Washington’s Small Town Gems

Posted in Blog, WA Grown on Tuesday, April 09, 2024

Ready for a delicious road trip? We’ve compiled our five favorite small-town restaurants in the state - and no matter where you live, the spots are worth the drive!

Washington’s Small Town Gems

AS THE WEATHER WARMS UP AROUND US, Washingtonians get the irresistible itch to explore, and the Evergreen State becomes a playground for the adventurous. But as any seasoned adventurer knows, half the fun is getting there. In our travels around the state of Washington, we’ve discovered some hidden gems — fantastic restaurants, bistros, and cafes hidden in small towns or rural locations.

While nearly every small town has a favorite haunt for locals, we have scoured the state to find places that are worth taking a day trip to visit. Reviewers of these gems say that they’re worth traveling for, not only for the fun atmosphere and great service, but also because the food is uncommonly delicious. As with all Washington Grown–featured restaurants, these restaurants prioritize using locally grown vegetables, fruits, wines, meats, and more.

Lefevre Street Bakery & Cafe - Medical Lake
While some customers have trouble pronouncing their name, everyone can agree on one thing: Lefevre Street Bakery & Cafe in the tiny community of Medical Lake makes the most delicious pastries for miles around. Owner Victoria Shoemaker and her team make all their breads and pastries from scratch, using the freshest Washington ingredients to make delicious, real food.

The stars of the show are their counter-display pastries like giant cinnamon rolls, flaky chocolate croissants, and a delightfully light carrot cake to go along with a hot latte. But the cafe also offers full menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner — complete with dishes like scratch-made biscuits and gravy, quinoa salad, and a fantastic Cuban sandwich.

“We like to be here and present with people and give them something familiar to come back to,” said Shoemaker.

“It’s nice and relaxed. The prices are great, and the taste is great. I get in here as often as I can.”
“A rustic country environment, and they greet you like family when you come in.”


Ranch House BBQ and Steakhouse - Olympia
Tucked away on the side of Route 8, in the heavily wooded base of Capitol Peak about 13 miles west of Olympia, the quiet and serene exterior of Ranch House BBQ and Steakhouse is deceiving. While the outside is quiet and serene, the inside is anything but.

But the fun, lively, and family-friendly environment is just the beginning of Ranch House’s appeal. People flock here because owner Amy Anderson is a certified BBQ genius; she has won five state championships and a world championship in Ireland in 2000. Not only are their smoked meats all sourced locally, but they’re also smoked with applewood and cherrywood from Ander- son’s father’s farm in Eastern Washington.

“Being nationally recognized is great, but being locally recognized as the best BBQ in western Washington is even better,” said Anderson. “If it’s on the menu, it’s local — I have a very small menu, which means we’ve got to be good at everything.”

“The food is fantastic every time.”
“You’re gonna eat good. We drive 45 minutes to eat here each week.”


Blueberry Hills Farm and Restaurant - Manson
Located on the banks of Lake Chelan, Blueberry Hills is a farmhouse-style restaurant that started as a fruit stand. Owner Kari Sorensen, whose great-great-grandparents homesteaded the land in the early 1900s, led the effort to convert the old barn into a restaurant in 2002. When they opened, she said she was scared that nobody would drive the 2 miles from downtown Manson to visit the restaurant. But in the years since, Blueberry Hills has become a destination for fruit lovers from around the world.

“To me, food is love,” said Sorensen. “If you’re looking for an experience — and really great food — it’s worth the drive. It’s a really special place.”

The menu focuses on “down-home scratch country cooking,” with blueberry-inspired dishes like a blueberry blintz and burgers with blueberry mayo. In addition to a great meal, you can spend time in the blueberry fields, picking berries to take home and enjoy all week.

“This is a staple for our family! The food is delicious, and the service is great.”
“You can sample their blueberry juice while you wait in line — it’s terrific!”


Lynden Dutch Bakery - Lynden
For nearly 120 years, the Lynden Dutch Bakery has been serving the small Whatcom County town delicious baked goods made from scratch. While they offer typical treats and pastries like donuts and muffins, it’s their Dutch specialties that make this place worth the drive. You can get almond sticks, speculaas cookies (a sort of spiced shortbread), oliebollen (a sort of Dutch beignet), boterkoek (Dutch butter cake), and stroopwafel (a thin, filled waffle cookie).

“There were a lot of Dutch immigrants that settled here, in one of the best berry-growing regions of the world,” said owner Chad Simmons. “With all the availability of fresh fruit here, we’re most known for our pies.”

“This is my favorite place to take the kids!”
“They’ve got an ancient oven that’s been baking forever — just such a cool part of Lynden history. They’ve made it feel modern but still the traditional feel.”


Vita’s Wildly Delicious - Lopez Island
Only one of the restaurants on our list this year requires a ferry ride to reach, but that’s not the only thing that makes Vita’s Wildly Delicious unique. Located on Lopez Island, Vita’s is a seasonal destination for anyone exploring the San Juan Islands. With live music and a rotating menu, Vita’s focuses on using the freshest ingredients, grown right on the island. The restaurant is open seasonally, from mid-May through September.

During those months, Vita's is only open for dinner on Tuesdays and Fridays, so locals know to build their calendar around a night out at Vita’s. Customers rave about the weekly pizza night, when owner Bruce Botts and team make pizzas in a small, artisanal wood-fired pizza oven. But they have also done paella nights, wine tastings, and flamenco dancing.

“In my mind, it’s not really a restaurant or a cafe,” said Botts. “It’s more of a bistro with prepared food. People just really enjoy it.”

“It fits with the vibe of the island really well! Live music, happy people, great food.”

As Seen in Our Magazine