Wenatchee, Washington is turning into a wonderland for food and wine lovers
A new award-winning public market, food and wine festivals and a river walk keep you busy in the apple capital.
What to Eat and Drink in Wenatchee?
When I was a kid, Wenatchee was a stop on the way to somewhere else – a quick tour at the Applets & Cotlets factory in Cashmere was a delicious adventure on our way over the mountains. But now, Wenatchee has come of age as a fun and funky destination for wine & food travelers, and I recently had a chance to spend a few delicious days there.
Most food festivals draw great local chefs and drinks producers – the Wenatchee Wine & Food Festival offered a lineup of award-winners chosen by some of the state’s best palates. There are plenty of cideries and wineries to explore in the area, as well. If you weren’t able to make it this year, check out the winning wines here:
Things to Do in Wenatchee
There are a lot of cool old buildings in historic downtown Wenatchee – you might call the town’s style “Fruit Warehouse Chic” with old brick warehouses still sporting worn paintings of apples and fading names of fruit growers. I stayed at the Coast Wenatchee Center Hotel, which has a great view from the Rivertop Bar & Grill on the top floor, and is right downtown, within walking distance of restaurants and the Apple Capital Loop Trail along the river. Wenatchee Avenue is a lineup of early 20th-century storefronts now housing cafes, bookstores, shops and restaurants some restored to their former glory – a nostalgic stroll for window (and real) shopping.
There’s a bridge over the railroad tracks to Pybus Public Market and the Apple Capitol Loop Trail, but I missed that the first time around, and ended up enjoying a wander down Wenatchee Avenue looking at all the cool old brick buildings, and crossing over to the market at the train tracks.
On the way, I couldn’t pass up the Wenatchee Book Company (now changing its name to Ye Olde Bookshoppe), tucked into the corner of an alleyway, where warrens of books extend back around mysterious corners. The booksellers came out into the light of day later to represent at the Wenatchee Wine & Food Festival, too, where we talked infused gin, local beer and Victorian vampire novels.
At the tracks, I could see the two-year old Pybus Public Market with its Pike Place Market-doppelganger neon sign, with a very long train sitting on the tracks between me and the market. I leaned against the Badger Mountain Brewing Company and read my new book – a murder mystery based in Victorian-era Paris. On this quiet morning, looking at the brown hills and waiting on a train full of empty cars, I had a sense of what this place might have felt like 100 years ago, as it began its journey to apple capital of the world, before irrigation, in the early days of the railroad.
And what it might be like 50 years ago, as it became linked to the big world through water and fruit, steel production, WWII and the development of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Now, the river of time has brought history to the future, building community in the remnants of its past.
If you build it, they will come
Eventually, after watching a couple of teenagers hop up onto the train and cross it, I looked both ways and went for it, hopping onto the tracks, pulling myself up onto a flat car and walking across it, and back down the other side. Just a minute on the train, but my heart was beating as I jumped down the other side, hoping it wouldn’t suddenly start moving, feeling like I was jumping back in time.
I walked into the Pybus Public Market and was amazed at what a cool building this was, with soaring ceilings, industrial lighting, old steel beams and metal doors. I met Mike, who took me on a tour of the market – originally an old steel storage building owned by blacksmith E. T. Pybus for his burgeoning foundry making iron and steel products for the areas growing industries.
The building was restored in 2013 (watch this cool video of the restoration) and rebuilt by a community of extremely dedicated people to create a place for their farmers’ market, and be a gathering place for locals and visitors. There is an incredibly eclectic mix of cafes (the pastries at Cafe Columbia were tasty!), cheese and wine shops, a florist, restaurants, bakeries, a cool Airstream trailer made into an espresso stand called HotRodzz Espresso, a working rail car that can move in and out of the building to hold a stage for bands, and more cool stuff. Musicians play here, dance classes practice here, brides and grooms are married here, and in general, it has added a whole new feeling of rustic sophistication to Wenatchee, while celebrating the town’s agricultural past and thriving community.
At Arlberg Sports, I had the chance to test out a super-cool aqua and pink cruiser (I totally want one!) perfect for a smooth ride along the flat riverside trail, past an osprey’s nest, grass labyrinth, beautiful little sculpture park, and the Saunders Steam Train, a miniature train track loop complete with operating train that kids go crazy over.
The weekend was quiet in this historic fruit packing town, and it was a beautiful ride along the river.
The Wenatchee Wine & Food Festival
After my afternoon on the river and at Pybus Public Market, I found the bridge back to town, and headed to the Wenatchee Wine & Food Festival at Town Toyota Center. Thirty-five wineries from around the region, such as Cave B Estate Winery near George, Rocky Pond, Jones of Washington, Chateau Faire LePont and many others were pouring their delicious wines.
There were restaurants from Wenatchee, but also from communities as far away as Leavenworth. One highlight was Visconti’s Leavenworth – they brought a 600-day-dry-aged prosciutto and sliced it super thin on the spot. Beautifully done and incredibly tasty.
Some beautiful gins, ouzo, whiskey and liqueurs from It’s 5 Distillery in Cashmere.
There was also a great company called Anderson Family Farm based in Ellensburg, that was giving free hand treatments with their goat milk salt scrub made with herbs and essential oils along with goats milk from their farm’s goats – it was heavenly!
If you have a free weekend and you want a really fun road trip, some great weather, excellent food & artisan beverages, this cool little city is well worth the trip.