We’ve just begun to recover from our week-long road trip to Santa Cruz to visit my brother-in-law. We spent two days driving south, a few days there, then three days coming back. We hit an astounding number of brewpubs along the way. Here’s a (rather long) photo essay of some of the week’s eats and drinks.
We left Mount Vernon bright and early, with our first stop at Hopworks in Portland. It was pouring down rain (my feet got soaked just going the short distance from the car to the door), but the brewpub was bright and cozy and the Women’s World Cup was just starting. We could happily have stayed there all day, but we dragged ourselves away at halftime.
The sandwiches were excellent, especially the chicken ancho, and the salad had chunks of Rogue Creamery blue cheese almost too big to eat. Plus their beer is amazing – I had a pint of Evelyn’s Sunshine Imperial IPA, which was badly needed after our drive through the storm.
After a long drive through Oregon, we stopped in Grants Pass, where a friend of ours is in the midst of an internship. We didn’t have any particularly good leads on food here, so we checked out the Wild River Brewpub. The beer was decent, especially the IPA, and they had the best coaster wall I’ve ever seen. The food was so-so: my fish tacos were only redeemed from fatal mediocrity by the vast quantities of fresh guacamole piled next to them. I’ll put up with a lot if it comes with guacamole.
We spent the night in Medford, had a very dull breakfast in the motel office accompanied by FOX news, then headed off through the rain across the Siskiyous. We had an early enough start that we managed to get to Chico by lunchtime, so as to try out the Sierra Nevada Brewery taproom.
It was large. And fancy. We tried some of the few beers not available at our grocery store at home, ate some really good onion rings, then got a lamb pita and a barbecue beef sandwich.
The pita, which had been advertised as “petite” on the menu, was so big that the waiter asked me how I planned to fit any part of it into my mouth. I ate half of it and took the other half away to eat in the motel the next morning. We continued on to Santa Cruz.
When we’re in Santa Cruz one of our favorite places to go is Kelly’s French Bakery. One morning we walked down to the ocean and back, then stopped at the bakery and got polenta with poached eggs, plus a bowl of perfectly roasted potatoes with more eggs on the side. Another morning we had croissant sandwiches. If this place was just down the street from our house I’d be in big trouble.
One day my brother-in-law’s partner took me to lunch at a favorite Mexican place. We sat on a sunporch overlooking a creek, and I ordered machaca, something I’ve never seen before. It was a tasty pile of shredded beef, scrambled eggs, peppers and fresh jalapenos, with rice, tortillas and beans on the side, for under $7. I ate maybe half of it and took the rest back for breakfast. When I ordered it the waiter became very concerned that I should be warned about the jalapenos, and I had to reassure him that I did actually want to eat them. They were excellent.
After lunch we stopped by Penny Ice Cream to pick up a pint or two for that evening. This is a pretty amazing place – I tried the basil ice cream and the strawberry-pink peppercorn, and both were wonderful. Robert tasted the bourbon-bacon-chocolate which I was distrustful of, but he seemed to like it. We got the strawberry-pepper and some chocolate sorbet for the rest of the family, both of which went over very well indeed.
On another day we went to lunch at Cafe Cruz in Soquel. It’s a very nice place, known for its rotisserie chicken. My husband and his brother intelligently ordered salads, which looked amazing, but I of course had to get the chicken and green chile sandwich which turned out to be as big as my head and was buried in onion rings. I would have regretted it deeply if it hadn’t been so goddamn tasty.
Our order was a little slow coming, as there was a food photographer in the courtyard doing a shoot for the restaurant website, and the kitchen seemed preoccupied with taking him gorgeous plates of food. One of these plates included a pile of fresh homemade potato chips that was driving me mad to look at – I kept wondering who was going to get to eat them.
When we left Santa Cruz on Friday it was foggy and a bit chilly. By the time we were well up into the Sacramento Valley it was 98 degrees. We had bought a salad at Kelly’s and were keeping an eye out for a nice place to pull out and eat it, when we happened to stop in Winters. Much to our surprise and pleasure, it’s a really nice little town. We ate our salad in a green park under shade trees, then walked across the street to a charming little place called Steady Eddy’s where they refilled our water bottle with ice and made us really excellent iced lattes. Their pastries were good, they had a nice selection of beer and a panini menu that looked really promising. We were also enticed by the tapas place next door and the wine place on the other side, but it was the wrong time of day. Alas. If we ever get the chance to stop in Winters again you bet we will.
We stopped in Weed, CA for the night. Partly just to break up the trip, but also because my great-grandparents lived here back in the 1940s and I was curious what it was like. We ended up spending the evening in the Weed Alehouse, drinking remarkably good beer from the Mount Shasta Brewing Company and listening to live music.
Of the beers we tried, I liked the Mountain High IPA best, but the Golden Ale was really pleasant and the jalapeno beer had an intense green chile flavor and kick. The food menu looked pretty basic, but we didn’t try anything as we had just had Sichuan leftovers in our motel room.
(It was ma po tofu and a-choy from O’mei in Santa Cruz. Really spicy and really, really good.)
We had intended to go by way of Crater Lake the next day, but a loud party next door combined with a truly atrocious AC unit kept us from sleeping much. We slept in later than we had planned, then consoled ourselves with breakfast at the Hi-Lo Cafe down the street before heading north towards Portland.
If I hadn’t been gathering rave reviews from all over the internet, I would never have gone into this place. But as it turned out, the food was fresh and well cooked, the coffee was…well…drinkable, and the orange juice was incredibly good (they had a weird orange robotic-looking juicer behind the counter). I had corned beef hash and Jon had biscuits and gravy, and both were excellent. The hashbrowns were a little disappointing, being cut a bit wide for my taste and not as crispy as I would like, but I was hardly in danger of starving.
We stopped off in Eugene to visit the Ninkasi Brewery. This may be our favorite beer in the world, so I was really excited to try their full line. The Quantum Pale, which they have not bottled, was very good and had the advantage of not being quite so alarmingly high in alcohol as most of their other beers.
They don’t have a kitchen at the brewpub, but they host various food carts in their patio and they keep a selection of locally made soups, pretzels and pasties on hand. We tried the pasties, made by Cousin Jack’s Pasty Company, in the Steak & Ale, Wild Mushroom, and Broccoli and Cheese flavors. Not bad at all, and excellent ballast for beer drinking.
We celebrated the final night of our trip with drinks and dinner at Beaker & Flask in Portland. I’ve been wanting to go here for ages, but it’s a little tricky to get to when we’re in town without a car. They have an exciting list of original cocktails and a beautiful, carefully planned menu of both small and large plates. We had an amazing dinner, starting with the smoked trout deviled eggs and ending with panna cotta and beignets with strawberry-basil sauce. I’m not sure I can even talk about everything else we had. Let’s just say, it was good.
We made it home the next day, tired of the car and happy to see our kitties again. But it was a good road trip.