It has never interested me to follow the Interstates though that is the fastest way to get around when necessary. It is a little like having a GPS. I don’t want to follow the crowd or the crowd’s direction. I want a little mystery in my life. Though I always had adequate food to build breakfast, lunch or dinner in my RV, it was much more exciting to discover hole-in-the-wall cafés.
State Route 20 has always been one of my favorite routes through Washington state. Not only is the mountainous countryside awe-inspiring, but also I love a little western-themed tourist town. Daughter Janet was driving her van and our first stop was in beautiful downtown Winthrop. This town, with a population of around 400, lives at the eastern end of the entrance to scenic North Cascades National Park. Route 20 through the park shuts down during the heavy snow months, leaving Winthrop at the end of the road for the winter.
It seemed to be the only place open for a daybreak breakfast and I had eaten there before, so we swaggered into Three-Fingered Jack’s Saloon and ordered coffee. The filled wooden booths had backs high enough that you weren’t overhearing conversation from the next booth (although that is sometimes interesting!). It was like having the place to ourselves. The center had large tables with checkered tablecloths for bigger groups. There were highly polished wooden floors and, what I really like, a place well cared for and clean. Thankfully, breakfast came fast, and there was plenty of it. We savored the food and the ambiance and were on our way. I realized as we left that I also like my hole-in-the wall cafés when they are run by hole-in-the-wall wallets.
In our wandering, we eventually found the 24-mile Mt. Baker Scenic Byway to Artist Point, the wilderness area that breathes on the Canadian border northwest of Bellingham. At 5,140-foot Artist Point, Janet, who had never been there before, was properly awed by being nose-to-nose with rugged 9,127-foot Mount Shuksan, although we were still roughly three air miles from it. Six air miles would have taken us to 10,778-foot Mount Baker, Washington state’s northernmost volcano. On this somewhat rainy day, it was hiding in the mist.
Lunch in a Beer Garden
The Mt. Baker Scenic Byway is curvy and steep and well, scenic, and by the time we admired everything as it wandered in and out of the clouds and drove the one-way route back into the little burg of Glacier, we were both starving. With a village population of roughly 200, Glacier didn’t offer us many choices, but we decided on the historic Graham’s Restaurant. It has character and the decor was most interesting as we made our way through it to the Beer Garden seating in the back. It would have been more fun with the live music they offer during the evenings, and maybe a few more people, but alas, we were too early.
Within a high wooden fence, not-so-comfortable chairs cozied up to a few white outdoor tables. Benches and potted plants surrounded a fair-sized stage for seasonal entertainment. Everything lounged under the cooling branches of a giant weeping willow tree. We should have split a sandwich but our stomachs screamed, “Feed me!” We ordered a hamburger and a Reuben sandwich and switched halves. Unfortunately, one order of sweet potato fries filled a huge basket. It was all too delicious but then, we reasoned, it was our last meal of the day. We didn’t have a lot of time to savor the ambiance as we headed for Canada and the Capilano Bridge that I wrote about in February. It was a cozy stop.
Janet and I covered a lot of territory during my visit last fall and she introduced me to a gem on the eastern outskirts of Davenport, Washington. When I say “outskirts,” all the outskirts in this county seat of Lincoln County are pretty close together. Covering a total area of 1.82 square miles, Davenport, officially incorporated on June 9, 1890, had a 2000 census of 1,730 people. By 2010, the population had swelled to 1,734.
I was charmed from the moment we pulled into the parking lot. The Cowboy Café looked as authentic as, well, as authentic as any building one might find in a town settled in 1880. The boards, posts, wagon wheels, and old barrels, plus the chairs and tables lining the covered porch, all looked properly old and weathered. A mannequin with a sign greeted us inside: “Many have eaten here…Few have died…” I knew it was the place for us.
Old everything, photographs, tables, bottles, lamps, cowboy hats, skins, tools, bellows, feed sacks, milk cans, antlers, guns, you name it, and it was there, fastened to the wall for our perusal as we ate.
The menu caused me pause, but only briefly. It offered a “Cow Pie” for only $9.99. Now the $9.99 wasn’t so bad but I was born on a Michigan farm and we had a lot of cow pies, but they was somethin’ to avoid steppin’ in, not for eatin’.
After much thought, I ordered the Hen Scramble (as opposed to the Cowboy Scramble), with pan-fried potatoes, eggs over medium, bacon, with thick pieces of grill-browned and butter-drippin’ toast, and lots of coffee. A variety of hot and cold drinks, believe it or not, including refillable coffee, were $1, with cold drinks served in Mason canning jars. Just about every combination of breakfast was on the full menu. The other meals of the day were equally appealing.
The Hen Scramble was served in a pie plate with a side dish filled with, get this, homemade strawberry jam! On top of that grill-browned, butter-drippin’ toast, it was…well, let’s just say that the spots you see as you read this are drools because even now, the remembrance of that homemade jam is mouthwatering.
The “outhouse” was just the name of the restroom and gratefully, the “toilette” didn’t bear any resemblance to the three-holer out behind the lilac bush that I remembered.
We asked the owner about the old building and received a most interesting story and picture. In 2008, it was a regular house that needed work. By the time we saw it in 2013, it had been turned into the Cowboy Café that fit effortlessly into that 1880 demeanor.
But, that wasn’t the end of it. At the north end of the building, was a small RV park. OK, so that wasn’t the end of it either. Across from the café, was the Black Bear Motel, a little more modern looking but in the same flavor as the café, with benches made with wagon-wheel arms and other western paraphernalia. The inside, decorated in a western theme, was quite snug and cozy. Overall, it was really a fun stop.
So, that’s it. I hope you are checking out the hole-in-the-wall cafés in your neighborhood, wherever that neighborhood might be, as you roll down the highway. God Bless.
Sharlene Minshall’s e-book novel, Winter in the Wilderness, is available at most Internet book sites. The print edition is available at Amazon.com or you can order an autographed copy from the author at Box 1040, Congress, AZ 85332 for $7.95, plus $3.50 for postage and handling. The fourth edition of RVing Alaska and Canada is available through Amazon.com. Follow her blog, “The Silver Gypsy” at rvlife.com.Research Campgrounds, Plan RV Safe Routes & Turn your phone into an RV GPS.
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