Restaurant Spotlight: Graze

Graze, offering a simple but delicious menu of sandwiches, salads, and soups to Walla Walla for the last five years, strives to serve “fresh, wholesome, seasonal, and honest food.

Graze

A Family Project

The creators of Graze, husband and wife John and Becca Lastoskie, met while they were both working in a restaurant in Sacramento, California. Though neither were trained chefs, it was always their dream to open a restaurant of their own. “The restaurant business is hard, you’ve either got the disposition for it or you don’t. And we love it,” Becca told me.

About ten years ago, they decided to go for it. They quit their jobs, sold their house, and packed their van with their dog and young son, to move “somewhere we could start a business and make it.” They considered Portland and Bend before finally (and luckily for us!) settling on Walla Walla because of its burgeoning wine industry and relatively low cost of living. In 2006, they opened Graze Catering. Serving food at everything from backyard BBQs to weddings to big events at many of the town’s wineries, they made Walla Walla their home.

In 2009, the catering business was struggling, and John and Becca were considering closing it down. Their second child, a daughter, was born premature and they were spending all of their time at the hospital, not quite making ends meet. Instead, after two years of serving sandwiches and other lunch food on the weekends at a stand at the Farmers Market, they decided to open a restaurant. This was the beginning of Graze, ‘a place to eat,’ located on Colville Street a few blocks away from our Inns at Historic Downtown.

“It was a rough time, really rough. But we decided to push through and open the sandwich shop, and everything has just gotten better and better since then.” Now, every January (their daughter’s birth month) John and Becca fundraise for the Ron McDonald House where they once spent so much time by donating 10% of the proceeds of their very successful business.

Delicious Success!

So why serve lunch? “It was less intimidating!” Becca laughed. “And we didn’t want to work nights.” Now Graze is always busy, open for lunch and dinner and serving a wide selection of fresh, healthy, and tasty sandwiches, paninis, salads, and soups. The atmosphere is casual and familial, with great music on the record player and a large shady patio for outdoor diners during hot Walla Walla summers.

Veggie torta

Becca recommends the veggie torta sandwich–yummm.

Sandwiches at Graze

Along with delicious sandwiches, Graze serves fresh salads and delectable soups.

My favorite thing to order at Graze is the turkey pear panini—it is my definite go-to. When I asked Becca the same question, she answered immediately, “The veggie torta!” She also recommended the turkey bacon panini (“our most popular, by far”) and the roasted pear salad with blue cheese dressing. “I would encourage visitors to come order something interesting or unusual, something they wouldn’t get at your average sandwich place,” she added. “Branch out! Everything we serve is good.

The success of Graze has led to even more incarnations of the business. In 2012, John and Becca decided to put their catering kitchen, on 9th St., to further use by opening a drive-thru where they could serve their own version of fast food—Graze’s gourmet sandwiches—through the window. Standing amid all of the traditional fast food places—McDonalds, Taco Bell, etc.—it is quick, convenient, and my favorite place to stop for a full, healthy meal on my way out of town. “It was John’s idea, I thought it was crazy! It was slow at first, but now it’s going great,” Becca said of the drive-thru. And just this year, in 2014, John and Becca opened up a second restaurant in Kennewick, to bring their cuisine to the Tri-Cities.

Graze: A Drive Thru

If you’re looking for a quick alternative to fast food, check out Graze’s drive-thru on 9th!

We are so glad that they chose to make their home in Walla Walla and bring such dependable, delicious food to the local residents as well as all of our visitors. Next time you’re in town, swing by for takeout, a peaceful patio lunch, or a fun family dinner. Graze won’t disappoint.

Walla Walla Sandwich Shop

Phone: 509.522.9991

Hours: Daily: 10am-7:30pm & Sunday, 10am-3:30pm”

Address: 5 South Colville Street Walla Walla, WA 99362

Walla Walla Drive Thru:

Phone: 509.540.1261

Hours: Daily: 10am-7:30pm & Sunday, 10am-3:30pm”

Address: 213 S 9th Ave, Walla Walla, WA 99362

Kennewick Sandwich Shop

Phone: 509.221.1020

Hours: Daily: 10am-7:30pm & Sunday, 10am-3:30pm

Address: 8530 West Gage Blvd. Kennewick, WA 99336

A Local Tradition: The Walla Walla Downtown Farmers Market

If you find yourself in Walla Walla for the weekend and take a morning walk down Main Street, chances are you will be drawn in off the sidewalk by the Downtown Farmers Market.

Walla Walla Farmers Market pavilion

The pavilion at the Downtown Farmers Market is hard to miss.

The market is a festive melee of local families, children, visitors and students, all enjoying live music and eating homemade snacks. Cheerful conversation floats around the earthy-smelling summer air. Bags bulge with mouthwatering produce—not just our famous sweet onions, but leafy greens, bright radishes, carrots, and tomatoes—whatever is freshest and most in season!

From May through October, more than seventy vendors gather at 4th and Main every Saturday, offering local produce, delicious homemade food, and arts and crafts. The market is a fixture of Walla Walla summers. It has gone up every weekend in this very spot since 1996. However, it is ever-evolving—this year, the Downtown Walla Walla Foundation will also run a “Twilight Farmers Market” on Thursday evenings at a separate location on First Avenue. This new market starts in June, to ensure long, warm evenings for shopping, socializing, and perhaps watching the spectacular Walla Walla sunsets.

