Complete Guide to Visiting Walla Walla

Where to go, what to do, and where to dine in Washington’s world-class wine country.

By Allison Williams Published in the Fall 2020 issue of Seattle Met

Photo courtesy Wine Valley Golf Club

Eat / Play / Stay

Southern Exposure

The passing of the great Southern-themed Whoopemup Hollow Cafe in 2019 opened a window for Hattaway’s on Alder to step into the spotlight. Launched by an Alabama couple on a quiet downtown block (but near the town’s reigning fine-dining champ Passatempo Taverna), the small space dishes big flavors. Like very crisp fried chicken bathed in “backyard sauce”—flavored with the kind of herbs you might find in a personal garden. Muddled fresh peaches in a bourbon cocktail are a sweet Southern reprieve from all the wine, though the glassed-off wine cellar has its share of big local names. Don’t skip the housemade chocolate-studded bread pudding, whose aroma alone is enough to justify its addition to an already-hearty meal. 

Herby backyard sauce tops the fried chicken at Hattaway's on Alder. 

The Cows Come Home

Dan Thiessen oversaw the kitchens at the Space Needle and Salty’s before he was drawn back to the Eastern Washington farmland of his childhood. It was more than a scenic return—the cattle ranch he grew up on helped inspire the Walla Walla Steak Co., a venture he co-launched in the town’s old train depots. He’s even rearing his own cattle, though they’re not yet part of the meat co-op that supplies the New Yorks, filets, and top sirloins that end up on the restaurant’s charcoal grill. The wine town is ripe for a steak-first joint, one serious enough to offer a 34-ounce bone-in rib eye, and the Crossbuck Brewing taproom that shares the building is burgers-and-IPA counterprogramming to all the cabs and prime cuts. 

Eat / Play / Stay

Electric Avenues

In a region where windmills turn in the distance and solar panels share acreage with vineyards, the electric themed Tesla Winery Tours is a no-brainer. Owner Chris Wood, who worked at L’Ecole No 41 before launching his own enterprise, boasts two of the spiffy cars (including one whose doors open like wings) and two electric Specialized bicycles. The bikes make for very distanced tasting room travel, and Wood can build itineraries and share which winemakers don’t mind visitors pedaling between vines. Downtown’s Allegro Cyclery has additional turbo-charged wheels for rent; an electric assist can turn even Walla Walla’s rolling landscape into a cycling cakewalk. 

Like a DeLorean, but more futuristic.

Wide Open Fairways

Good news for the not-quite-PGA-ready golfers among us: Wine Valley Golf Club doesn’t contain a single tree, so chances of bouncing a bad drive off an inconvenient trunk are nil. The links-style public course winds through the rolling prairie, with views of the Blue Mountains and the surprisingly scenic wheat combines and wind turbines perched above waving fields. Weekday specials include a burger and beer with 18 holes and a cart. 

Eat / Play / Stay

Global Homestead

Before Anand Rao built The Barn B&B in 2018 with his wife Naina, he worked at Atlanta’s Ritz-Carlton for more than a decade. The brand-new farm shape blends perfectly into the agrarian surroundings, and each of the Barn’s seven suites—one shaped like a grain silo—boasts its own outdoor shower and shares a hot tub and pool with a mountain view. The breakfast room’s eclectic art from France and Kenya salutes the pair’s global roots, and designs Naina found in Thailand inspired the guest rooms’ bright swaths of color. Breakfasts feature local fruits and the region’s classic Walla Walla sweet onion. 

The Finch isn't shy about color.

Birds of a Feather

Turning a run-down motel into a hip-but-affordable new hotel is a familiar trope in twenty-first century travel, but the makeover that turned a 1960s downtown property into The Finch, an 80-room behemoth, is first-rate. From the firepit out front to the subway tile in the bathrooms, every corner is sleek and aesthetic, making the most of small space. Room wall murals are more like infographics, depicting winemaking processes or local stats. Like its sister bird-branded property in Bozeman, the Lark, the hotel’s personality is hip but not immature, and despite the central downtown location it squeezes in lots of hangout space, including a loft lined with tables and charging stations for impromptu work stints.  

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