A few weeks ago I took a little road trip! Well, I'm not sure what the definition of "little" is but it was about 6 days and 24 total hours of driving, so whatever that works out to.
Almost three years ago my mom and I drove from LA to SF together, and on that trip we got to wondering what driving from the other direction would be like, if Seattle to SF would be as fun or as beautiful. I had to be in Seattle for a conference in June, so I decided we should finally find out! She flew out to Seattle, where we spent a bit of time before driving down to Portland, then through the Willamette Valley, over to the coast, south for a bit, back in to Crater Lake, back out to the coast, and finally down through Northern CA to SF. Our zig zagging route wasn't exactly efficient, but we maximized the scenery and to me, that is the point of a road trip. That, and the food!
I hung out and conference for a couple days in Seattle (though I got a little fun in with a boat ride on Lake Union with friends and a detour to the new Spheres at Amazon!), then my mom arrived and we hit a bunch of the tourist spots in Seattle, including the Space Needle and the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, and the Underground Tour. My mom must have become brave after hanging out above the skyline and then literally under the city, because she shocked me by requesting a ride on the ferris wheel, the one that hangs out over the water off Pier 57. I suppose after getting her up in a Gondola last year I shouldn't have been so surprised, but I didn't even have to bribe her with an Irish Coffee this time!
We capped off Seattle with a loooooong wait to eat at JuneBaby (but I will defend that decision on the smoked carrots alone) before moving on to Portland. Neither of us had ever been to Oregon before, and so we both checked the full West Coast off our bucket lists (bucket maps?). I found out my mother has only never been to 7 states!! I'd argue it's 6 because she told me she drove through a corner of Idaho one time, but apparently that doesn't count.
Eating in Seattle
Good Bar I ate here my first night in Seattle because 1) it was open and 2) I was exhausted and it was right outside the front door of my Airbnb. Convenience aside, it was actually a great place to sit at the bar, have a couple drinks and a meal. The food was pretty good, but I really liked the quiet atmosphere. I could see this place getting crazy on a Friday night but luckily for me, that wasn't the case.
The London Plane Another place that was close to my Airbnb, but even if you aren't staying nearby I would check this place out for the baked eggs. They. Were. Awesome. This little cafe is also located in a flower shop, and the space is bright and airy with walls of windows and high ceilings. If you aren't into small menus, keep in mind the menu was tiny, with only a few things for breakfast and lunch. They all sounded amazing though, so it's quality over quantity.
How To Cook A Wolf When my friend Susan asked me if I had heard of this place, I thought she was talking about M.F.K. Fisher's book, but actually it's a restaurant in Seattle named after the book. We ordered basically everything, and I braved trying beef carpaccio and eating all the dishes with fennel seeds. It was all good, though I admit I'd love to go back in a time of year when mushrooms and elderflowers aren't in season, because the chef was really into both in an overwhelming way.
Intermezzo Carmine My Lyft driver from the airport recommended this place, and, shout out to Brian because it was great! I sat at the marble bar and stuffed myself with pasta and roasted veggies, and on a Tuesday night it was quiet and relaxed.
Cafe Munir When we showed up to this Lebanese restaurant in Ballard it was starting to rain, the wait was at least an hour, and there were no real bars or cafes nearby to wait at. Even so, I declared we had to eat here, because I had made the mistake of going inside, and therefore smelling the incredible aromas of grilled meats coming out of the kitchen. I was ruined. You will be too. Go. Order everything.
Toulouse Petit If The London Plane is an example of small-menu dining, this place is the opposite, but everything here is opulently large, from the breakfast menu to the size of the entrees. My mom and I split an egg dish and beignets and still had to waddle out of here. They make an excellent bloody mary to soak up all that filling food, though.
Il Corvo Pasta Unfortunately for us both, we ate at Toulouse Petit the morning I planned to check out this pasta shop. I figured, since this place is only open a few hours a day and known for long waits, we would be at least a little hungry by the time we got seated. Not really, since our wait was only about 30 minutes, but it speaks to the quality of the pasta and the rest of the menu that we still managed to scarf an entire plate of noodles and a kale salad.
