Walla Walla

The Walla Walla Food Scene

By Karlis

The Walla Walla food scene is defined by three major factors: the conservative industrial farming traditions of the area, Seventh Day Adventist dietary practices, and gentrification.

Very little of the pre-settlement Walla Walla influence is present now. Damming of the Columbia and its tributaries have decimated the fish population, including the flooding of the famous Celilo Falls fishing site near present day Dalles. Remnants of that tradition, however, can be seen on the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla reservation near Pendlton, OR. Root feasts and other festivals are sometimes open to the public.

The Walla Walla river valley area is a major food agriculture area and the first center for Pacific Northwest's ag-finance. Several large agricultural banks are still based and located here. The valley also early on developed significant industrial size orchards and vegetable gardens to provide food for the miners at the booming Idaho silver  and later also coal mines.

Several immigrant ethnic groups have shaped the Walla Walla ag industry. The Italians brought the sweet onions to the town. They also brought the initial wine industry here. Several Asian families have been growing vegetables for the local market since late 19th century. Most large landowners growing wheat are Anglo-Saxon protestants, but there are exceptions and there are farmers here from many different ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

Roll out on the small roads around Walla Walla to see the wheat, alfa-alfa, and onion fields, and stop at the numerous farm stands. Bicycles can be rented in downtown Walla Walla.

Seventh Day Adventists are a Christian denomination with roots in the 19th century. With the founding of the Walla Walla College (now, University) Walla Walla and College Place have become a major SDA center in the US. Among the main considerations for the Adventists is treating the body as the temple of God and consequently sacred. It should be protected and maintained well.

Good stewardship of the body includes not only abstinence from intoxicants, stimulants, and promiscuity, but also a healthy diet, particularly vegetarianism. Although the Adventists are not required to be vegetarian, the wast majority are. As a result, there is plenty of great vegetarian food available in the town. It is often meat substitute-heavy. His Garden Bakery, for example, offers almost only vegan baked goods and other goodies. Except for the wiener kiosk on First and Main, I can't think of a place that does not offer decent veggie options.

There is also Andy's Market, which offers a large selection of vegetarian bulk foods. Great food for bargain prices. And for a special experience, head to Washington's largest vegetarian dinning hall on the Walla Walla University's (“quad u” for the hip) campus.

And the last of the three factors- gentrification. The town has become quite some hip spot over the last two decades, and the food scene has been affected too. Whitehouse-Crawford offers you the over a hundred dollar dinner experience, if you feel like it. Safeway upgraded a few year back. There is even a farmer's market in the downtown on summer weekends, with live music too.

Wine industry drives the gentrification. The region strives to produce medium and high priced wines, and attracts the people with the means and the lifestyle.

Gentrified Walla Walla has also brought about changes in ag. Farms offering high-end products are cropping up ever year, but CSA still have waiting lists.