I’ve missed you!

Yes, I’ve been lazy about writing reviews this summer, but I promise it’s because I’ve been so busy eating and drinking my way through Central Washington. Someone has to do it. So let’s talk about my new favorite place in Ellensburg, shall we?

 

Whipsaw Brewery and the Red Pickle– meant for each other!

I’m a known wino and boozehound, so it’s pretty strange for me to really love a place that serves only beer. I don’t dislike beer but it’s not what I seek out. Plus, my husband loves beer enough for both of us. What makes us return again and again is the atmosphere. It’s cheerful and low-key, and the beer tastes great. Since I’m basically never without my toddler in tow, it’s critical that Whipsaw offers a comfortable indoor and patio environment for families, and bonus points for including the furry members.  This summer, when the new-but-beloved food truck, Red Pickle, parked itself in Whipsaw’s parking lot, this strange spot in industrial West Ellensburg became something pretty special.

whipsaw-lucile
This is Lucile. She’s named after an IPA at our old favorite brewery.

This is where the story gets cutesy. While Whipsaw is the product of a lovely couple who went all in to make delicious beer, Red Pickle is the product of a lovely couple who went all in to make delicious sandwiches. It’s basically the Brady Bunch but with alcohol. If I had the design skills to do so, I would make a helpful infographic to show how these two pair came together in this holy union that’s more than the sum of its parts. But I don’t. Sorry.

Now for the specifics. I’ve tried most of Whipsaw’s beers and have really, really liked all of them. Again, I’m not a really a beer person but I think I know a good one when I taste it and it seems like they’re all damn good. Crazy. Even the Buzz on Blackberry Wheat, despite my general dislike for overtly fruity beers, is amazingly subtle and refreshing; the Stumpblower is as good of an IPA as you’ll get anywhere, even here in hops country; and the stout doesn’t suffer from cloying thickness or overly chocolate or coffee notes. They always have about half a dozen varieties on tap (all their own creations) and I’ve yet to find a dud. For the non-drinkers, their root beer is delicious and pairs perfectly with a scoop of Winegar’s vanilla ice cream. Whipsaw, if you’re reading this, you are welcome to steal that idea.

The Red Pickle has the same attention to detail and it seems like their food just gets better and better. The buttermilk fried chicken sandwich is pretty excellent, and the cajun fries and fried okra that were offered over rodeo weekend were spectacular (where does one even get such fresh okra?). My favorite of Red Pickles offerings, however, are found on their weekend brunch menu. If you’ve read this blog you know that I have strong feelings about eggs benedict and constantly lament the lack of good breakfast and brunch options in Ellensburg. The Red Pickle does brunch really well. I’m not sure what else there is to say. The ham benedict, the breakfast quesadilla, and the green eggs and ham for the kiddo were all delicious. Once my kid got over the color of the eggs (which is, in a stroke of pure genius, just eggs and fresh spinach blended before cooking) he enthusiastically cleaned his plate.

What makes the Red Pickle and Whipsaw Brewery special is their dedication to excellence. Both are quite new, so not everything is perfect, but the fact that neither seems content to settle for “pretty good” is what sets them apart. When Mario, the co-owner/chef comes out from his truck to ask how the food is, he actually wants to know. True perfectionism and humility are rare qualities and I only wish more restaurants around Ellensburg adopt a bit of those attitudes that make Whipsaw Brewery and the Red Pickle a couple of diamonds in the rough.

I have only one suggestion: beermosas for brunch.

Oh, and in case this wasn’t obvious,

GO!

Whipsaw Brewery, 704 N Wenas St., Ellensburg, WA 98926

The Red Pickle Facebook, TheRedPickle.com

Red Horse Diner is passable diner food.

The title says it all, doesn’t it?

