There’s plenty in Olympia to back up its hippie-granola reputation (like, well, lots of granola). The big surprise is that, these days, downtown has as much haute cuisine as hacky-sacks.
André Le Rest craved a bakery like those in his native France, so he opened the artisanal Bread -Peddler on the main drag of Capital Way. The menu is so Gallic it’s almost a first-year French lesson: brioches à tête, gougères, and delightfully eggy croque madames. Today a sign instructs patrons to find a seat before ordering, because crowds were building up as patrons with full trays hovered over packed tables.
And if you think food en français is Oly aiming high, then consider Olympia Olive Oil, which stocks nearly 50 extra-virgins and vinegars in special stainless steel containers imported from Italy. Enter to learn why their stock comes from the Southern Hemisphere for half the year (hint: olive oil goes bad faster than you thought).
The oils are served with Bread Peddler loaves at two high-end restaurants owned by chef Jeff Taylor. He gave both the same name, more or less; the Waterstreet Cafe occupies an old American Legion hall next to the manmade Capitol Lake, and Acqua Via (“Water Street” in Italian) anchors one of Capital Way’s busiest blocks.
“For someone to open a 100-seat restaurant in Olympia that did fine dining was unusual,” admits Taylor. His Italian menu at Waterstreet includes delicate fish and creative chutneys, but some idiosyncratic local swagger is there, too: One entree combines scallops and pulled pork, more delectable than any seafood-and-sloppy-meat pairing should be.
At Acqua Via, where the menu is shorter and the tables fewer, Taylor’s son Will is starting an infused-spirit program: pea shoot liquor with mango ice cubes, that sort of thing. It’s a long way from the Olympia Beer stubbies, the short, fat bottles that were the brand’s signature. Welcome to the new Olympia.
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