JuneBaby Possibly one of the most hyped restaurants in the country at the moment, if you pay attention to James Beard lists or watch David Chang shows on Netflix. But, I have to say all that hype is quite possibly earned in this case. Yes, you will wait forever to eat, since the restaurant doesn't take reservations, and yes, you will probably run out of ways to entertain your mother in the meantime, but the food is worth it. At the very least, order the smoked carrots, or whatever vegetable is getting that treatment this week. They were phenomenal. The boiled peanuts were, as they usually are in restaurants, not salty enough and undercooked, but the southern rice of the day and the collard greens were excellent.
Portland was full of bridges and ice cream and donuts. After a quick hop out to Cannon Beach, we came back to try vegan dim sum, Oregon beers, and 6 flavors of donuts from Blue Star. We stayed in a Tiny House Hotel, which was so awesome I'm still not over it. I built a fire and roasted marshmallows from the s'mores drawer and people stared in at us like we were a zoo attraction (that part was less awesome).
South of Portland we basked in the sun in the Willamette Valley and tried sparkling wines and Oregon Pinots and I bought way too many to take home. We wound our way south down the coast, trading our cell signals for delicious, fresh seafood and ruggedly stunning views. We ventured back East to Crater Lake, where we admired the strange, volcanic terrain. We stayed in an airstream on a farm in Rogue River, where I got to hold goat babies and give them shoulder scratches. We learned all about guard llamas and I milked a goat, and then we had fresh-laid eggs for breakfast before driving on to California.
In California we drove through endless redwoods to Eureka. Up until this point, Eureka to me was just the place on the 101 North signs, but now it's the place where we drank in a community crafting place and stayed in a haunted-looking inn. It was actually quiet and lovely in the Old Town section of the city.
Eating in Portland
Bollywood Theater This cafe serves up Indian cuisine in photo-ready metal dishes, and it tastes just as good as it looks. We had the Goan shrimp and and a whole host of sides, including Bhel Puri, a salad-like assortment of all the things that was one of my favorite dishes I ate the entire trip.
Ichiza Kitchen I don't know if vegan Dim Sum would be my usual first choice, but I was intrigued, and this little restaurant did not disappoint. Standouts were chili oil wontons and kimchi gyoza. I still don't know what made up the "pork belly & beef" but it was delicious enough that I don't really care, TBH.
Ava Gene's This place is right down the street from Pok Pok and just as popular from all appearances. We had a late dinner here after a day of exploring Portland. The fish with buttermilk we had was extremely good, as was the pasta, as was the wine.
Back Pedal Brewing This little brewery room was right next door to the much larger, much noisier 10 Barrel Brewing, and we ducked inside just as it started raining for much calmer beer flight and some scrabble.
Blue Star Donuts Ok, yes, Voodoo gets all the attention, but I didn't even try to wait in that line. Everyone told me to go to Blue Star instead, and I can't imagine they were wrong after trying these donuts. I took a box of 6 on the road south with us, and they were still enjoyable two days later. My favorite was probably the original horchata glaze and the creme brulee, sans the dropper of cointreau.
Whiz Bang Bar Salt and Straw has soft serve! Or, at least they do in Portland! I ordered a giant cone of vanilla soft serve with black raspberry shell, sprinkles, and a generous garnish of their marionberry habanero cheesecake. My mother was rightfully horrified by life choices.
Helser's on Alberta We had a great diner-style breakfast here, down the street from our hotel. It doesn't look fancy from the outside, but the line of locals waiting to eat should tell you all you need to know.
Arts and Drafts A crafting spot and a bar, all in one place? Sounds weird, but it does exist in Eureka. They had a large selection of beers on tap and the location right on the waterfront and the crafts on display made for a cozy spot to get a drink.
Cafe Waterfront The food here was nothing special, but the restaurant is in an historic building in Old Eureka, and it's waterfront location and atmosphere more than made up for the food just being serviceable. We went back for breakfast, and the blueberry pancakes were more than serviceable.
Local Ocean Seafoods We stopped here for dinner in Newport on our way down the Oregon coast, and feasted on crab legs and a Brazilian fish stew containing seemingly every creature to ever surface from the deep.
I fully recommend taking your time to drive between Seattle and San Francisco! If you have the time, the rugged Oregon coast, natural wonders, and fun cities are not to be missed. I flew back to Seattle this past weekend for a brief stop on the way to Canada, and it just wasn't as fun covering all that scenery in 2 hours and from high up above. Though, I was able to point down as we flew over Portland and think, "hey! I was just there!" so that part was ok.