Part 2 Wandering Around Yakima’s Downtown and Beyond (read part 1 here).
After a busy day of kayaking and hiking and sampling of beer, we relaxed at Hilton Garden Inn Yakima Downtown before embarking on the busy evening ahead of us.
Located just around the corner from our hotel, Single Hill Brewing Company is one of the stellar locations in downtown Yakima. First, a little bit about that name. Hop growers plant seedlings in a way that is referred to as “single hill fields.” This isolates single varieties for the grower to then choose from for the desired criteria. For owner Zack Turner, the name brings a sense of place to mind. Zach’s goals for the brewery, which opened in June of 2018, include excellent beer and a community gathering place. Zack brings lots of experience and knowledge to Single Hill, having worked in the industry since 2009. Along with his partner Ty Paxton, Zack has accomplished both goals. The evening we were there was perfect for their spacious, family-friendly indoor and outdoor space. People can bring their own food and enjoy one of Single Hill’s creative “experimental varieties” or go with their mainstays. Michael greatly enjoyed the crisp and refreshing Adam’s Pilsner, one of their regular offerings. I had the limited-variety Hops for Hounds, which was a hoppy IPA that I enjoyed immensely.
Hops for Hounds is a community effort that benefits the Yakima Humane Society. Zack is most exited about his three-vessel experimental offerings. He brews three batches of the identical base beer, then dry hops it with various hops to create original and enticing beers. The distinctive cans themselves offer an education about the process.
After sampling several Single Hill’s offerings, we wandered down the street to Cowiche Canyon Kitchen for some dinner. The atmosphere at Cowiche Kitchen is a buzz of excitement, old friends, and delicious food. Yakima was warm that evening, so we both went for a more than generous dinner-sized salad. I had the Hong Kong Chicken Chop – with crispy sesame chicken, a mix of Napa and purple cabbage, red peppers, carrots, cucumbers, bean sprouts, green onions, and crispy wonton strips. Very colorful and delicious. The toasted sesame dressing was tart but not sour and the perfect flavor for the salad.
Michael went with the Prawn and Avocado Salad with grilled prawns, avocado, corn, black beans, lettuce, jicama, and tortilla strips. The Mexican Green Goddess dressing finished it off nicely. Having had our fill of beer (temporarily), we had a nice glass of wine with our salads, but it was hard to resist their line-up of Ice House Drinks – which featured both original and delicious sounding cocktails and also the standards. You can check out the list here.
After dinner, we continued our exploration of downtown and discovered two places that definitely went on the “next time” list. The Schab’s’s Bier Den looked very inviting with their homey space. They have taps of beer from the Pacific Northwest and beyond and a menu of pub food that includes the standard fare and the not-so-standard – Bier Brat Nachos – tortilla chips topped with brats, kraut, cheese, salsa, and sour cream!
Also on our “next time” list is The Tap. Fifty taps of beer, wine, and cider would be enough of a draw but what really makes the experience unique is that it is all self-serve! They charge by the ounce, so you are free to sample at your heart’s content or find your favorite and stick with it. It is child, dog, and family-friendly and has a nice menu of shareable plates for eating. Then we slowly walked back to the hotel for a much-needed sleep.
The next morning we were ready for breakfast to power us through a busy day. Just a short drive or walk from the core of downtown is Caffé 11th Ave. The Caffé is a family affair with an interesting story of twists and turns. Owner Debbie Holm’s uncle purchased the property back in the 1980s. In 2018 the owner expanded their tenant to change the coffee shop into a full restaurant. Sadly that only lasted six months. The restaurant owner left, so Debbie found herself with a newly built restaurant with no one to run it. Thus, she found herself to be an accidental restaurateur! Debbie turned this into a winning restaurant with some mentoring from her parents. It’s just a mile east of downtown, has a lovely interior, a nice patio, and a drive-through window for expresso. The restaurant prides itself on the classics with a creative twist.
The Signature Meat Lover’s Quiche is a combination of eggs, a blend of cheddar and Italian cheeses, sausage, bacon, Italian sausage, onions, zucchini, peppers, and mushrooms with a side. It also includes Fruit-Granola Yogurt Parfait. You will not go home hungry! There is the Monstrous Bloody Mary: Vodka and house made Bloody Mary Mix for the truly adventurous. Topped with applewood smoked bacon, ham & cheese, olives, celery, pickled veggies & more – it is truly breakfast in a glass!
