With over 130 wineries, Woodinville needed a food scene to pair with all the stellar vintages available in town. The culinary scene is heavy on farm-to-table fare, with local chefs working with established partners to bring the freshest foods of the season to your table. Eating establishments vary from high-end restaurants to upscale taco joints and everything in between. In curating this list, I included a wide variety — even a place in a garden shop. You’ll find extensive wine lists at many of the restaurants, but I recommend sticking with Washington wine, which is what you came to Woodinville to taste.
Insider Tip: Woodinville is extremely popular due to its proximity to Seattle. When planning your day, make reservations for everything, particularly meals. COVID-19 and the labor shortage are contributing to less availability. I like to be a spontaneous traveler, but unfortunately, in this climate, a more structured day will keep you from being disappointed. Also, be kind and generous to your servers — they are working very hard in stressful conditions.
Thank you to Woodinville Wine Country for hosting me on a press trip to some of these restaurants, and the ones I discovered on my own.
1. Purple Café And Wine Bar
The Purple Café and Wine Bar is the restaurant for wine lovers. Wine and food are thoughtfully paired by knowledgeable staff. Wine flights are three glasses of small pours themed together. This is a good way to enjoy a variety of wines with your meal without becoming tipsy. The café tagline is “Wine + Brie = Our Love Language.” I must agree — it is my favorite wine pairing. Order the baked brie with apricot, caramelized onion, candied walnut, grape, and crackers. I like to pair it with the “local” wine flight, which is a Washington Sauvignon Blanc, a Chardonnay, and a red blend. The whites are perfect with the cheese, and the red blend will go well with an entrée. Purple is also a popular place for lunch.
2. Heritage Restaurant
Owner and Chef Breanna Beike pours her heart into her simple, delicious food at her Heritage Restaurant. Her prices are moderate by design to make this the place locals go to eat, and with her warm hospitality, they come in droves. She sources ingredients locally as much as possible and elevates American comfort food. Beike’s food is simply good. My son once told me, “Mom what is the stuff Nana puts in her food?” I said the TLC (tender loving care). He said, “You forgot to put it in.” You can’t say that with Beike’s food — it is swimming in TLC. I tried quite a bit on the menu and loved it all. Make sure to try a craft cocktail. The Empress G & T is a stellar mix of Empress gin, Fever Tree tonic, rosemary, and a butterfly pea blossom ice spear. The tonic is served separately, and when you add it to the glass, it turns a vibrant purple.
Make sure to try Beike’s citrus honey brined half chicken, which is a beautifully presented meal. The rich caramel color of the roasted chicken is enhanced with the contrasting asparagus, baby carrots, smoked cheddar whipped potatoes, and a red wine chicken jus. Devine! You know the Queen of Comfort Food is going to create a great dessert. Try the Jar of Pie, a classic key lime curd on a graham cracker crumble with toasted marshmallow meringue and fresh berries. So good.
3. The PicNic Table Café
The PicNic Table Café is Woodinville’s best kept secret. It was a local’s suggestion, and what a find! It is tucked away in Woodinville’s Artisan Hill District. Chef Danilo Amato is a Tuscan native, and he pairs his knowledge of Italian culinary traditions with the bounty of the Pacific Northwest to create a warm and welcoming place. The menu changes weekly, and you can eat there or order a PicNic to enjoy at local tasting rooms. The PicNic Basket No. 3 steps it up with marinated olives, beetroot salad, Tuscan nuts, quinoa artichoke salad, country-style pork terrine, chicken pâté, smoked salmon deviled eggs, Tuscan cookies, Nutella beignets, an imported cheese and charcuterie platter, and Tuscan steak salad (grilled flank steak on a bed of arugula and shaved parmesan cheese). Just think of the wine pairings.
4. The Barking Frog
If you want to enjoy a special occasion meal in Woodinville, then go to The Barking Frog. Executive Chef Bobby Moore and his team utilize the freshest ingredients from Pacific Northwest farmers, fishermen, and foragers to create a memorable menu that changes with the seasons. Add one of the most extensive wine lists in the Northwest, and you have a flawless dining experience. Everything I ate here was outstanding, with each dish thoughtfully prepared with an eye-catching presentation. I love all the attention to detail, such as slicing the bone-in ribeye on the bone so it is easier to eat.
The epitome of what Moore creates can be seen in his Penn Cove mussels with coconut curry broth. These little pillows of heaven are a local delicacy farmed and harvested from the pristine waters of Penn Cove and shipped the same day. This is a very special ingredient, so when you see Penn Cove Mussels on a menu, order it. Moore’s dish respects the distinctiveness of the mussels, creating a delicate but flavorful broth that enhances but doesn’t overpower the dish. Truly outstanding.
From the tables in the restaurant, you can see into the kitchen, and I just had to comment on how quiet and smoothly it was run. This is no “Hell’s Kitchen.” Everyone was calmly working together, no pots slamming, and it was a wonder to behold. It is a joy to see people love what they are doing.
5. Lifted Taco
This neighborhood hangout is in the Woodin Creek Village, a luxury urban mixed-use community with gourmet restaurants, wineries, and shops. Lifted Taco is nothing fancy — you order at the counter, and food is served in disposable containers. I loved artisan tacos, and these are some of the best. I ordered the Ribeye taco, which tucked seared ribeye, fried queso, refried black beans, avocado pureé into a fresh corn tortilla. Just order one so you have room to try the cowboy caviar and the loaded queso with short ribs. I ordered the personal size of each, but it was more than enough to share and it came with a bag of tortilla chips. The menu includes vegan and gluten-free options as well as breakfast tacos.
6. Molbak’s Garden Café
You may wonder how I ended up in a garden shop to have lunch. Well, it is quite the story. One thing I love about Woodinville is how many over-50 gals work in the tasting rooms. When I am visiting a new destination, I make a point to ask the locals about interesting things to do. Over and over, people mentioned Molbak’s Garden and Home to me as in “Oh my gosh, you have to go to Molbak’s.” The local favorite is a nursery, garden shop, and gift shop with cards, gourmet foods, cookbooks, etc. It lived up to the hype.
Amid all this is Molbak’s Garden Café, which is surrounded by plants and overlooks a manmade stream and waterfall. The menu is inspired by the plants grown there, and it consists of high-quality ingredients sourced from local farmers. The simple menu offers soups, salads, sandwiches, and pizza as well as a variety of fresh-baked pastries. Beer and wine are available, and you can dine inside or outside on the patio. A barista makes specialty coffee drinks to order. It is a nice setting to enjoy a meal.
In addition to restaurants, many of the tasting rooms offer cheese or charcuterie boards, which are great to nosh on while wine tasting. Pace yourself and plan to eat at least one nice meal while in Woodinville. You won’t regret the calories.