Ellensburg Washington will always be my small sleepy town with a stomach made for southern hospitality, and a heart made for the mountaineer.
Located in a valley surrounded by steep rolling hills, dangerous-looking ridges and dissected by rivers and streams; this town is known for being minutes from hiking, biking, climbing and river rafting. And once my, and everyone else’s, adventures are over, it’s nice to lower back into the relaxing pace of a families’ town.
Main Street Ellensburg
Coasting slowly down University Road, it is common to find communities of people enjoying dollar-pancakes freshly flipped and served in the sun where picnic benches have been set up street-side and filled up with families, seniors, and college students.
On days that are sweltering with the ever-present and calm breeze, the Ellensburg Fred Meyer’s is known to be outside, grilling ribs and slathering them with a homemade barbeque sauce; they sell for five dollars for a half-rack, and seven for a whole.
Turning onto Main Street, there are no chain-restaurants, just a plethora of mom and pop cafes, half of which have been stamped with the “Best of Kittitas County” golden star. However, my favorite was one of the first cafes I ever tried: Morelli’s Trattoria.
Morelli’s, the Best in Ellensburg
Morelli’s is a pint-sized, Italian, hole-in-the wall. Nestled underneath “The Gym” and sharing a two-step patio with The Soup Bowl (another one of Kittitas’s Best). By day, the place is a cute restaurant with round tables and outdoor seating, and by night Morelli’s becomes a flashback from Lady and the Tramp, complete with scalloped-dangling Christmas lights, flickering candles, checkered tablecloths, and vibrating music crooning in the white noise.
“Take a seat, take a seat, Honey.” I seem to remember the short and vibrant man say to my company and I, when we entered for the first time. He followed us to the table we chose: a small two-seater near a window with a view of the pedestrians and locals milling about in the stifling sun. The host handed us clean laminated menus and winked, “We have the best of the best and it still gets better. I think I am going to treat you two to some gelato after your meal, on me.” The more he talked, the more he seemed like a mothering waiter, looking for nothing more than to provide a good day and some extra warmth to his peers.
Picking through the single-sheet menu went by fast, and so did my realization that this café seemed to be a one-man show. The polite man seated, waited on, and served each customer with grace, kindness, and a promise for free gelato. Other than the cheery calls back behind the register (to what I assumed to be the kitchen), there was no other presence facilitating our dining experience.
When the food came, it was all placed precariously on an oblong plate. I ordered a Salmon Panini, and the fish was moist and tender topped with melted cheeses, sautéed peppers, and sandwiched by two thick slices of freshly-made-that-day foccacia. That day, the first day I moved to Ellensburg, I had come to a realization that had to do with where I was, and the food that was currently in my mouth.
The lemonade was sparkling, the service warm, the gelato freely delivered with a hospitability that rivals what southern society breeds. In a town that is simple and filled with the atmosphere I would imagine finding in a western movie, my first apprehension to move to Ellensburg left me. Here, nobody was a stranger and I was excited to be a part of that.
Written by Tianna Miller
Tianna Miller is a full time student studying economics at Central Washington University. This fall she plans on touring Thailand and Cyprus in a study abroad program, while writing her way through her travels. In her spare time she enjoys mud-runs, reading, and sipping on espresso.