weekend eats

pass crossing

We visited my folks in eastern WA this weekend, rehearsing for our band’s annual Saint Patrick’s Day concerts.  Of course we made time for plenty of good food. One night I helped my father make a spinach lasagna – he informed me that he had read over a dozen recipes and intended to follow none of them, so we made it up as we went along, and ended up with a very delicious concoction of chicken, button mushrooms, dried morels and their soaking liquid, spinach, ricotta, and a little bechamel sauce. A salad of bosc pears, lettuce, and walnuts from my parents’ tree rounded it out nicely.

The next day my mother and I went to a yoga class, and afterward we all had lunch at South, which is always exciting and wonderful. I talked myself out of getting yet another fajita sandwich, and instead tried their Revolución shrimp burrito. It was spectacular – the shrimp were intensely spicy and perfectly cooked, studding the delicious matrix of cilantro rice and beans. As always, the citrusy cabbage salad on the side was the perfect accompaniment. Despite having had the owner send me the ingredient list for this salad, I’ve never been able to quite replicate it. Must keep trying.

Our trip home was less successful food-wise, as we decided to finally try having lunch at the Alpen Drive-In outside of Startup. Since Gracie-the-dog can’t as yet be trusted in the car by herself, we’ve been doing a lot of drive-in or take-out food on our trips over the pass, usually Zeke’s or the School Bus or Sultan Bakery, but we hadn’t tried the Alpen yet. I regret to say we will never go again. The food was slow to arrive and rather expensive, which wouldn’t be a deal-killer if it hadn’t also been nasty. The milkshake was fine, but it was the only thing that was. Jon’s hamburger was meh, with cold unmelted cheese. Fries were certainly hot and fresh, but oddly mealy, and came with no condiments at all. My chicken sandwich was not only tasteless but actually too tough to eat – I felt my jaw pop while trying to take a bite. I ended up throwing out the chicken and stuffing the bun with french fries, which was at least edible if not particularly nourishing.

fried rice and beer

As a result, I was starving by the time we got home and unpacked the car. Fortunately, we still had some Chinese sausages and one last jar of homemade kimchi (which has been slowly leaking and making the basement fridge smell very interesting), so I whipped up a big batch of fried rice. We ate it by the fire in the living room, cats draped all over us, while watching a dorky British comedy and drinking Tecate. That made up for a lot.

back to South


I uploaded these photos last week and somehow they’ve just been languishing over on Flickr, which is a shame. South remains our favorite restaurant in the Bavarian hamlet of Leavenworth, serving Oaxacan-style food and fabulous cocktails, and I just can’t say enough about how much I like their work. I might only mention them now and then, but believe me, we go back every chance we get. These pictures are from our most recent visit.

sweet potato fries

Sweet potato fries are a relatively recent addition (I love their roasted green beans so much it was a wrench not to order them). They’re white sweet potatoes, very dry, with an oven-fried texture. They come with garlic mayonnaise but are also good with salsa. I am a total sucker for the cute wooden bowls they’re served in.


Speaking of salsa, it’s a get-it-yourself affair. While we sat on the patio I watched a handful of customers (all men) attempt to carry up to five bowls of salsa back to their table without a plate, which was exciting (no accidents, alas). The habanero salsa is also pretty exciting, even for those of us with a high spice tolerance.

patio at SouthStinger

The patio gets a little better every time we visit. Now they have a canopy over the upper part, and large market umbrellas for the lower section, so palefaces like me don’t fry in the sun. Grapevines cover the walls, and the whole space gives a sense of privacy and of, well, not being in Leavenworth. It’s a great place to sit on a hot summer day and drink a Daisy, a Caipirinha, or (our favorite) a Stinger – muddled jalapeno and cilantro with tequila and lemon. A bit spicy, but astonishingly good.

tacos al pastor

burrito and chips

As always, both the tacos and burritos are fantastic. Our favorite filling is probably the pork al pastor, but all of them have been good. The rice in the burritos is seasoned with lots of cilantro, so even the rice-heavy bites aren’t bland. And there’s NO CHEESE.

Seriously, I don’t want to drone on about this place, but I felt I should revisit it for a moment. Don’t eat bratwurst in Leavenworth, go here instead.

wall at South

Mexican food in the Bavarian Village

debris from lunch at South

There haven’t been more than a handful of restaurants that we’ve liked in Leavenworth over the past thirty years (we miss you, Österreich!), but I’m happy to say we’ve just found a new one, called South. My parents had been there for dinner recently and had a great experience, so before J and I headed home last weekend we stopped in for lunch.

What an amazing place! It’s just a Mexican restaurant, of which we have vast quantities here in Skagit Valley, but it’s not your usual rice-and-beans kind of place. We were struck immediately by the drinks list, which had an excellent selection of beers, plus some really cool cocktails (not many places offer caipirinha) and an amazing bourbon and tequila list. I wasn’t sure I was up to a cocktail yet, so I got a Leavenworth IPA (a really nice beer, much like the Boundary Bay IPA), but J went for the house margarita, and my father asked for soda with fresh lime. Both of their drinks were excellent, made with just-squeezed lime juice.

On to the food: I saw roasted green beans on the appetizer list and was instantly in love. We ordered them, and shortly received a dish full of sweet shriveled beans doused in salt and lime juice – fantastic! So few restaurants offer vegetables straight up, and these were delicious. Their only fault was that they weren’t crispy, but I didn’t really mind.

For our lunches, my mother and I each ordered the tomatillo chicken as a sandwich, my father got the carne asada as a taco, and J got the black mole enchilada with pork. All were tasty, and I was especially impressed by the chicken – it was perfectly cooked and very juicy, a real accomplishment with breast meat. The sandwiches and taco came with house-made tortilla chips, and there was a buffet of salsas available, some of which could blow the top of your head off.

Suffice to say, we’ll be coming back here! We are officially jealous that we don’t live closer to this place.