bags full. Swoon.
But since I kept my sh*t together at the chocolate store, I was ready to go HAM when I walked into Fine-ly Made Baked Goods. Whenever I travel, I try my best to find a true gluten free facility for any of my celiac readers, but it can be challenging sometimes. And I definitely didn’t think I would find one in Walla Walla with a population of 30,000. But I was totally wrong! Fine-ly Made Baked Goods is a completely gluten free, vegan and allergy-friendly facility. They not only have treats and a lunch menu, but they have gluten free flours, baking powder (which I TOTALLY wish I would have purchased, but had no room in my suitcase), granolas and breads. It’s so cool to see businesses like this one that are making a HUGE difference for the people who suffer extreme food allergies. And the peanut butter brownie I bought to-go was absolutely delicious! Especially since it had some coffee in the frosting. I die.
For my first full day in Walla Walla, I ended it at the Walla Walla Food Truck Night. This was the last food truck night of the season and it had more than 20 local food trucks on the grounds of the unique Airport Incubators property. Since it can be so incredibly expensive to start up a business, the Airport Incubators provide an opportunity for startups to operate cost effectively during their first few years, and are currently home to Burwood Brewing, Shot in the Dark Distillery, Palencia Wine Company, Walla Faces Winery, and J&J Vintners. And some of the most popular food trucks include The Q Wood-Fired Grill, which I was lucky enough to eat at, Andrae’s Kitchen (I’ll be telling you about them later!), Olive, and Why Not Pizza.
We grabbed some homemade sangria at one of the wineries and sat inside since the fall temperatures were quickly dropping. I usually hate red wine, but add it to some sugar and fruit and I’M INTO IT!! Give me a buzz and horrible headache. I love it. As we sipped our sangria, I had the opportunity to meet the owners of The Q Wood-Fired Grill and eat some of their modern stone age food. This couple takes cooking techniques from our past to create healthy, modern food. And it was delicious! We had halibut cooked on a hot stone right at our table, this amazing sweet onion that was smoked and topped with sundried tomatoes and mushrooms, a fabulous pork chop, char-grilled beets (why am I so obsessed with beets nowadays!?!?!), and the best grass-fed trip tip steak I’ve ever had! They know what they are doing over there and they are crushing it!
The next morning, after my sangria hangover passed, I walked right downstairs to Bacon & Eggs. This restaurant is literally right below the apartments I stayed in! At Bacon & Eggs, they make every dish from scratch in their kitchen because that’s what they love to do and what they believe in the most. And they source as much as possible from locally grown or family farms so they can support their community as much as their community supports them. As I ate at this adorable restaurant, I noticed everyone saying hi to each other or catching up with people at separate tables. It’s obviously not only a great spot for tourists like me, but it’s a restaurant that locals go back to time and time again. And my meal was AWESOME there. They have a HUGE menu, but I decided to try the papas pastores because it was loaded with veggies and I could order without eggs and get meat instead. It was so delicious thatI ate every single last bite. If I hadn’t been eating with someone I had just met, I would have licked the plate. Damn manners.
After letting my stomach settle from breakfast, I tried out another fitness studio in town to work off some of my wine. Ten Pilates Studio is run by Patti Jo Amerein, a local to Walla Walla who was a professional dancer for years and just opened her studio in 2015. Ten Pilates Studio is right above Colville Street Patisserie (which has a couple GF treat options) and is a quaint studio for beginners to advanced athletes. Patti uses the Reformer, Cadillac, Wunda Chair in her studio to put your through a great workout and build the small muscles to stabilize and length the body. She was so nice and her little pup Coco was even nicer. After I had my private session, I sat down on the floor to have her adorable dog climb right into my lap, just like my dog does! This dog was one of my favorite parts of the entire trip. Why are dogs just the best?!!?
After getting my workout on, it was wine tasting time! I’m not huge into wine, but I think wine tastings are so fun because you can taste a sip of wine and if you don’t like it, you can dump the rest out. There’s no commitment. I always feel like such an ass when I have a full glass of wine and don’t like it so it just goes to waste. Just kidding, my husband will always drink it. But still, it feels rude. So wine tasting is the perfect place for me to get to know wines and what I like and don’t like. So we started our wine tasting off in downtown Walla Walla at the Mark Ryan Winery Tasting Room. This tasting room is beautiful and welcoming and every single wine I tasted was delicious!
Then we ventured outside of downtown to go to Amavi Cellars. This tasting room is BEAUTIFUL. Especially because you can sit on the back patio to look out on the rolling hills of Walla Walla while they serve wine right to you! I loved their sémillon wine because it was refreshing and slightly sweet. But I loved the views even more there!
Another wine tasting room we stopped by was CAVU. This wine tasting room gives you some tasty wine, but you’re also able wander around their artwork room while your sip on wine. They also have a huge event space that you can rent out for parties and events!
