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Olympic National Park, WA

Best Restaurants in Olympic National ParkOur favorites include some of this destination's best local restaurants—from fine dining to simple fare.

By AAA Travel Editor

At Olympic National Park, you'll likely spend lots of time drinking in the stupendous views—eating won't be a high priority. Most of the Olympic Peninsula consists of unspoiled wilderness, and scattered towns and hamlets are spread out along US 101, the park's main roadway. Whether you're enjoying the scenery from the comfort of your car or taking advantage of Olympic's myriad opportunities for hiking and other adventurous things to do outdoors, dining is more a matter of sustenance than special occasion. Some apples and cheese from the grocery store, granola or protein bars for energy and a supply of water, and you're good to go.

That's not to say you can't experience a memorable meal. But heed two words of advice when mapping out your park itinerary: Plan ahead. Full-service nearby restaurants are limited, and dinner reservations should be made well in advance, as these small establishments fill up quickly during the busy summer season (roughly June through August). And as anyone can tell by looking at a map, it's a healthy drive from one dining option to the next.

Four restaurants in particular are essential dining destinations, even though not all are technically within park boundaries. These establishments don't just offer fine food—each is housed in a building associated with the park's history and boasts a jewel of a scenic setting to boot.

Where to Eat Year-round

Creekside Dining Room at the Kalaloch Lodge —the only year-round park lodging available—looks out onto the crashing ocean and a driftwood-strewn beach. The dining room is long and fairly narrow, so most of the tables provide a view of the protected coastline, but of course the window seats are best. Although you can order a burger, broiled chicken breast, microbrew-marinated steak or a yummy wild mushroom strudel, the menu focuses on seafood: cedar-planked salmon, Dungeness crab cakes, sesame-seared Alaskan halibut, a sauté of scallops and tiger prawns. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, but evening—when the sun slowly drops into the Pacific and seems to set it on fire—is the time to be here.

A lovely lake provides a backdrop for The Roosevelt Dining Room . The glass-lined restaurant at the Lake Quinault Lodge brings the beauty of lush green lawns, tall pines and a glimmering lake indoors. The dining room is open year-round, so the seasons offer a constantly changing panorama. Lunch is casual: deli, French dip and Monte Cristo sandwiches, soups and salads. Dinner is more of an adventure, with the likes of duck tostadas, pesto-seared Alaskan halibut, London broil and the house specialty, cedar-planked salmon for two—plus a selection of microbrew beers. While you're relaxing in front of the river-rock fireplace or strolling along the lakeshore, give thanks to Franklin D. Roosevelt. After a fact-finding trip to the lodge in 1937, the president signed a bill creating Olympic National Park.

Splurge on a Fancy Meal

Lake Crescent is one of the park's most photogenic spots, making the dining room in the historic Lake Crescent Lodge a wonderful place for a splurge, especially if you're on the hunt for things for couples to do together. Arrive early for a quiet cocktail while ensconced in a comfy Adirondack chair at the water's edge, or sit on the glassed-in porch for weather protection with a view. Given the rustic backdrop, you may be surprised to find a menu befitting one of Seattle's finer restaurants. Sustainable seafood and organic products are featured in such dishes as wild troll-caught salmon, pan-fried Quilcene oysters, Oregon rack of lamb and ahi tuna with plum wasabi sauce. For dessert, homemade éclairs topped with luscious fresh berries or a sticky toffee pudding cake drizzled with warm caramel syrup are big enough to share (but you won't want to). Twilight on the lake is breathtaking, so be sure to request a table close to the windows when making dinner reservations. This seasonal restaurant is closed from late October to early May.

Dine Near the Hot Springs

Forested peaks surround the resort at Sol Duc Hot Springs , celebrated for its pure mineral pools. The Springs Restaurant at the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort serves breakfast and dinner (or you can grab lunch at the resort's Poolside Deli). The large, sun-filled dining room sits right at the edge of the pools, so you have the option of watching bathers “take the waters” or admiring the mountain vistas. Begin the morning with an omelet, fresh fruit or pancakes hot off the griddle. The beef, poultry and seafood entrees at dinner are all dependable, accompanied by such side dishes as stuffed acorn squash. Note: Both restaurant and resort guests must pay the $30 park admittance fee at the entrance booth.

Places to Eat in Port Angeles

The largest town on the Olympic Peninsula, Port Angeles , is the unofficial gateway to Olympic National Park. Several of the city's restaurants are good bets after a day spent hiking or sightseeing, and the downtown waterfront area is perfect for a window-shopping stroll after a meal. Here are a few of our favorites:

The look is bellissimo at Bella Italia , with big glass windows revealing an interior softly lit and vibrant with rich colors. Start with steamed mussels or clams or a robust minestrone before moving on to homey favorites like chicken or veal parmigiana and smoked salmon fettuccine. We think the mushroom ravioli lives up to the hype, and the exemplary wine list is particularly strong in Washington and Oregon reds. The restaurant also has fun with its connection to the enormously popular “Twilight” films (for the uninitiated, Edward and Bella ate here). Expect to see lots of diehard fans reliving the moment.

The dishes at Michael's Seafood & Steakhouse have both a Northwest focus and Mediterranean influences. The downstairs dining room is warm and cozy. Appetizers like hummus and baba ghanoush or baked brie with walnuts and a brown sugar rum sauce are meant for sharing. You can get pizza or a steak, but since the restaurant supports local fishermen and organic farmers, go for the Northwest-style seafood stew or paella, and don't pass up the mac and cheese. Desserts range from light (boysenberry sorbet) to decadent (orange creamsicle cheesecake).

The homey dining room at Cafe Garden looks out on old-fashioned flowerbeds and stands of stately conifers. Local seafood specialties like Copper River salmon preside at dinner, but try the restaurant for breakfast, when the garden setting perfectly complements French toast, eggs Benedict, thick-cut bacon and waffles topped with fresh fruit and toasted almonds.

Where to Eat in Port Townsend

Port Townsend , a favorite weekend destination for Seattle residents, has all sorts of intriguing restaurants. If you're planning a trip to the park, include a stop in this artsy seaside town. Many eateries and local hangouts are on Water Street, which runs along Port Townsend Bay.

Fountain Cafe is housed in a funky little clapboard building with about a dozen tables, a block from the waterfront on Washington Street. Local artwork and eclectic furnishings give this place an artsy vibe. Lunch offers a variety of freshly made sandwiches, salads and soups; the dinner menu changes seasonally and always includes several vegetarian choices. Instead of salt, the Fountain's clam chowder is redolent with fresh oregano. Aglio e olio—pasta with roasted garlic, olive oil and tomatoes—is simple but absolutely yummy, and chicken marsala has a sauce that incorporates cranberries as well as mushrooms. Many of the excellent wines are available by the glass.

Another casual spot with great food is The Silverwater Cafe . Potted plants, artwork and soothing New Age music all contribute to a laid-back setting that makes you want to linger. Appetizers are meant for sharing; try the wild mushroom strudel or the Mt. Townsend cheese plate, a selection of local Mt. Townsend Creamery cheeses served with amaretto cherries and spiced nuts. The Coho salmon fillet braised in white wine is outstanding. There are more substantial items, too, such as grilled New York pepper steak topped with a green peppercorn mushroom cream sauce. For dessert have a slice of slightly tart blackberry pie complete with a lattice crust.

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Olympic National Park, WA

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