Walking into the Orchard Restaurant is like stepping inside a friend’s family room. The colossal fireplace casts a circle of warmth and light, enveloping the red armchairs and leather couch nearby. The host is quick to take your jacket and let you toast your hands by the fire while you wait for a seat.
As the tingling numbness leaves your fingers, it’s easier to take in details about the restaurant. It has a sort of rustic industrial feel, with original black matte tin ceilings and reclaimed wood accent walls. The painted and polished concrete floors shine, and there’s a deer antler in place of one of the beer taps at the bar.
Is it a farmhouse? Or, is it modern? Well, both. And it perfectly sets the scene for the updated farm-to-table dining experience the owners have created.
Location: 212 East First Street, Cle Elum, Washington. Nestled among other vintage storefronts, Orchard Restaurant resides in what used to be Jack’s Pool Hall. Many features inside the restaurant are original, reclaimed during the renovation process.
Menu: The quality of the ingredients, and where they come from, are nearly as important as how they’re prepared. Only the best of what’s seasonal and sustainable populate the daily menu. And from pasta to pie, everything is made on-site from scratch.
Food gets dished up family-style, with large vegetable dishes and medium-sized entrees. The beautiful, farm-fresh ingredients are the culinary stars here; dishes like beet salad come served on giant platters, no lettuce in sight. Instead, tri-color root vegetables get prepped five separate ways and served alongside coffee aioli and fennel. Modern? Check. Trendy? Yes. But it still tastes like the best beets you’ve ever had. And that ability to showcase the true essence of an ingredient is refreshing.
Some of our party’s favorites included the fried cauliflower with citrus-raisin dressing, the beets, a brown-butter squash ravioli with poached pears, the meaty pork pappardelle, and savory rabbit medallions wrapped in bacon. Only a handful of desserts grace the menu, but both the carrot cake and smoked apple pie were tasty and exciting reinventions
Thoughts: Even though the atmosphere is casual, the food is certainly elevated. In a town where almost every restaurant serves a burger, Orchard opts for mouthwatering Waygu. Instead of lasagna, it’s short rib ravioli with bright pomegranate and Brussels sprouts. And the entire restaurant is the perfect reflection of its owner’s history.
Growing up in Wenatchee, Washington, owner Greg Apt spent his formative years in the family orchard. Those close ties to the land, and an appreciation for quality produce stayed with him. When the time was right, he decided to open Orchard Restaurant. His son creates the menu and, together, they’ve worked to craft a modern dining experience unlike anything in the area.
But the best part of the entire experience? The open kitchen. You can get a glimpse of the culinary action as you enter, or request to be seated directly at the Chef’s counter. Either way, you’ll catch an eyeful of the gourmet delicacies as they’re served.
If you’re like me, you’ll leave the restaurant feeling light, but satisfied. And also thrilled that you were able to experience such inventive and exciting cuisine wearing nothing fancier than jeans and a t-shirt.
Price Range: Menu items are between $12 and $34, with a variety of cocktails and wine available by the glass. The beets and cauliflower run around $13 each. A roasted half-chicken serves two people and comes in at $27. And the braised rabbit is also easy to share for $22. Plus, in addition to the ala carte menu, the chef offers a two-hour tasting experience for $75 (Note: the entire table must participate; optional wine pairing available for an additional fee).
Your best bet is to grab a few friends and share five or six plates amongst the table. That way, everyone can try a bit of everything, without breaking the bank.