On a recent drive out to Leavenworth with a friend from Oregon who was taking her first trip on Highway 2, I couldn’t stop laughing at her frequent exclamations of marvel at the scenery we sped past.
Every so often, an awed Christine would just shout out, “Would you just look at it outside!?” But it’s true. I forget how lovely that drive is, from the slow rolling hills outside of Monroe to the jagged rock faces of Index and Gold Bar and the beautiful, rushing Skykomish River accompanying you. Even in the driving rain, we saw kayakers, fly fishermen and plenty of people posing for photos at pull-outs along the way.
Rivaling the scenery are the dozens of espresso stands and restaurants sprinkled every few miles, each vying for you to stop in pre- or post-ski, hike, bike, kayak or rafting trip. Here are some of my favorites for the next time you find yourself on Highway 2, be it on your daily commute or on a weekend road trip.
There’s a lot happening at this little roadside pull-off at milepost 36. There’s the Chalet itself, a vintage camper nestled under an A-frame adorned with twinkle lights. And then there’s the giant Harry (of “Harry and the Henderson’s” fame) wood carving, situated in front of a vibrant green Quonset hut. The hut is now used for storage, but Espresso Chalet’s owner, Mark Klein, tells me it was the Bigfoot Museum in the 1987 film starring John Lithgow. Klein and his wife, Sandy, bought the property four years after the movie was filmed there. The stand would be easily dismissed as a kitschy oddity, except it also serves really good coffee, sourced from Longbottom Coffee & Tea in Hillsboro, Oregon. Top that brew with one of 12 available milks (including hemp, oat, goat and egg nog) and grab a massive monster cookie ($2.50), baked daily by Sandy Klein and fashioned in the shape of Harry’s big foot, complete with M&M toenails. There’s also plenty of snacks, Bigfoot souvenirs and field guides, plus five acres directly behind the chalet where you can hike, pitch a picnic and keep your eyes open for Bigfoot.
Located in Gold Bar, Zeke’s has a massive menu complete with hot dogs, jalapeno poppers, grilled fish sandwiches, clam strips and more. But don’t get distracted: You should be stopping for the elk burgers, onion rings and shakes. Regular cheeseburgers are wonderful too — as are the chubby fries — but a deluxe elk burger ($8) is where it’s at. Deluxe burgers are topped with mayo, tangy relish, raw white onion, tomato and lettuce. The patties (both elk and beef) are 1/3 pound and griddled on a flat top until crisp. There’s a perfect, squishy bun holding things together. Onion rings ($5.25/large) are light and crispy with a tempura-style batter. House-made buttermilk ranch is a 50-cent upcharge, but it’s worth it for a dipping sauce. There are 26 milkshake flavors ($4.50) ranging from chocolate and vanilla to marshmallow and apple pie. There’s real fruit mixed into the berry, banana, rhubarb and cherry shakes, and the peanut butter shake tastes like liquid Reese’s Pieces.
You order from a walk-up window and wait for them to call out your order number. There’s a handful of outdoor picnic tables as well as an indoor heated seating area if it’s raining.
Sky Deli & Pizza
The last time I was in the Sky Deli in Skykomish, the little cafe was jam-packed with rows and rows of dried goods. Sunscreen was next to cans of beef stew and packages of nuts and licorice ropes. You could hardly figure out where to order a sandwich.
This time was a different story.
Steve Larner bought the deli and did a quick remodel, finally adding an indoor bathroom along with a patio, and he hosted his grand reopening in May 2018. Walk through the doors now and there’s a bright dining area with red tables and chairs. The menu is a robust, all-day affair, complete with breakfast sandwiches, cold or hot deli sandwiches, burgers and pizza that’s available after 11 a.m. There’s a full espresso menu as well as ice cream and milkshakes. Get there for breakfast and pick up a scone fresh from the oven. You can still get beer and wine, as well as a few of the sundries of old (sunscreen, freeze-dried meals or jerky, for example). If you live in the area and happen to run out of anything, they’ll gladly sell you a couple of eggs or some milk. I loved the simple English muffin with sausage, egg and cheese ($3.99), but I’m looking forward to my next visit to try the pizza.
I’m already thinking about my next trip up Highway 2; bookmarking the Sultan Bakery in Sultan for doughnuts, the Whistling Post Tavern in Skykomish for pressure-fried chicken and jojo’s, and Mountain View Diner in Gold Bar for pie. Once my stomach is full, I’ll be free to shout out to any driving companions a reminder to look at the scenery.
What are some of your favorite Highway 2 food stops? Tell us in the comments below!
Espresso Chalet: 49932 SR2 Gold Bar; 360-793-7932; 7:15 a.m. -8:30 p.m. daily
Zeke’s Drive-In: 43918 US-2, Gold Bar; 360-793-2287, zekes-drive-in.business.site; 11 a.m -7:30 p.m. daily
Sky Deli & Pizza: 148 5th St N, Skykomish; 360-677-2211, skydelipizza.com; 7 a.m. -9 p.m. daily