If, like me, you are always looking for an authentic local experience when you visit a new town, the Farmer’s Market is the perfect destination. On these sunny summer mornings, local buyers and sellers gladly welcome newbies, tourists, and out-of-towners. When I moved to Walla Walla four years ago, visiting the market on those first few lonely weekends made me instantly feel like a real part of the town’s community. It also gave me a chance to taste local food, contribute to local small business, and pick up a few cool gifts for my family back in Portland, handmade by Walla Walla residents. On my first visit to the Farmer’s Market I bought a box of fresh raspberries and a terrific duct tape wallet for my fourteen-year-old brother from a local kid who looked about the same age. Afterwards, I spent another hour walking slowly up and down the rows of tents and tables, listening to the bluegrass music, soaking it all in.

Whatever treats and treasures you might find, half the beauty of the Farmers Market is the chance to experience Walla Walla in a brand new way, and participate in a local tradition!

The Saturday Downtown Farmers Market began May 3rd and is located in Crawford Park at 4th Ave and Main and runs from 9am-1pm every Saturday. Thursday Twilight Farmers Market will begin June 5th on First Avenue. Visit http://downtownwallawalla.com/category/news/downtown-farmers-market/ or call (509) 529-8755 for more information.

Read more about the history of the farmer’s market here: http://wallawallalifestyles.com/to-market-two-markets/

The History of the “Walla Walla Inns at Historic Downtown”

The Walla Faces Inn at Historic Downtown is housed in one of the oldest, most prominent buildings in Walla Walla: the Hungate Building.

Erected in 1905, this building has stood on as Walla Walla has progressed from a rural farming town to a bustling, elegant destination.

The Washington Territory was created in 1853 and Walla Walla County was created a mere year later. Subsequently, the city of Walla Walla was laid out by the surveyor H. H. Chase in 1859. The property is a part of the oldest patent in Walla Walla, dated from 1861, which was before Walla Walla was incorporated as a city. Its first owners were A. J. Cain, the newspaper financier and Walla Walla prosecuting attorney who was known as “the Father of Columbia County”, and A. H. Reynolds, who established Walla Walla’s first bank. The area housed a grain warehouse in 1884, an agricultural supply store in 1888, and a blacksmith shop in 1894. Although these small businesses fit the needs of the rural farming community, some local businessmen had grander ideas.

In 1903, the property was purchased by Harrison H. Hungate, an educated farmer who served as the Walla Walla County treasurer. The area that now houses a bustling downtown was rows of stables and Hungate had to seek permission of the livestock owners to build his two-story building. As soon as the ink was dry on his contract, Hungate got to work.

Hungate employed an architect named Henry Osterman, a German immigrant who designed many of the prominent buildings in Walla Walla, including the Whitman College Administration building, Green Park Elementary, Sharpstein Elementary, Liberty Theater, and Carnegie Library.

Osterman immigrated to the United States in 1889, where he worked as a carpenter. On the side, he designed his own house and learned to speak English. His skilled work garnered so much attention that he was able to open an architectural firm in 1899. According to the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, Osterman designed “practically all the important business and office buildings in the city, together with many of the finer residences”.

The exterior of the Hungate Building in historic downtown Walla Walla

The Hungate Building in historic downtown Walla Walla, home to Walla Faces

Construction began in 1904 and the Walla Walla Hotel was finally erected in 1905 with the same address that the Walla Faces Hotel at Historic Downtown holds today: 214 East Main. When Hungate died in 1916, his daughters split inn property equally. It was kept in the family until 1972, when its ownership again came into flux. The Hungate Building hosted a variety of short-lived businesses ranging from ice cream to barber shops.

Rick and Debbie Johnson, the Walla Faces owners, purchased the Hungate Building in 2005, continuing the building’s historical tradition as one of the most prestigious hotels in the Walla Walla Valley.

Want to see it for yourself? Check out our Hotels page for more information about the Hungate Building’s latest evolution and to make a reservation!

An Honor for Walla Faces

Tripadvisor certifcateWalla Faces Inns at Historic Downtown and Walla Faces Inns at the Vineyard have been honored with the esteemed TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence, an accolade that recognizes businesses for their exceptional hospitality.  Only 10 percent of the businesses on TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel site, receive this award, which is offered every year.  The award-winning properties range from one room bed-and-breakfasts to enormous hotels with over 6,000 rooms.

TripAdvisor calls the awards a “way of acknowledging the great work that many properties are doing, and helping them to stand out from their competition.”

To qualify for a Certificate of Excellence, businesses must be listed on TripAdvisor for at least 12 months and, during this time, maintain an overall rating of at least 4 out of 5. The award criteria also take into account the volume of customer reviews about a particular property.  Both locations have admirable ratings of 4.5 stars.

Reviewers who stayed at the Historic Downtown location rave about the sophisticated décor of the Suites and the approachability of the Inn owners, who are always willing to recommend restaurants and attractions.  Guests who experienced the Vineyard are equally enthusiastic, praising the beautiful, relaxing setting.

One reviewer recalls a stay several years later, noting fondly that “The memories are still as vivid as the day I left… it felt as if I were staying in a friend’s apartment.”

Another reviewer enthusiastically says of the Vineyard “don’t stay anywhere else in Walla Walla!”

Debbie Johnson, co-owner of Walla Faces, thanks her loyal customers for their support and for their role in creating the warm, familial atmosphere that makes Walla Faces special.   She says that many people who stay at the Inns are return customers.  “We have customers who have become friends…it’s like having people stay at your house.”