After taking some time to let breakfast settle, you might be interested in working off some calories! Drive 15 minutes south, and you’ll find the Central Washington Agricultural Museum, which is also the location of the trailhead to the Ahtanum Ridge Trail.
There are two access points to the trail. Be sure to take the trail that starts at the east end of the museum for a gentler climb up the hill. The trail gains 600 ft. in about a mile and offers stunning views of the Yakima valley. The steeper trail starts near Fulbright Park. If time permits, you should check the museum; 150 antique tractors and much more.
After this workout – it’s hard to believe – but it’s time to eat again. Even before we arrived in Yakima, we had heard about the famous Los Hernandez Tamales. This little gem is located in a small storefront store in downtown Union Gap, and behind it is a charming success story. In 1990, Felipe Hernandez needed a job. His family was already well known for making delicious tamales, so he took a chance and opened up his restaurant. Today they have expanded to a satellite in Yakima’s West Valley neighborhood . The business plan is definitely unusual for a successful restaurant – just one item on the menu! Obviously, the one item is tamales, but there are four varieties: pork, chicken, asparagus (seasonal), and cactus. We each tried the asparagus tamales and were wowed by the delicious blend of asparagus with pepper jack cheese. Michael paired it with a chicken tamale, and I had the pork tamale. Next time we’ll try the cactus! While we were sitting in the small restaurant – customers for carry-out were lined up out the door. You can buy them by the dozen for a family feast. They come cooked, frozen, or raw – for those who plan ahead.
Back in Yakima for the afternoon, we found ourselves craving a different taste of nature. So we headed out to the Yakima Area Arboretum. The Arboretum was established in 1967 by the Federation of Garden Clubs (36 clubs in total). With some support from the city of Yakima, the non-profit Arboretum is mostly sustained through its members and sponsors. It is an oasis of 46 acres showcasing over 1000 specimens of trees, flowers, grasses, and shrubs. The Arboretum path wanders through collections, display gardens, and natural areas. One of the interesting collections we saw was the Maple Grove – with many maple varieties. It was fun to compare all the different barks and leaves that maple trees can produce.
The locals use the Arboretum in various ways – from weddings to day camps. Many bridal couples, high school seniors, and quinceanera celebrants stage their photo shoots in the beautiful and peaceful surroundings. And for the younger set, there is the Nature Day Camp, which runs all summer. The kids learn all about nature and conservancy while having a great time with crafts, games, and more. The Arboretum is also home to the Sol Shine Nature Preschool, a “Forest Kindergarten” where kids spend 100% of their time outside, regardless of the weather (except in the case of lightning).
The trail system in the Arboretum connects to the Yakima Greenway Trail, which is 20 paved miles from Union Gap to Naches. Michael has this on his “next time” list!
Phew, that was a long day! So – time for some more beer! Of course, we had to visit Bale Breaker, one of the premier breweries in the state. We had visited in 2013, soon after their grand opening. They have grown to be the 3rd largest independent craft brewery in the State of Washington. We spoke with Meghann Quinn (co-owner and business manager with her husband Kevin Quinn) to learn about this very successful family operation. The brewmaster is brother Kevin Smith (known as Smitty). Meghann’s other brother Patrick Smith is a 4th generation hops farmer at B.T. Loftus Ranches. From field to glass, the Smith/Quinn family produces some very good and well-known beer!
Michael usually sticks to a lighter beer, such as a pilsner, but he decided to branch out and tried a 5 sampler flight of IPAs. He became an IPA convert with the Sesiones Del Migrante Mango IPA. The light touch of mango brightens the beer, brings a refreshing beer to be enjoyed in the summer, and has just a light hop flavor. I love their Topcutter IPA, but I also decided to try something different and went with the Frenz IPA. This limited edition beer is made in partnership with Fremont Brewing in Seattle. It is a West Coast IPA with a medium-to-high bitterness and a fresh waft of grapefruit and tangerine. Delicious!
It was time to leave Yakima, but we packed in a lot in just two days! Don’t miss this lovely city with so much to offer in the heart of Washington’s wine country.
Editorial disclosure: lodging, beverages, and food generously provided.