Please don’t eat the tulips
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
So, you’ve decided to visit Skagit County for our annual Tulip Festival. Cruise around sunny fields of gorgeous flowers, roll down the windows and feel the breeze, take pictures of each other in the tulips, then go out for a fun lunch or dinner with the family before zooming back down the freeway to home—sounds like a good plan.
Unfortunately, many thousands of other people will have the same idea, and it’s quite possible you may spend much of your day sitting in traffic and waiting in lines, with no time for a real sit-down meal.
Fortunately, there’s no need to starve: there are plenty of places to catch a bite throughout your day, especially if you’re willing to venture a little out of the main tulip traffic routes. Here’s a roundup of places where you can get a little something to nibble on as you wend your way through the flowery fields of Skagit—and maybe find a few treats to take home.
If you’re coming from the north, whether you come down scenic Chuckanut Drive or over from the freeway, you’ll certainly need to stop in Edison, where you have your choice of a sandwich, a quick bowl of soup or some killer pastries at Farm to Market Bakery. Don’t forget to stop in at the Breadfarm for a sourdough loaf to take home, and if you’re anything like me you’ll also make sure to get a bag of macaroons to eat in the car (or on the way back to the car). If you do buy bread, you’ll want to pick up some salami and a round of fresh Gothberg Farms chevre at Slough Food, or a container of Golden Glen Creamery farmstead butter. Then proceed down the road to the tulip fields.
Those coming from the south might like to make their first stop at Skagit River Produce in Conway, which just opened for the season with baked goods, local cheeses, fresh greens and soups. As you cross Fir Island, though, you’ll probably want to visit Snow Goose Produce as well to fuel up on the biggest ice cream cones you’re ever likely to see (they refer to them as “immodest” on their website, which is putting it mildly). Be prepared to wait for your ice cream, as this is a must-stop for many visitors. Alternatively, you could bypass Snow Goose and stop at the Rexville Grocery for a beer or a slice of pie to fortify you for flower viewing.
If you choose to believe your GPS when it tells you to take the Kincaid exit into downtown Mount Vernon, you may need to stop at the Skagit Valley Food Co-op for a bathroom break and a coffee after sitting in traffic for an hour longer than you’d planned. The deli case here has plenty of great food for on-the-go customers, including pizza breads, pre-made sandwiches, cookies and salads. The Co-op makes its own ice cream now, too, which is well worth checking out.
As long as you’re in Mount Vernon, keep in mind that one thing we have a lot of here (besides beer) is Mexican food, and that includes a number of taco trucks. My personal favorite is Tacos Tecalitlan, which parks behind the smoke shop off of Riverside. Their lengua tacos are the best I’ve had anywhere, and you can get a lot of food for not much cash.
Once you’re out on the flats there are fewer options, but you can get a good milkshake at the Schuh Farms espresso stand, and the Lenning Farms Berry Barn is open for the season with ice cream cones and berry pies ready to go. You’re also not far from Skagit’s Own Fish Market on Highway 20 just west of Burlington, where you can get oyster shooters, halibut tacos or a really excellent Dungeness crab sandwich to eat in or take out. They also have lobster rolls if you have a homesick East Coast native in the car.
Finally, you may like to escape the tulip mania altogether and head into Anacortes. Here you have the option of burgers, shakes and blazing-hot tater tots at the old-fashioned Fidalgo Drive-in, or a seriously well-topped hot dog at the Juicy Dog, which started out as a pop-up stand in front of the Brown Lantern but now has its own place next door. Take your food to Seafarer’s Memorial Park and eat in your car looking out over the water, or on the grass by the beach.
Before braving the freeway traffic again, don’t forget to stop and fill a growler at one of our local breweries, like Anacortes or La Conner Brewing, North Sound, or Skagit River Brewery. By the time you make it home you may find yourself in need of a good beer.
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