The first time I ate at Red Horse Diner I thought it was pretty decent diner fare. My husband and I both had sandwiches that were satisfying but nothing to blog about. The next time the sandwiches seemed a little bit less than good. The fries must be fried in the seventh circle of Hell because they’re served ungodly hot. However, once they’ve cooled enough as to not melt one’s fingernails (ew, I just grossed myself out), they taste good. I’m pretty sure they’re frozen but they’re fat and crispy and doused in seasoning so I can’t stay mad at them. I’m a sucker for fry sauce, too.

Breakfast. Why can no one in this town get breakfast right? I’m asking that question sincerely and without judgement. If you know, please tell me. I don’t get it and it makes me sad. Of the five of us who thought breakfast at Red Horse was a good idea, only the baby enjoyed his meal, which was just hash browns. Not a single egg was cooked properly and I can’t even talk about the eggs benedict. It wasn’t good, guys. Also, I couldn’t help notice that the floors seemed to have been mopped with the contents of the previous day’s grease trap.

I will gladly admit that Red Horse is bursting with the Americana charm that one expects from a restaurant that was once an old-timey gas station. Service is fast and the waitstaff is competent and likable. It’s not a bad place to go, really, but don’t expect to be amazed, and probably stick to lunch (or maybe just potatoes). A pit stop at the weed store next door might make the whole experience a lot more enjoyable though.

I just don’t have it in me tell anyone not to go to Red Horse Diner because it’s a fun place and the food isn’t terrible. So, with that I’ll say Red Horse Diner is a:

Go if...

 

Red Horse Diner,  1518 W University Way, (509) 925-1956. redhorsediner.com

First Impressions- The Yellow Church Cafe

GO!

(Quick note: this is a first impression review because I’m doing it from memory, but I still have a lot to say about The Yellow Church Cafe.)

This was the first place we ate in Ellensburg and it was a warm welcome, to say the least. After getting to know the town and some of the restaurants I have no reservations saying that Yellow Church Cafe has some of the best food in town. I think the prices are higher than what people expect in Ellensburg, but the ingredients really are superior and I have no problem paying a few bucks more for really good burger (mmmmm… bison burger…).

After enjoying a few lunches at Yellow Church (I haven’t been back for lunch in several months so I’m going to focus this review on my recent experiences), we decided to try their weekend breakfast. There are some dishes that, if on the menu, I will always order when I go to a restaurant for the first time. I think of them as the canary in the coalmine because if it’s good, then the rest of the menu is likely well-executed, but an unsuccessful dish spells trouble. Eggs benedict is my breakfast canary. It’s a simple dish that can go wrong in a multitude of ways so it’s a good indicator.

At this point I had eaten breakfast at a handful of other Ellensburg restaurants and had yet to find a decent eggs benedict. Enter Yellow Church Cafe. The first good sign was that the plate was not a sticky pond of Hollandaise sauce (eh hem, Palace Cafe with your so called “best eggs benedict ever.” But I’ll save that for another day). I tasted the sauce with my finger because I’m weird and that’s what I do and it was light and balanced and pretty much perfect. With hope in my heart I cut into the first poached egg, expecting the molten yolk to pour out and enrich the Hollandaise with it’s eggy goodness. Nope. The egg was overcooked and its yolk stayed put, enriching nothing but my disappointment. The second egg was better, but not great, and an otherwise really good dish suffered for this one “small” error. I was also a bit mystified that for a place that’s so proud of its house-baked goods that they appear to use a store-bought english muffin. It’s not traditional, but I would have much rather had a fluffy biscuit under my eggs. For all my nitpicking, I would still rate the eggs benedict a solid B and the best I’ve had in town thus far.

Speaking of biscuits, on our next outing to Yellow Church Cafe for breakfast I ordered the biscuits and gravy, which was unexpectedly light yet satisfying. It also comes with two eggs and although I wasn’t asked how I would like them cooked, there’s no universe in which that implies I would like one hard and one runny. Eggs aren’t that hard, people!
This Ellensburg Food Critic thinks that The Yellow Church Cafe is a definite GO!, and if they get their egg act together it will be a can’t miss.

GO!

Yellow Church Cafe 111 S Pearl Street. Ellensburg, WA 98226.  509-933-2233.