Budget Travel Magazine named Snohomish one of the top ten small towns in America for 2015 – This is a town with a population under 10,000 residents – nominated by readers than selected by editors as “…a ‘cool’ small town…with an energetic vibe, often blending community spirit with a vibrant arts scene, unique local history and gorgeous scenery.”
This is an interesting day trip especially if you are into awesome landscape, vintage things and antiques. Snohomish bills itself as “the antique capitol of the Northwest”. The Snohomish River Valley is wonderfully picturesque and has several working farms that have local produce and events. This time of year it is pumpkin patches and corn mazes. Soon it will be cut your own Christmas tree time – fun for the whole family! Stocker Farms is one with lots going on.
We headed out of Seattle on a Saturday at 10:30 and hit traffic trying to get on the freeway heading North at 85th. I don’t suggest you do that! Check the live traffic alerts before you go: Live Traffic Alerts. You will see what is blocked where and how you can avoid delays.
This is a fairly easy day trip about 35 – 45minutes to historic First Street in downtown Snohomish. It was a drizzly day; but, the rich fall colors made it scenic and special. Sun was promised for the afternoon. Always dropping down into Snohomish River Valley on this drive takes your breath away – American farmland, beautiful and expansive. One wonders how long it will last, sadly! A look at Americana that is special. In the right weather this is hot air ballooning country!
Our first stop, (after my brother nabbed a primo parking spot a block away near the Star Antique Mall just off of First Street) was two recommended bakeries. We were in search of a good cup of joe and great pastries. Our “go-to” to begin a day away. Snohomish Bakery at First & Union, this is a good place to start your route, was hopping and the pastries were really fantastic. We walked a block to the Snohomish Creative Bakery to compare (one can never be to cavalier about selecting your morning pastries). Though it was interesting and quieter, we liked the look of the other bakery and bakery goods so we headed back.
I will do anything for a great twice-baked almond croissant and this was the right thing to do! Excellent! The fancy coffees with their artistic swirls of white foam looked great but everyone settled for a regular with free refills which came in handy when we were done and ready to explore. We got the last sticky bun…my two gold standards for any bakery are the almond croissants and the sticky buns. It was excellent (even if we had to all share it)! Their breakfast and lunch menu with homemade from-scratch breads and dishes with delicious ingredients is extensive and worth a look if that is what you are after. Next boor brunch was being served in the First & Union Kitchen
Refueled, we were ready to browse and shop the many antique stores and cute boutiques. This used to be a place where there was plenty of old furniture, oak in particular, but there is less of that now…though we still found some great pieces (Antiques Warehouse). What there is tons of is collectables: toys, glassware, kitsch and Coca-Cola memorabilia…so much more.
It was a trip down memory lane: Nancy Drew and the Case of the Secret Attic (The Hardy Boys, too!), the crudely hand-made and painted toy wooden hydro that attached by a string to a bike’s back fender made by Seattle boys in the late 50’s. My brother and I laughed out loud…he had made one as did all my brothers – a tip of the hat to Bill Muncey, the Miss Thriftway and the Gold Cup races (still held at Seattle’s Summer Seafair on Lake Washington), to the red straps and 1950’s metal roller skates that grew with your feet length and width…and the skate key that we attached to a string and wore around our necks had a little lug nut wrench to adjust them. I collect milk glass, candlewick glass and old kitschy mirrors. Old board games interest us as do old tin toys. There was some of all of that to look at…and more.
Be prepared to walk, a lot. The street consists of several blocks on both sides and there are other shops off this beaten path if you are up to it – plus galleries and museums. Most shops have upstairs and downstairs galleries as well.
The stores are big and divided into small sections where a particular dealer would exhibit their specialties: jewelry, kitchen vintage, crystal. Because it was off-season, most things that day were 20-25%. We spent many hours looking, poking around and picking up a treasure or two. The boutique stores are packed with interesting clothing, jewelry and housewares. They are artfully laid out and fun to explore. The Halloween decor added a festive look and there were many clever ideas. There are holiday events coming up including the Sippin & Shoppin Evening Wine Tasting and Stroll. Find a good hotel or B and B and make two days away of it!
We wandered west on the south side of the street taking it store by store. The large pieces of oak furniture are here as is the Snoqualmie Pie Company, those cookies in the window! The next time we will get a dozen…you should, too! Public restrooms are on this side of the street and there are a few eateries mixed in with these shops, the majority are on the other side of the street.
