Taste Farm-Fresh Food in Southwest Washington

Southwest Washington, which encompasses Mount St. Helens National Volcano Monument, Mount Rainier National Rainier and surrounding cities, teems with deliciously wild eats.

Some 2,000-plus farms make their homes in Lewis and Cowlitz counties and fryer chickens are raised here in abundance, but what may be most prolific are the delectables produced by the area's forests.

The areas around Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens are lush with mushrooms, such as chanterelles and lobster mushrooms, and perhaps most interestingly, rare matsutakes. Especially prized in Asian cultures, the mushroom smells like cinnamon Red Hots but tastes like the essence of a pine tree soaked in rain.

Beneath the Olympic Club Hotel, adjacent to the Oly Club Theater, McMenamins New Tourist Bar in Centralia serves grown-up concessions, spirits and handcrafted ales. Back to the forest: On the edge of Mt. Rainier National Park, Copper Creek Inn in Ashford dishes up dense, don’t-miss wedges of blackberry pie. Within the park, late May through October, fuel up on bourbon buffalo meatloaf or venison shepherd’s pie at Paradise Inn.

Ride the Mount Rainier Gondola at Crystal Mountain Resort to the Summit House for a wide-open mountain view, as well as pork belly and Dungeness crab. Earn your turns, though, and you could end a day on the slopes with a pitcher of Tacoma-based Harmon Brewing’s seasonal best and a mile-high platter of nachos at the Snorting Elk.

If, however, your hunger hasn’t been sated, there’s a pint of ice cream in every milkshake at Naches Tavern in Greenwater.

Learn more about Washington's Volcanos region.

—Julie H. Case