Chelan is one of the best places to go if you’re looking to get out of Seattle for a while, which might sound particularly appealing right now if you’re still bummed about having to cancel that international vacation. Before you start packing seven new swimsuits that you’ll ignore in favor of the same one you wore last year, let’s address the most important thing first: where you should eat and drink. Here are the best restaurants and wineries (including really good restaurants at wineries) located near our favorite lake in Central Washington.
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No trip to Chelan is complete without a stop at the Drive-In - this is hands down our favorite place to eat in town. Whether you order their bacon burger basket with crinkle-cut fries, a grilled chicken sandwich, an immaculate eight-inch-tall cone of vanilla and chocolate swirled soft serve, or all of the above, a meal here tastes like pure summer bliss. Especially when you dump fry sauce on everything.
Despite the hundreds of teriyaki spots located in Seattle, Chelan Teriyaki Bistro is the only one here - but it’s one of the best spots for a quick lunch or dinner. Your only two choices for entrees are a teriyaki plate with a cabbage and carrot slaw or some very gingery yakisoba noodles (with that same tangy slaw) that we especially recommend ordering if you really love ginger. And even though pigs can’t fly, their teriyaki sauce-glazed pork “wings” are an excellent appetizer to round out your meal.
Local Myth is one of those pizzerias that isn’t afraid to load up their pies with toppings. Like the “Taco Wagon,” which has a sour cream swirl, mozzarella, a blend of Parmigiano and pecorino, fresh jalapeños, tomatoes, red onions, scallions, garlic, chorizo, and cilantro. But we’ve found that their simple dishes are even better. Like the margherita pie that comes with cherry tomatoes instead of the larger slices that always slide off after your first bite. Or the very cheesy and very delicious pepperoni calzone. Leftover cold slices from Local Myth also happen to make for the perfect last-minute breakfast to eat before you do a cannonball into the lake. Don’t worry, we debunk the wait-30-minutes-after-eating-to-swim rule basically every summer.
Say you had one too many glasses of wine, or maybe your night was spent drinking seven tangerine White Claws (or was it eight?) and thinking it was a good idea for a quick night dive in the lake. Regardless, you’re not feeling like yourself this morning. Lake Chelan Artisan Bakery is here for you with a strong cup of coffee (made from beans grown in nearby Twisp) and a fully-loaded bagel breakfast sandwich. Our perfect order is a sausage, egg, and cheese on an asiago bagel and maybe one of their freshly-baked ham and cheese croissants. That is, if they aren’t sold out by the time you wake up at noon with a sunburn and a headache.
The Vogue is one of the best hangout spots in town. By day, this lounge has some excellent smoothies, blended coffee drinks (the mocha chiller is our favorite), and breakfast sandwiches on ciabatta. But by night, they stay open late on the weekends, host live music, and serve a bunch of local wine and beer you can order with a cheese plate. If nothing else, use The Vogue for their little bottle shop in the back, especially if you don’t feel like venturing out of town to the wineries.
Between all of the Mexican places in town, Marcela’s is our favorite spot. Owned by the same family that runs Rosita’s in Green Lake, the wet burritos here are the standout - especially when topped (and filled) with their chile verde pork in a citrusy tomatillo sauce. This should also be your Chelan margarita destination as they have around 30 to choose from, including layered ones with flavors like prickly pear, blueberry, and tamarind, and frozen lime versions that are tart and not too sweet.
Behind Kave you’ll find a lovely and mostly-secluded outdoor spot that basically looks like your super handy friend’s backyard masonry project. It’s really just an elevated and highly-landscaped plot of dirt, but it’s a great place to have a latte, a quiche, or another one of their rotating baked goods like some cinnamon rolls, oatmeal-berry scones, and delicious gluten-free carrot cake. Plus, they have oat milk, which is about as rare in Chelan as a tourist in February.
If you’re looking for a breakfast spot after a loop around the riverwalk, Apple Cup Cafe is the place. They have great cottage cheese pancakes, omelettes, and strawberry waffles, all of which will put you in the mood to do nothing but lay out by the lake. Since they’re basically open all day (6am-9pm), it’s also a very solid choice for a late lunch or dinner when you’ve gone to the Drive-In too many times.
Even though it’s about ten minutes north towards Manson, whenever we find ourselves in the mood for a glass of wine alongside something substantial to eat, we always go to Lake Chelan Winery. That’s because there’s a BBQ restaurant on the premises with great ribs, pulled pork, and smoked kielbasa that will make you say, “wow, I should eat more kielbasa.” Along with a huge wine list, there are a few ciders too, including a tart cherry version that we love.
Besides this winery having llamas in their parking lot, there are a bunch of reasons to love Tunnel Hill. It’s a short drive from downtown, they have a great view of the lake, and the Pinot Noir Rosé and the Riesling are perfect wines to sip while you bake in the desert heat on their patio. You can also make a $10 reservation for one of their outdoor tables and have that prepaid fee go towards a purchase. But most importantly, this is a place where you can drink wine and look at llamas at the same time.
Vin Du Lac sits on the east side of the lake, and like many of the wineries, has an elevated and breathtaking view of all the jet skiers. What sets Vin Du Lac apart from the rest, aside from their short-but-solid wine list, is that they grow vegetables and herbs, like tomatillos, basil, and broccolini, to use at their bistro. When planning a nicer sit-down meal, skip Campbell’s and come here. Vin Du Lac also works if you’re just looking to snack on a cheese plate and sip on Syrah or even a glass of the sangria they serve from time to time.
Siren Song’s outdoor seating is open right now on a first-come, first-served basis, and even though you can’t make reservations, the tables are all set up six feet apart. That way you can enjoy a glass or bottle of zinfandel, rosé, and even one of their Grand Crus if you didn’t buy a high-tech waverunner this year but still want to go all out. There’s also a full food menu with some standout pizzas, including a margherita, the “Giovanni” with sausage and pepperoni, and, if you’re super into balsamic vinegar, the “Athena.” It comes with figs, prosciutto, mozzarella, goat cheese, and lots of balsamic - both as a drizzle and glazed on pecans.
For a glass of something sparkling, look no further than Karma. They have seven different bottles of Méthode Champenoise, which just means that the wine was made in the style of Champagne, but can’t legally be called that since it was made outside of the French province. Archaic (but important) French laws aside, all of the choices here are bubbly and reliable - whether you go for some blanc de blanc, brut, or sparkling rosé. Karma also has a full sit-down restaurant called 18 Brix that serves sandwiches, seafood, and large charcuterie plates.