Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Diner reviews: KJ's Bear Creek Cafe

The last town at the end of Washington Highway 141, nestled at the base of the Mt. Addams and the edge of the Gifford Pinchot forest, is Trout Lake. Since the mountain shortcut road is currently washed out (Forest Road 23), one gets to the town by way of Highway 14 along the Washington side of the Columbia, then heads up into the mountains for 45 minutes on Highway 141.

Trout Lake is a small Washington town with a population right around 1,100. It's commercial core consists of a gas station, cafe, log cabin country store, espresso stand, craft store and climbing company. Around the edges once can find a bar, a couple bread a breakfast places, a spa, an RV park, and a small, but nice motel. Locals tend to be farmers, ranchers, contractors, loggers, forest service employees and construction workers. During the Fall and Winter the area draws snowmobile enthusiasts, hunters, snowshoers, mushroom pickers and cross country skiers, during the Spring and Summer it draws hikers, cavers, campers, huckleberry pickers, fishermen and mountain bikers. It's and outdoorsy kind of place and surprisingly liberal for a small town, possibly because my wife's family makes up about a third of it.

Normally you probably wouldn't have heard of Trout Lake, but it was in the news a bunch in July because of the 8,000 acre Cold Springs fire, which was really not that far out of town. I visited last weekend for the annual Trout Lake Fair and the highschool still had a bunch of trailers and firefighter tents set up, as it served as the staging ground for where firefighting crews planned, operated and lived. Thankfully the fire was contained and this year's fair went off without a hitch.

KJ's Bear Creek Cafe is Trout Lake's only restaurant, although I think you can get food Serenity's spa and the Trout Lake Tavern. KJs has a log cabin front and is rather small inside, with maybe 3 booths and a couple tables and counter seats, so there are picnic tables outside for overflow. The grill is right there in the open, which I like, so the cook can yell at you "How did you want that burger?" while they are cooking. The sometimes surly, sometimes downright hilarious staff manage to keep the orders coming pretty fast these days, which is good, because with one restaurant in town, it can get packed during the breakfast and lunch rush. Pretty much everything I've had at KJ's has been good to excellent. It's no frills, but the ingredients are fresh, the recipes down home, and they have years of experience and know how to do things right. When it's huckleberry season, don't hesitate to get some pancakes packed with the fat juicy berries, otherwise, I tend to go for the omelettes or bacon and eggs. Breakfast is what they excel at, there are a decent amount of choices, they are all good, and the prices are on the low end. For lunch and dinner it's mostly burgers, sandwiches and fries, nothing that will blow you away, but a welcome meal after a day of playing hard in the local wilderness or after a long drive up the Gorge.

KJ's Bear Creek Cafe is located 2376 State Highway 141, right next to the Chevron Station in Trout Lake, WA.

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