Here’s what the wine industry can do for a place. As recently as the late 1990s, Walla Walla was a relatively sleepy farm town that produced wheat and its signature sweet onions. Oh, and it had maybe three wineries.
Fast forward to today, when the number of area wineries has exploded to more than 200. You can tour a good number of them over a few days. Or you can take the more efficient route and stumble through a dozen tasting rooms in a couple of downtown blocks.
Walla Walla has a few other things going for it. Like gorgeous surrounding farmland and an impressive, well-kept downtown, with wide, shaded streets and lots of restored, historic brick buildings. It thus attracts not just wine sippers but also a growing number of retirees.
Where there’s good wine, there’s invariably good food (you have to pair those merlots and chardonnays with something!) And while the wine crowd tends to prefer haute cuisine, enterprising road trippers can find some great, creative eats at most reasonable prices.
Besides the places I’ve been writing about the past week, I would add Olive Marketplace and Cafe (try the wood-fired pizzas) Walla Walla Bread Company for pastries and sandwiches and the unique Walla Walla Worm Ranch, serving good Mexican inside a bait-and-tackle shop. Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a streetside dog at Walla Walla Sweet Onion Sausage.
Overall, I’d rate Walla Walla a top road-trip food destination for a city its size (population 32,000) in the Pacific Northwest.