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.


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

Restaurant Spotlight: Brasserie Four

“Do I owe you a recipe?” Hannah MacDonald, the owner of Brasserie Four, asks, smiling widely.

Last winter, I had been so enamored with Brasserie Four’s duck cassoulet that I begged for the recipe when the menu changed. A chef came out and chatted with me, giving the numerous, complicated steps. The three day process, involving duck confit, homemade sausage, and exquisite beans, proved far too time consuming and difficult for my meager cooking skills. Alas, I will have to wait for it to come back on the menu.

Brasserie Four, Walla Walla

Hannah MacDonald, Owner

“Actually, I’ve already got it,” I say, laughing.

In France, a brasserie is an informal, upscale restaurant that traditionally serves the same menu all day. “It’s like a step up from a cafe, but equally casual,” Hannah noted. In keeping with that theme, Brasserie Four is open for both lunch and dinner, serving the same menu at both times. This taste of Paris, located right on Main Street, is Hannah’s way of bringing a little bit of France back to eastern Washington. The simple, classic flavors are both spectacular and perfectly meshed with classic French cuisine.

Hannah MacDonald herself is originally from Walla Walla, but she moved to Paris for her first year of college. She lived with a French family full of extraordinary cooks, who helped her develop her love of food. She then made her way back to the states, where she graduated from Western Culinary Institute in Portland, OR. She moved back to Walla Walla in 2004 and opened Brasserie Four in 2008.

Brasserie Four, Walla Walla

The Brasserie Four kitchen in action

Hannah says that she is inspired by the bounty of local agriculture in the Walla Walla area, allowing her to offer food that is both “responsibly sourced and responsibly priced”. Herbs, greens and edible flowers are provided by a local farm that produces exclusively for the restraunt. They also get produce from Edwards Farms and ‘Vince, the Pickle Guy’. “I try to use everything that is brought to me,” Hannah observes. “[Farmers] bring me something and I try to make something delicious out of it.” Brasserie Four maintains the same ethical standards for its proteins, using Blue Valley Meats, serving only Washington-grown, grain-fed steak, getting seafood from Penn Cove, and cooking shellfish exclusively from the Puget Sound. These practices are evident in the taste of the food, which allows the flavors to shine through in simple, clean, beautiful ways.

Although Brasserie Four is certainly a sophisticated restaurant, the employees make a specific effort to be family-friendly, from their art shows that go to benefit local preschools to their “Kid’s Corner”, a spot perfect for young ones to play around without disturbing other patrons. The Kid’s Corner is so popular, many parents explicitly ask to be seated at Table 3 so they can be placed right next to it. Everything on the menu can be ordered in a kid-sized portion for half the price. “It’s about half the size… usually more than half,” Hannah chuckled. “I want to give people the opportunity to eat well with their families, without [resorting to] normal kid food.”

Brasserie Four Walla Walla

The Dining Room and Bar

Brasserie Four has struck the perfect balance, allowing it to function beautifully both as a family restaurant and as a refined date-night restaurant. It’s one of Walla Walla’s culinary gems. And, if you see the duck cassoulet on the menu, I promise that it is delicious.

Brasserie Four is located at 4 East Main St. They are open Tuesday through Saturday from 12:00-10:00pm.

Restaurant Spotlight: Maple Counter Cafe

There’s one question our guests seem to be asking lately: Where’s a good place to go for breakfast? Lucky for visitors and locals alike, Walla Walla offers a host of delicious dining options.

One of my favorite local breakfast spots is Maple Counter Café, a homey restaurant housed in a renovated transmission shop in downtown Walla Walla. You’ll be able to spot it easily—just look for the crowd of hungry customers that tends to gather outside its heavy wooden doors on Alder St.

Everything about Maple Counter is warm and inviting—from the French country-style décor, to the friendly waitstaff, to the endless coffee served with heavy cream.

I sat down this morning for a chat with owner Kory Nagler who let me in on the secret behind Maple Counter’s success: a long family tradition of outstanding service complemented by classic recipes.

Maple Counter Cafe Walla Walla

Kory and Rachel

Originally from Sequim, Washington, Kory and his wife Rachel opened the restaurant in November of 2011 after moving to Walla Walla in February of the same year.

“We fell in love, got married and decided we wanted to open a restaurant—actually I had always known that I was likely going to open a restaurant.”

Kory comes from a long line of restaurateurs—his grandparents ran a breakfast restaurant in Chicago, Illinois and his parents own the Oak Table Café in Sequim, which they opened right before Kory was born.

Maple Counter Café is part of this evolving tradition.

“That’s where the name comes from. We wanted to be different but we also wanted to be sure to pay homage in our own cute way because what we’re doing here really draws so much from the family tradition.”

Menu staples like the buttermilk pancakes, 49er flapjacks and crêpes get their fluffiness thanks to a sourdough starter

from the original family restaurant in Chicago. The style of the food and the techniques used to prepare it—thick-cut bacon, basted eggs, French-baked omelets—have been passed down as well.

But the Nagler family tradition is present in more than Maple Counter’s mouth-watering recipes and down-home cooking style.

“The secrets to hospitality, good food and all that stuff were just bred into me as a kid—it was all around me. The food is a complement to the service and to the warm feeling you want to get when you’re going out.”

And if you’ve already eaten at Maple Counter, chances are Kory’s literally had a hand in your food, working the line alongside the other chefs.

“I’m here every day.”

Maple Counter Walla Walla

Kory at work in the kitchen

He and Rachel help to foster the infectious, welcoming energy that fills the air in time with the telltale train whistle—a gift from Kory’s parents that announces the arrival of another sumptuous apple pancake and embarrasses customers on their birthdays.

At the end of our chat, Kory and I discussed some of our favorite dishes. I almost always get the quiche: rich, fluffy and whose ingredients change with what’s in season—right now it features Walla Walla sweet onions.

And what was Kory craving this morning?

“There’s sweet and there’s savory for breakfast. Today, I would say 49er flapjacks and bacon—it’s a little bit of both.”

Maple Counter Café located at 209 E. Alder St. and is open Tuesday through Sunday, 7 a.m. – 3 p.m.