WALLA WALLA, Wash. — Go without a visit to Walla Walla long enough, and it can almost feel like never having been at all. No wonder, really. While the town’s charms, friendly people, and rural-chic Americana vibe will always remain, as a haven for enterprising and creative minds, Walla Walla is constantly evolving.
That is particularly true today for Walla Walla, the acknowledged center of Washington’s wine country. Already with more than 120 wineries, a farm-to-table culinary scene that is deeply influenced by southeast Washington’s agricultural roots, an array of lodging options to meet the demands of the luxury-minded, the budget conscience, and everyone in between, Walla Walla always manages to find ways to improve on what already seems so perfect.
“With each new winery, restaurant, activity, or amenity — and there have been many in recent years — Walla Walla’s reputation as a world-class wine country destination is only strengthened,” said Ron Williams, CEO of Visit Walla Walla. “These evolutions not only give fresh reason for some visitors to return and for others to finally make the trip, they bring welcome amenities to locals who already enjoy the high quality of life on Walla Walla.”
What’s new in Walla Walla? Here are a few of the highlights:
The Barn B&B: Set in the rolling landscape just west of town, The Barn B&B has been an incredible addition to Walla Walla’s increasingly diverse list of lodging properties. Owned by retired hotel chain executive Anand Rao and his wife Naina, The Barn features seven unique suites, each with its own private garden and outdoor shower, view of the Blue Mountains, and private entrance, along with incredible food, complimentary family-style dinners on Mondays and Thursdays, and Happy Hour Fridays with pizza and, of course, local wines.
The Marcus Whitman Hotel: A treasured landmark that has risen above downtown Walla Walla since 1928, the Marcus Whitman has gone back to work, renovating its West Wing rooms with all new flooring, furniture, TVs, paint, window treatments, and wallpaper. This comes after the Marcus Whitman renovated the historic tower in 2015 to add premium guest rooms, and performed a complete renovation in 2001. The renovations have paired its enviable historic pedigree with an unflinching commitment to modern day luxury and exceptional service.
Hattaway’s on Alder: Set in downtown Walla Walla, Hattaway’s on Alder has made quite a splash on the local culinary since opening in fall 2018. The work of owners Richard and Lindsay Hattaway, Alabama natives who met at a Georgia restaurant where Richard was the chef and Lindsay the sous chef, Hattaway’s offers a Northwest-inspired take on the cooking traditions of the Southeast and rural America. The result is honest food with the charm of Southern hospitality.
Walla Walla Steak Co. and Crossbuck Brewing: For generations, the historic Train Depot has been Walla Walla’s front door. Now this historic downtown building has been transformed into Walla Walla Steak Co. and Crossbuck Brewing, which opened in October 2018. With a menu crafted by Executive Chef Chad Bostwick, the two restaurants prepare updated steakhouse classics and beer-friendly tap room fare over a custom charcoal grill and wood-fire oven. The outdoor patio with fire pits provides a gathering place for guests to connect. Both are led by a team of hospitality veterans and Walla Walla residents with deep local roots: Dan Thiessen, managing partner, and Steven Brack, head brewer and partner, who teamed with Seattle-based Fire & Vine Hospitality to bring this fresh culinary experience to Walla Walla.
TMACs: The landmark restaurant is a familiar one, but a new location, a new look, and a new menu has given TMACs new life. Tom Maccarone, who grew up in Walla Walla with parents who themselves were restaurant owners, opened T. Maccarone’s in 2005, becoming a flagship in Walla Walla’s downtown. Now Maccarone’s restaurant is simply known as TMACs, and offers a wine country culinary experience with a Mediterranean flare that showcases Walla Walla Valley’s agricultural bounty with fresh, farm-to-table ingredients.
Walla Walla Bread Company/Bakehouse 55: The restaurant and bakery was purchased in late 2018 by Michele and Coral Pompei, owners of The Bakehouse 55, a popular Redmond, Wash., bakery known for its artisanal croissants and baked goods. The Pompeis have relocated The Bakehouse 55 to Walla Walla Bread Company, and will continue to operate Walla Walla Bread Co. as both a bakery and restaurant. The restaurant, long a favorite, will continue its tradition of preparing wood-fired pizzas, steaks and more, using mostly locally produced ingredients.
Walla Walla Pasta Factory: The restaurant formerly known as Mama Mia’s Pasta Factory has long served some of the most beloved family-style Italian food in Walla Walla. But the newly named Walla Walla Pasta Factory has moved to cool new digs on Main Street in downtown, while still serving fresh homemade pastas, sauces, and more.
More from the culinary scene: Food truck Walla Walla Hummus Hummus, which serves Syrian Street Food, is the latest addition to the Gut Grub Lot on the eastern edge of downtown. Further east, the family-owned Best Pizza Ever is true to its name. And Big House Brew Pub is under new ownership.
Valdemar Estates: There may be no clearer sign that Walla Walla has become a truly world-class wine region than the arrival of Valdemar Estates. Born more than 125 years ago in an underground cellar in Oyón, Spain, the wines of family owned Bodegas Valdemar are beloved in their native country. Now Bodegas Valdemar Estates has made its first foray into the U.S. with Valdemar Estates. Its new winery and tasting room opened in April among Walla Walla’s southside wineries, marking the first time a non-American winery has come to the region.
Canvasback Wine: Southeast Washington’s growing reputation as a producer of cabernet and merlot proved impossible to resist for Napa’s Duckhorn Wine Co. Canvasback is the luxury cabernet label produced by Duckhorn Wine Co., in the skillful hands of Walla Walla winemaker Brian Rudin, with grapes from its Longwinds Vineyard in the Red Mountain AVA.
SMAK Wines: Owned by winemaker Fiona Mak, SMAK is the region’s first rosé-exclusive winery in Walla Walla. Woman owned and operated, SMAK’s tasting room is nestled in Walla Walla’s emerging Airport District.
More from the world of wine: Set in the Walla Walla AVA, the family-owned SmokyRose Cellars is producing a wide range of varietals, from chardonnay to syrah. Dillon Cellars and Golden Ridge Cellars are two of the newest tenants in the In the Walla Walla Airport wine incubators, and Time & Direction Wines is planning on opening a new tasting room. Spring Valley Vineyard, G. Cuneo Cellars, and Lagana Cellars have moved into gorgeous new downtown locations. And Rotie Cellars is in the process of building an impressive new winery in the Rocks AVA.
For more information on planning a trip or to directly book a visit to Walla Walla, go to the redesigned visitwallawalla.com.
About Walla Walla:
As the unofficial capital of Washington wine country, Walla Walla is home to more than 120 wineries, a nationally recognized culinary scene, access to an abundance of outdoor recreation, and an arts & entertainment scene that rivals cities many times its size. This community of just over 30,000 residents is known for many things, including its friendliness and hospitality, the quality of its wine, and of course the famous Walla Walla Sweet Onion. An easy and scenic four-hour drive from Seattle, Portland, or Boise, Walla Walla can also be accessed via Alaska Airlines daily non-stop flights from Seattle. For more information and to begin planning a trip to Walla Walla, visit www.visitwallawalla.com.