Relaxing fabulousness at the Whitehouse Crawford (on a budget!)

Rose Woodbury

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Until last Sunday, I had only ever heard about the Whitehouse Crawford. I’d heard people say things like: “It was amazing,” and “I’ve never eaten like that before,” and “The olive oil ice cream is out of this world.”

Well, then obviously this restaurant is out of my league (I thought). I may have graduated, but I’m still on a student’s budget. When faced with the choice, I’d rather buy a week’s worth of groceries than a single meal at a fine dining restaurant offering homemade olive oil ice cream for dessert.

I probably never would have walked through the door.

Then someone enlightened me. She told me about SIN (Service Industry Night) Sundays. All you do is bring your food handler’s or alcohol server’s permit. They give you a special discounted menu and it’s fabulous. They shave 20% off the price of wine and a few bucks off each appetizer. We didn’t pay over $8 for any item. (I went with a friend who wasn’t in the service industry and Whitehouse extended my discount to include her.)

The décor is simple and genius. The restaurant is inside a historic building, which was built over 100 years ago as a furniture-planning mill. (The woodwork inside the lobby of the Marcus Whitman was done in this building.) When they renovated the building in the nineties, they ripped up the plywood floors and discovered beautiful, 12-inch red fir planks underneath.

My favorite part is the deep blue color of the chairs and how it perfectly compliments the wood floors. The color of these chairs is the only bold choice; the rest of the restaurant subtly blends in with the original brick and fir scheme.

We sat at the bar (you don’t have to, though). I ordered a glass of the Cadaretta Sauvignon Blanc/Semillion blend. Cadaretta is a new-ish winery that just moved their tasting room to a downtown location (near the yoga studio). The wine was great: crisp, fruity, dry.

Then the fried onions came.

(See? I told you this restaurant is not as pretentious as it seems.) However, these were special onion rings. They were melt-in-your-mouth paper-thin onion rings. So agonizingly thin! So delicious and so artful at once. Eating them was almost difficult because I didn’t want those pretty little things to disappear. (Keyword: almost.)

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Next came the antipasti, which was perfect for sipping wine and nibbling and chatting. And then the flatbread with caramelized onions, goat cheese, and tomato appeared.

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Not only was the food and wine wonderful, but, as I mentioned to above, the atmosphere was unbeatable.

Now, I’m someone who’s very picky about atmosphere. And it’s hard in Walla Walla to find a quiet place to sit down and enjoy good food. I like to linger and chat. These things can be hard to do in Walla Walla unless you’re in a loud bar or a silent coffee shop.

But at the Whitehouse Crawford, I could eat my food and talk to my friend and relax. I didn’t feel like I was taking up space that could be used to bring in more cash flow. I didn’t have to shout or whisper. I didn’t feel pressure to rush.

The bartender was everything you could hope for: knowledgeable, calm, genuine.

So even if you won’t be able to get the service industry discount, I still highly recommend the Whitehouse Crawford. Don’t be intimidated! You might be surprised to find that, once in a while, you can treat yourself to a gourmet burger and still have money for groceries.

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