Now this place is what I’ve been most excited about sharing. Because it blew my mind. Andrea’s Kitchen is a food truck, but it’s also a restaurant. And get this…it’s in a gas station. And not like a fancy, re-done gas station that they turned into a restaurant. No, this is a gas station with a little restaurant inside. Chef Andrae Bopp was told by others that putting a restaurant in a gas station was a bad idea…so he jumped on it. And just like Andrae plays by his own rules when it comes to his business decisions, he does the same in the kitchen. And he’s f*cking really good at it.
If you can only go to one restaurant in Walla Walla, go to Andrae’s Kitchen because you will have your mind blow with flavor. His menu ranges from a ground prime burger topped with homemade bacon, to halal style chicken, al pastor tacos, cajun fries, loaded hot dogs, and they even serve breakfast. I was lucky enough to try three different items on the menu including the Kent Special burger, the al pastor taco, and his brisket that he makes in his famous onsite smoker named Buehler. This food was straight up perfection. It was by far the best al pastor taco and brisket I’ve ever had. And I’ve waited in line for 5 hours for brisket and his was a step above everything else I’ve ever tried. And there’s no fancy bullsh*t about it. It’s just legit amazing food in a comfortable space. I almost went back the next morning to get breakfast, but I just didn’t have enough time. I’m serious, if you do one thing in Walla Walla, go here! You will NOT regret it. Check out Andrae and his cool space in this video here!
After a super filling and amazing meal at Andrae’s, I decided to walk my way back through downtown Walla Walla and onto the Whitman College campus. Andrae recommended this because the campus is so beautiful and I’m so glad he did. It took me back to my years of college; sitting out on the grass in the sun, walking through campus from class to class, and just enjoying the college years that you never get back. I’m not sure how big that campus is, but now I totally want to go there. It was adorable!
Then on my way back into town, after I worked off some of my lunch, it was the perfect time to find a treat. And after seeing a reader on my instagram recommend Frosted Cupcake Shop, I stopped in and was so happy to see they had two gluten free options available: chocolate and carrot cake. So, of course, I grabbed a chocolate cupcake and it was AMAZING! One of the best gluten free cupcakes I’ve had. The cake itself was so fluffy, but the frosting was whipped to absolute perfection. It was hard putting this cupcake down.
For my last night in Walla Walla, I went to a restaurant that was recommended by a friend and Chef Andrae. Saffron is a Mediterranean style restaurant with incredibly unique and flavorful food. It was definitely a tad more challenging than some of the other restaurants were when it came to finding a gluten free option, but it was still possible once I asked my server. Some of the dishes are made with bread, so they cannot sub that. I was able to try the Kibbeh Nayee which is raw all natural ground lamb and beef, cumin, mint, piquillo pepper, cucumber, sweet onion, yoghurt, & fresh herbs, I just removed the flatbread and bulgur wheat! It was seriously divine! And for dinner, I got the Lamb Shawarma which had lamb shoulder, harissa olives, sumac sweet onions, heirloom tomatoes, cucumber-yoghurt, & fresh herbs and I just asked for no flatbread. It was amazing!! And so so filling. If you’re ready to try flavors that you may not be use to, this restaurant is for you. I was so impressed by all the flavors with such simple ingredients.
And to end my wonderful trip to Walla Walla, I walked into Walla Walla Bread Company for my last meal there. And I’m so glad I did because it was the perfect filling meal to hold me over until dinner time that day! The corned beef hash (which I asked for no eggs) was SO tasty and filled with pork belly and all sorts of rustic greens. I also heard that they have gluten free pizzas available, but didn’t try one myself.
If you want a vacation where you’re welcomed into a beautiful town and surrounded by friendly faces, over 100 wineries/tasting rooms, and restaurants a step above the rest…well Walla Walla is waiting for you! I can’t wait to go back, try more wine, and go straight to Andrae’s Kitchen for another amazing meal. It’s truly an amazing place1
Quick Summary of Walla Walla Favorites:
- How I Flew In
- Where I Stayed
- 51 East Main – loft-style vacation apartment rentals
- Where I Ate
- T Maccarone’s – lots of GF options – get the chicken with the potato pave
- Graze – any sandwich can be made into a salad
- Bacon & Eggs
- Walla Walla Food Truck Night
- AK’s at the Co-Op Restaurant
- Walla Walla Bread Company – get the corned beef hash for breakfast, it’s so bomb (they also have GF pizzas!)
- Fine-ly Made Baked Goods – completely GF bakery with delicious peanut butter brownies
- Frosted Cupcake Shop – they have a few GF options available and the cupcakes are amazing!!
- Where I Drank
- Where I Kept Active
This trip was hosted by Visit Walla Walla, but all opinions are my own!
Oh, Hi! I’m Juli.
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