On the other side: Joyworks is stuffed full with great stuff: stationary, household things, decorations and reasonably priced. It has a cute clothing boutique as well. We found several things we could not leave behind there. Jon found a little ceramic crow one of a set of three we own that had been broken and we could now re-complete the set! That gave us joy! Glitter and Ivy had bargains, original things and offers craft classes. I was really pleased because the owner saw me looking at some beautiful silk flowers and said: “I was thinking about these last night…I should sell them at half price.” SOLD! They were stunning and she wrapped them like a bouquet in tissue with a ribbon. Nice touch! Disclosure: The guys got a little antsy at the boutique stores. Send them away to get a coffee and fetch those dozen cookies at the Snoqualmie Pie Company!
Prepare to spend 2-3 hours looking and then plan to eat. For us, the sun was now out and we were hungry for an early dinner. We wondered back to the Snohomish Bakery at First & Union to check out the menu of the First & Union Kitchen attached to the bakery. This is a nice room – pub style. Spacious, decorated sparsely but interestingly beautiful (check out that bar a diorama of ducks!). Dinners are served Thursday-Saturday 4pm-10pm, Sunday 4pm-9pm; and, Brunch Fridays-Sunday 8am-4pm.
This is a pub setting but a big step up from traditional pub food. We loved it! Locally sourced and fresh ingredients. One of the reasons this restaurant seems to get less than excellent reviews is the service is said to be slow. That simply was not the case on our visit. The waitress was great – lots of personality, eager to please and full of good recommendations. This is really a great little dinner menu – unusual, interesting and appealing. There are good beers and specialty mixed drinks. We started out with ales, wine and a cranberry margarita. The starter salad is a must – fresh, large and delicious with enough for two to split at $4 a real bargain!
I ordered the recommended Devil’s Pasta, lots of shrimp and scallops with just the right amount of green and red peppers in a slightly spicy white sauce served with perfectly al dente pepperadelle noodles. I savored every bite with pauses to stop and repeat over and over how great it was. This was a huge plate that was completely gone by the time everyone helped out willingly! It was a stand out. Jon had the country ribs spice-rubbed in a demi-glaze served with cheddar polenta and grilled fresh broccoli. He loved it. For me the ribs were a little too smokey and lacked any sweet notes. The cheddar polenta was great. The grilled broccoli cooked properly with a good grill flavor.
Gail, my sister-in-law, splurged and went off her sensible diet foods and opted for the house wings in an apricot sauce with blue cheese dressing to the side; or, as we now call them: “the best barbequed wings ever” – so sweetly and delicately spiced and so strikingly crunchy under the sauce. How do they do that? Fried and then sauced? Who cares…it was just right whatever they did!
My brother had a huge and hugely delicious Bronx Rueben. The great pastrami billed as actually being from the Bronx, crispy on the edges, melted Swiss cheese and a good sauerkraut – done right on delicious homemade rye. The Marsala burger was recommended highly. That we will have to go back for next time!
We were all happy at the end of the meal and too full for dessert. But, we did not pass up the chance to look at the menu which had some of the expected things Crème Brulee and other pastry items from the bakery. Taking a pie home from the Snoqualmie Pie Company would not be a bad idea, either – something like their apple berry which says good-bye summer and hello fall.
The Final Word: This is a great day away – not too far away; but, in the country with beautiful scenery, good window (and, real) shopping plus good restaurants and bakeries to try. We were gone for eight hours, had free parking, a good coffee break with outstanding treats and an excellent meal. There was still lots we did not see, always good when you want to go back for more. And, I do – still thinking about things I passed on: the milk glass cake plate for $35 and an antique mirror for $65. A springtime trip would be great with a lot of the eateries having outside seating or perhaps a picnic at the riverside which has an overlook on First Street. For under 2 hours travel time, and under $125 we got time away, several treasures and loads of really tasty food.
Bonus: The close-by town of Maltby has two other great places to visit for food and fun! The renowned breakfast and lunch stop, the Maltby Café, is near-by and could be worked into your day for breakfast (their specialty) and lunch as could a trip to Flower World the largest nursery in the Pacific Northwest…with live animals (they say reindeer for the holidays!) to add to the excitement; and, which at Christmas will be beautifully lit!