Enumclaw, Washington, is a small town often called “The Gateway to Mt. Rainier.” Nestled against the Cascade foothills, the town is accessed from Seattle, Tacoma, and the Eastside communities by State Highways 410, 164, and 169, making it a convenient stop on a trip to visit Mt. Rainier.
We stopped in Enumclaw for lunch one day and enjoyed the stunning views of imposing Mt. Rainier, 14,409 feet of snow-topped volcano. We also discovered Cole Street, a lively main street lined with independent shops and a surprising restaurant in a historic building.
From the street, Kelly’s Mercantile looks like an old fashioned general store. In fact, it once was. But “The Merc,” as locals call it is a pub/restaurant featuring live music, sports viewing, and a coffee bar. But that’s not the surprise: It’s the level of cuisine. The Merc has a culinary team that can easily compete with chefs from much larger well-known foodie towns.
Managing Chef Nicholas Thayse provided us with an innovative, exciting tasting menu for our lunch. Chef Nicholas may look young, but he has an impressive culinary background, including formal culinary arts training and positions at respected restaurants such as The Boulder’s Hilton Waldorf Astoria Resort in Arizona.
The offerings at Kelly’s Mercantile are a cut above the usual burger and fries pub food. They ranged from Coconut Candied Shrimp sautéed in sweet coconut glaze and dressed with cilantro, lime, scallion and jalapenos to the signature Reuben sandwich featuring both corned beef and pastrami, premium Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and house made Reuben dressing on butter grilled marble rye.
The shrimp was beautifully presented on a small plate with the dressing ingredients next to it. The delicate shrimp and sauce created a spicy-sweet zip on the tongue.
The Reuben sandwich was completely house-made from the bread to the sauce but what made it special was the combination of carefully chosen sliced meats. The meats blended together to provide a “just right” savory combination accented by house-made sauce and slightly crisp sauerkraut.
After lunch, we explored Cole Street and found a delightful candy shop Sweet Necessities (check out the salted caramels), an indie bookstore, antique and gift shops and the Plateau Wines with large tasting room. The wine shop hosts special events and carries local as well as international wines. It’s a great place to purchase a bottle of wine to take with you to the mountain.
Across from The Merc, you’ll find the Enumclaw Visitors Center. Stop here for maps, tips on area attractions and information on the special Centennial Geotour geocaches in the Mt. Rainier area (geocaches are like scavenger hunts through the woods and the Mt. Rainier National Park has some special ones going for the the 100th year anniversary).
Visiting Mt. Rainier