The BEST of Walla Walla – Where to wine, dine and recline
I have been to Walla Walla several times now. Each visit I fall a bit more in love with this small town located in southeastern Washington. What was once a sleepy farming town, is now a thriving community seemingly focused on one thing…the culinary arts. From wine-making to fine dining and beyond, Walla Walla delivers an exuberant experience that should be on every epicurean’s bucket list.
When I first visited Walla Walla in 2010 I stayed at a charming B&B near downtown. I remember driving down a quiet, tree-lined street thinking how it reminded me of a place my grandparents lived when I was a child. The idyllic setting off Walla Walla took me back to those fond memories I had as a youngster.
My next visit to Walla Walla was in 2012 when I was in town for the filming of a Travel Channel show (back when they actually produced travel content) called “Best of the Road.” This is when I first discovered the burgeoning wine and food scene that had taken root.
Fast forward to my most recent visit in 2021, where, despite the setbacks of Covid, Walla Walla continues to thrive. One thing that really struck me about this community is has it has maintained its small town charm and friendliness, while now boasting over 140 wineries and many new restaurants and lodging options.
Over the years I have been to dozens of wineries, restaurants and stayed or visited many hotels/inns. As you continue reading I am going to share what I think is the best of Walla Walla.
Where to Stay in Walla Walla
The wine industry has fueled a demand for some amazing boutique lodging options. Here are some of my favorite hotels in Walla Walla, each one different than the next depending on your needs and desires.
- Marcus Whitman is the largest hotel. It is a historically elegant hotel that was completely refurbished a few years back, yet you’ll still feel like you’re stepping back in time. This is the tallest building in Walla Walla, so you can’t miss it. It’s an iconic symbol of Walla Walla. Located right in downtown you can walk to so much the city has to offer. If you’re in town on business, you will likely be staying at the Marcus Whitman.
- The Finch – Located on the other end of downtown (it’s not that big) from the Marcus Whitman, The Finch offers a completely different experience. What it lacks in refined elegance, it makes up for in hipness, perhaps a good description would be urban chic. Not super luxurious, but a solid place to stay in a walkable location. They have a couple of suites which are much more spacious with a few additional amenities, such as a microwave.
- Cameo Heights – This is about 25-30 minutes outside of Walla Walla. This luxurious B&B is perfect for couples looking for a romantic get-away. They have around a dozen luxuriously appointed rooms, each private, spacious with their own access. They provide a wonderful breakfast with your stay, and, dinner is available at the on-site restaurant. A swimming pool, movie theater and sweeping views are also provided at no extra charge.
- Abeja – Maybe 10-15 minutes from downtown, this is a fantastic property, especially for those looking to emerge themselves within a vineyard. This is a boutique Inn with 6-8 rooms, each uniquely decorated and themed. Decor is cottage chic and it’s a very quiet and beautiful property. You will also find some of the best wine in Walla Walla. The wine tasting and food pairing is fantastic! Even if you’re not staying here, I highly recommend making reservations for the wine pairing. They also have an on-site restaurant.
- Fat Duck Inn – Another charming inn close to downtown. Craftsman style home, 5-6 rooms, each nicely decorated. Great breakfast is also included.
Best Restaurants in Walla Walla for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
- Maple Counter Cafe – Probably the most popular place in town for breakfast. Bring your appetite (because the portions are huge), and, your patience because the line can be long. Very good quality home cooking-type breakfast with an edge toward gourmet. Also open for lunch.
- Walla Walla Bread Company – True artisan breads, decadent pastries with several delicious breakfast options and amazing coffee. Nicely decorated interior with a great patio situated right on Main Street.
- Walla Walla Roastery – Really cute place with nice outdoor patio. Located near the airport, about 12-15 minutes from downtown. Wonderful freshly roasted coffee (you’ll likely find their coffee at many restaurants). Unique breakfast items inspired by the origin of the coffee beans they import. Really friendly team; you’ll feel right at home.
- Bacon & Eggs is another solid choice for breakfast in Walla Walla. Located right on Main Street in the middle of town with a nice sidewalk patio.
- Cugini Import Italian Foods – Their paninis are out of this world, but beware, lots of garlic. These are seriously delicious sandwiches finished with a scoop of homemake spumoni. Only a few tables available inside, but they also have a patio out back. Lively place with lots of imported Italian items to make a delicious meal at home.
- Graze is another good lunch spot with great sandwiches.
- Taqueria Mi Pueblito – Wonderful authentic Mexican food. No frills, just delicious. You might also see their taco truck at a special event around town.
- Walla Walla Steak Co. – Pretty expensive, but damn, one of the best filets I’ve ever had. Really good and creative dishes, fantastic service in a lively atmosphere, which is housed within the historic train depot. At the other end of the depot is Crossbuck Brewing, a more casual experience with artfully crafted beers.
