First of all, they aren’t actually secrets. In fact, the management hopes they are becoming quite well known. They are, however, lesser known dining establishments than the Cracker Barrels, Panera Breads, and Applebees of the world. Restaurant gems are places to which your mind goes when a certain memory evokes a certain taste. They tickle your senses when a hint of maple, a well-seasoned steak, or a particularly succulent salad comes to mind. “I remember that place. It was so good. When we go back I’m going to have the (Fill in the blank.”) Today, Gildshire Magazines begins a brief series of articles that cover these kinds of places. We start with the Top Five gems out west.
The Buttered Biscuit, 1014 North St. #1000, Sumner, Washington. With an address like “#1000” this place should be more of a secret than it is. Instead, it is a small shop, building a big reputation among the foodies in Washington State. This is old-school grub served up in a jiffy. The Buttered Biscuit is all about the quality fare they serve in large portions, but not so much about this new-fangled thing called the internet. No website, just word-of-mouth raves. Top Five gem-worthy items? Biscuits and gravy, shrimp and grits, and chicken fried steak. Open 6 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 6 a.m-7 p.m. Sundays.
Back Porch Bar and Grill, 605 N. 5th St, Jacksonville, Oregon. If I was going to pick a place to go away and become a secret, I might choose the area around Jacksonville, Oregon. Three hours from the nearest medium-sized airport and five hours from anything like a large city, this is a place to go in case of the Zombie Apocalypse. It’s almost too bad we’re blowing the lid off the secret by extolling the wonders of Back Porch Bar and Grill. Alas, that’s what greatness does to a secret place. Back Porch Bar and Grill is unprepossessing on the outside and offers dynamite meals on the inside. That’s our kind of secret. Top Five gem-worthy items? Ribs, beef brisket, and the triple pork sandwich. Open 11:30 a.m-9 p.m seven days a week.
El Balcon, 326 Pacific Ave, Bremerton, Washington. There was a day when Bremerton, was known solely for the great gray ships parked in her harbor. Well, the ships are still there, but Bremerton is revamped, revitalized, and freshly painted. This small (not quite 41,000 population) city an hour by ferry from Seattle is a secret gem all on its own. It is, therefore, appropriate that we find a Top Five restaurant gem in its midst. All over the area, there are Mexican restaurants by the sombrero-full, but El Balcon is a family owned Mexican/ Salvadoran establishment. It is the Salvadoran side that makes all the difference. From its chalk and chalkboard menu to its foil-wrapped Latin yumminess this is as authentic as it gets. Top Five gem-worthy items? Pupusas, spicy shrimp tacos, and garlic shrimp. Open 10 a.m-8 p.m. Monday-Friday. They stay open until 9 p.m. Saturday. Closed Sunday.
Cactus Flower Restaurant, 4610 N. Elizabeth St, Pueblo, Colorado. Cities in Colorado take on the personality of their geography as well as any state in the U.S.A. The high mountain towns revel in the clean, crisp nights of the Rockies. The front range cities draw their vibe equally from the soaring mountains to the west and the wide open prairie to the east. Southern Colorado is the gateway to the great southwest, and no restaurant in the state is so exemplary to the theme as is Pueblo’s Cactus Flower Restaurant. With quality southwestern food, to-die-for margaritas, and home fried chips, you won’t find a more authentic southwestern restaurant this side of Las Cruces. Top Five gem-worthy items? Guacamole dip in a taco bowl, veggie fajitas, and fried ice cream. Open 11 a.m.-9 p.m Sunday-Thursday. Open an hour later at night Thursday-Saturday.
Catalyst Cafe, 111 N. Higgins Ave, Missoula, Montana. To find small and/or hidden restaurant gems look no further than one of America’s great college towns. College and university students will ferret out the best and discard the rest. Credit the Univerity of Montana (Go Griz!) and their students for lifting up the Catalyst Cafe. Understated on the outside, but with a quirky interior larger than it looks, Catalyst Cafe is quality fare in downtown Missoula, one of Montana’s best cities. Top Five gem-worthy items? Huevos rancheros, kale and cheese omelet, and turmeric garbanzo bean, coconut milk soup. Open 8 a.m.-3 p.m. seven days a week.
That’s our list out west. We will be back soon with more great food in more great regions. Pardon me? Lunch tomorrow? On you? Yes, indeed!