Hayden is quite the gourmand, and here is his list of favorite restaurants for food and ambiance—or maybe because they’re where his mom drags him. Either way, here are H’s picks!
The Yellow Church Cafe, Ellensburg, WA
This place is in—you guessed it—an old church. Super cute inside, and the food is amazing. Don’t forget to try the heavenly loaf. Really though, I am positive there isn’t one thing on the menu that is so-so. Everything we have eaten has been over-the-top amazing.
El Caporal, Cle Elum, WA
Your typical Mexican restaurant. We love it here because the food is amazing, but more so because the people who own it and work here are so friendly. We know all about their families, and they now know ours. It’s the kind of place where you truly feel welcomed and they seem excited to see you. We love their tortilla soup and chicken tacos.
Liberty Cafe, Liberty, WA
You know you’ve found a restaurant with good home cooking when it’s nowhere to be found on the Internet. This place has about 15 tables. There isn’t anything fancy here. The owner, Candice, is a gem. She remembers what you like and automatically brings it to you. Love that! This place is a bit off the beaten path but worth the hike. There is a collection of coffee mugs belonging to truckers who routinely come in. Last time we were here, a man gave me some Ellensburg blues and told me his secret spot to find them. Greasy food and good people; what’s not to love?
The Last Resort, Ronald, WA
This place is unique, fun, and the ribs are bone-suckin’ good.
Mama Passarelli’s Dinner House, Black Diamond, WA
Home away from home. Don’t feel like cooking but want a home-cooked meal? Come here! Need a hug from Mama? Come here! The owner, Ginger, goes by Mama. She is also the one who started the charity, The Soup Ladies. They serve meals to firefighters, search and rescue workers, and police when they are on a mission. She is an amazing woman with a huge heart. When we first moved to Maple Valley and I didn’t know anyone, she took me under her wing and taught me to cook. I would show up once a week to her restaurant, and she would teach me to make soups, pasta sauces, desserts. . . . I have even been on some of the Soup Lady missions. What a great experience.
The Testy Chef, Maple Valley, WA
This is one of H’s favorite spots. Total greasy spoon. It is right on the river, and if you hit it at the right time of year, you can see salmon spawn from your table. When we show up, the waitresses grab H, take him behind the counter, and pass him around so all the ladies working here can give him a kiss. They have trivia cards on the table, which is always fun. H and I love the strawberry pancakes with whipped cream. We also love their tuna melt and grilled cheese. Mmmm!
Jersey Mike’s, Covington, WA
This is your typical sub shop. Or is it? Elizabeth and Grant Peltekian are the owners. They take big, big pride in their food. They make it their business to get to know everyone who walks through the door. They tend to come grab a seat and get to know you. When you order your sub, they may disagree with the way you want it and insist on giving you a free one made the way they like it (along with the one you want). Elizabeth shows up at the crack of dawn to make the marinara from scratch. You will likely hear all about how fresh your food is and how she made it herself. I love them, the food, and the restaurant.
Papaya Vietnamese Cafe, The Landing, Renton, WA
We tend to go here after church. They notice when we haven’t been in for a while, and we feel missed. This is a family-run business. They created superhero cartoon images for each of them and have them painted on the wall. The pho and bun are amazing. They also have this great low-carb option: they take zucchini and shred it the length and width of the normal noodles. You really don’t notice it isn’t a noodle.
Splash, The Bellevue Club, Bellevue, WA
Tons of food for kids, H can run around without us getting the evil eye, and I love their turkey burger. It comes with a side green salad, and it is open faced. So funny: one of the waiters knows I get it every time and kind of chuckles when I say what I want.
Santorini Greek Grill, Kirkland, WA
The owner is Greek and a charming and friendly man to boot. If a year goes by and I come in, he still knows who I am and what I want. You must, must, must get the Greek fries. They have feta on them and are to die for. The gyros are amazing. I started going when I was a veggie and loved their vegetarian gyro, but now I’m going for the real deal. H and I love splitting the lamb gyro. FYI: this place is cash only.
Bings, Madison Park, WA
H and I go here with my grandmother and mom. We all love sliding into the booth and wolfing down a turkey burger or a tuna melt. We each end up getting an Arnold Palmer (iced tea and lemonade), which I think has turned into our official family drink. There are always plenty of kids here, so H loves checking out the chicks in the next highchair over
Scoop Du Jour, Madison Park, WA
This is owned by the Washington family. This family is so kind; I just love them. When I was in middle school, I had a brief crush on the youngest son; I forget his name now. Their eldest son Edward is single and fabulous. Calling all single ladies: free ice cream forever! It is an ice cream shop that also happens to make really great sandwiches. I had a BLT recently that was so good I can’t wait to go back for another. H loves everything he can get his hands on here. No picky eaters when it comes to Scoop Du Jour!
St. Clouds, Madrona, WA
This place is so, so, so great for kids. They always bring a bucket of toys to our table for H to play with. The food and wine are superb. My parents take H here when they babysit because they can get a good meal and, if H gets noisy, they don’t feel they have just ruined someone’s meal, because there probably is another table that is even noisier. That being said, I wouldn’t classify this as a noisy spot. It is a quaint neighborhood joint. My parents love the mussels. In the summer, they have a backyard area open that families tend to flock to. The kids run wild all over the grass; it’s perfect.
Madrona Eatery and Alehouse, Madrona, WA
This is the last place I would have thought to bring H. Turns out it should have been the first. There are kids at every table, seriously. There is a play area with tons of toys and a great kids’ menu! This place is loud, but fun.
Vios, Capitol Hill, WA
Rumor has it the owner built this place for moms to take their kids so they could get a good meal and a break and their kids could play. A Seattle Times article describes how he opened the restaurant after his wife took her life while struggling with postpartum depression. I take H here by myself all the time. There is a counter attached to the gated play area, so H can play and I can see him while I eat. This place gets it! The kids’ menu is fantastic; they even cut the grapes in half.
Vios, Wallingford, WA
This Vios is attached to a bookstore with a cute kids’ corner. The play area in the restaurant is smaller than the one in Capitol Hill, but still nice. I have to admit I like the Capitol Hill location best, and H does too.