TMACS – The space (an old car dealership) and decor are simple amazing. Intimate setting with perfect lighting, vibrant food and a fantastic outdoor patio makes TMACS one of the hottest places in town to dine. The adjacent market is also amazing, great place to go shopping for a picnic or pick up a gift. They can even put together a picnic basket for you.
- AK’s Mercado – Seriously some of the best tacos you’ll ever try! Chef Andrae takes really simple dishes and puts a gourmet spin on them. All of their meats are painstakingly smoked to perfection. The combination of BBQ and Mexico cuisine is the perfect culinary marriage.
- The Marc – Fantastic formal dining experience. Gourmet cuisine specializing in Pacific Northwest delicacies paired with award-winning wines is the perfect combination for special occasions.
- Brasserie Four – If you enjoy the intricacies of French food, this is a wonderful restaurant:
Best Walla Walla Wineries and Tasting Rooms:
- Abeja – One of our all around favorite wineries in Walla Walla. If you can only go to one winery, Abeja is the one, just be sure to make a reservation. It is difficult to choose from so many Cabernet Sauvignon wines in Walla Walla, but Abeja’s is definitely top of the list. Another favorite is the Beekeepers Blend which is a combination of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. While the Walla Walla “darlings” are undoubtedly Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, I was happy to find a really healthy production of Merlot.
- Walla Walla Vintners – One of the original wineries in the region, Vintners is another outstanding choice for a tasting. The grounds are beautiful with a patio overlooking the vineyard. They produce an amazing Sauvignon Blanc as well as a Cabernet Sauvignon. The tannins are not as high as other Cabs in the region, making it a bit more approachable if you will. I would suspect these wines are really good for bottle aging.
- Amavi – In Italian, Amavi comes from the word “amare,” which means to love (loved/ loving/in love etc, depending on the context). Either way, Amavi is another winery you will love. I was surprised to find the Sémillon grape here, which is known as a French wine and often on the sweeter side. Turns out, Amavi enjoys a challenge and has done an outstanding job. You will find Amavi on many local winery lists, their Cabernet Sauvignon is not to be missed!
- Next door is Valdemar Estates – State-of-the-art winery and tasting room. First European (sister vineyard in Spain) winery to open in Walla Walla. They offer flights instead of traditional tasting and you can accompany them with tapas. Where Valdemar differs from the other local wineries is that you can taste both their local wines, as well as their Spanish wines. It is very interesting to taste a Spanish Rioja after a Washington Cab. During your flight each wine is presented with a very visual card describing the vineyard, the grape, the winemaking process, as well as the tasting notes.
- Bledsoe Family Winery is owned by Drew Bledsoe (NFL), a local native. They have a lovely tasting room in downtown and are producing some great varietals.
- Devona – A boutique winery located near the airport, nothing fancy, but they produce some fantastic wine. Don’t miss trying their Chardonnay.
- Eternal Wines – Part of the Walla Walla incubator program, a concept that was formed to meet the demands of graduates from Walla Walla Community College’s enology and viticulture program. Eternal is an up-and-coming winery worth checking out for their single vineyard Syrah. Don’t miss their Thursday night concert series.
Beer and Cider Tasting
While Walla Walla is known for its wines, they do have a good beer and cider scene as well. Here are a few I’ve tried and would recommend.
- Burwood Brewing Co – Cool venue with a nice selection of craft beers.
- Freewater Cider – Fantastic cider that is less sweet.
- Locust Cider – Vibrant flavors, but on the sweeter side.
Things to do Beyond Food & Wine
If you’re looking for a few things to do beyond food and beverage, here are some thing to consider.
- Pioneer Park – This massive 58 acre park includes 1.4 miles of walking paths, sport fields, courts, an aviary, rose garden, playground, a forest of trees. This is a great place to take a stroll or have a picnic.
- Heritage Square Park – A small park right in downtown that features a picnic area and the “Windows on the Past” art piece that walks visitors through the history of the are.
- SUP or Kayaking – The folks at Adventure Fit rent kayaks or Stand Up Paddle-boards (SUP) on Bennington Lake and beyond.
- Hot Air Balloon Ride – Ballooning is one of the best ways to get views of the uniquely beautiful area from the air. As you soar through the skies, enjoy the views of vineyards, wheat fields and the historic town of Walla Walla below.
- Events – There is always something going on in the city, from the farmers market, live music to art festivals, so be sure to check out the calendar of events while in town.
- Local Tours – Last time I was in town I went on a “Brews Cruise,” which was a lot of fun. Generations of wheat farmers have made their home in Walla Walla and now support a growing community of brewers. Walla Walla Brews Cruise tours are knowledge-based. On the tour, you will learn about the process of brewing beers and crafting cider with a guided discussion of varying styles of alcohol.
If you have any questions about visiting Walla Walla, Washington, leave a comment below, happy to help.