I REMEMBER VISITING Leavenworth, WA, on family trips as a kid and loving the magical otherworldliness that the small mountain town exuded. Leavenworth goes so far with its Bavarian theme that it’s nicknamed “Little Bavaria.” The result is a small town in Washington that actually convinces you it’s a village in the German Alps.
I’m pleased to report (with a belly full of brats and beer) that the Leavenworth of my youth not only retains its magic, it’s actually better as an adult (again, beer). For every restaurant, bar, and sweet shop listed here, there are a dozen more that could have easily made the cut. Leavenworth loves to eat, drink, and be merry — and if you’re anything like me, the whimsy and wine is just icing on the gingerbread. Prost!
1. The timeless beer and pretzel combo at Icicle Brewing
Where to find it: 935 Front St.
By far the busiest, friendliest, and boisterous-est place I’ve ever patronized in Leavenworth is Icicle Brewing. The outdoor patio was filled with merrymakers and their pooch pals, the choicest spots next to gas-powered fire pits always claimed by a rotating group of grinning beer guzzlers. All are overseen by a rough-hewn, wooden likeness of Saint Arnold — the patron saint of beer and brewing — perched high above the entrance. Inside, the brewery is full of chattering locals and visitors swilling the best suds in town.
To round everything out, Icicle Brewing also has a very decent selection of Bavarian bar food. A perfect pairing with your ale is their Bavarian pretzel with Beechers cheese dipping sauce (Beechers is a Seattle-based cheese shop, a local fave). The pretzel is hot and soft and salty and the cheese is melty and delicious. Bonus points if you can score the blue chairlift (seats two) at the end of the bar, a relic from nearby Stevens Pass Ski Area.
2. The hard stuff at Blue Spirits Distillery
Where to find it: 920 Front St.
Pony up to the bar at the Blue Spirits Tasting Room, and you’ll wind up sipping some yummy local liquor. $12 gets you three tasters, presented with accompanying chasers and/or mixers, so what you end up sipping are cute little cocktails in tiny glassware.
Between the darling little martini glasses and the gleaming copperworks in the corner, the whole place is a boozy Instagrammer’s paradise. Last visit, I had the pleasure of trying their Mango Vodka, Espresso Vodka, and the 8 Year Cherry Whiskey — that third one being my favorite. The proprietor, the witty and friendly Heidi, pours the tasters, visiting amicably as she works the busy bar top.
3. Sugar and spice (and everything tasty) at The Gingerbread Factory
Where to find it: 828 Commercial St.
Duck into this cute cottage of confections, and sink your teeth into the best darn gingerbread cookies — men, women, houses, flowers, and obviously dinosaurs — you’ll likely ever eat. The Gingerbread Factory itself resembles one of their signature gingerbread houses, and the illusion is completed with the pungent, spice-heavy aroma of oven-fresh gingerbread the second you walk through their door.
Pro tip: Take a gingerbread man or two to-go as you continue your stroll through downtown — or avail yourself of their full espresso bar and outdoor seating and spend some leisure time on the Gingerbread porch (which puts every other porch to shame).
4. Literally anything at South
Where to find it: 913 Front St.
The least “Leavenworth-y” restaurant in town might also be one of your favorites. Breaking with the Bavarian theme, South serves up modern Latin food that you’ll be thinking about for weeks (and wishing you could get a taste of back home). Last time, my date and I wandered in at happy hour and ordered the Basil Daisy and South Colada cocktails and took turns OMGing over and over and taking photos of both — South turned us into those people.
We grubbed down on plates of tiny street tacos, grilled corn covered in chili, lime, crema, and queso fresco, and shared a chicken poblano entree. If I wasn’t on a mission to explore all of Leavenworth with my face, I would have gladly eaten my way through South’s menu. But I had to save some room for…
5. The wood-fired pizza at Sulla Vita
Where to find it: 931 Front St.
The fire that bakes your thin-crust pizza at Sulla Vita is stoked with perfectly cut lengths of local applewood from the orchards that line the highway leading into town. The wood is stacked from floor to ceiling, framing the flame-filled mouth of the pizza oven. This place is next to Icicle Brewing and also has a large patio space for outdoor seating, which is definitely where you want to be on a sunny day.
Their cheesy, gooey, just-enough-crunch pizza aside, they have a hefeweizen on tap from Weihenstephaner, the world’s oldest brewery. Not only is this hef genuinely delicious and a perfect pairing with their pizzas, it’s something to brag about back home.
6. The Cabernet Sauvignon (paired with the mountain views) at Silvara’s
Where to find it: 77 Stage Rd.
While your eyes will be drinking in Leavenworth’s Alpine-like setting in the Cascades, your tastebuds will be getting familiar with a glass of the best Cabernet Sauvignon the area has to offer at Silvara Vineyards. It’s a few miles out from Leavenworth’s small downtown, accessed via Highway 2 on a short but beautiful drive.
But if you’re more the bike-it or walk-it type and want to stay downtown, there’s also a collection of wine tasting rooms clustered on Front Street. Plain Cellars and Boudreaux are two notables, but there’s a string of stops that could easily take up the majority of any trip. It’s clearly not all beer and brats in Leavenworth — this mountain village is a serious destination to indulge in local and Washington wines.
7. The wiener schnitzel at Andreas Keller Restaurant
Where to find it: 829 Front St.
Hailed as the best in both German food and atmosphere in Leavenworth, Andreas Keller Restaurant scores a heaping pile of bonus points for the live accordion players and the super friendly service. Sit in one of the rounded wooden alcoves and get your stomach ready for the oncoming schnitzel-and-beer-induced food coma.
This place is a real sausage fest, so roll up your sleeves and prepare to do face battle with an army of wieners and wursts. The smells from the kitchen you’ll wish you grew up with, and the Bavarian Beef Goulash is what your mom’s beef stroganoff always dreamed of being but never even came close. Sorry, mom.
8. The ice cream and sweets…basically everywhere
Where to find it: 636-733 Front St.
Good luck not stopping at one or two of downtown Leavenworth’s various ice cream, candy, taffy, gelato, or confection shops. Why fight it? Give into your sweet tooth, and get a double scoop on a waffle cone at Viadolce, or fill a sack with fancy chocolates at Schocolat. Front Street is dotted with sweet shops like these — so if your willpower was good enough to resist one, don’t celebrate yet: Another is inevitably just a few doors down.
9. The traditional German brats at München Haus
Where to find it: 709 Front St.
You’ll smell München Haus before you see it — rows upon rows of sausages, brats, and wieners sizzle on an open grill, wafting aromatic smoke into the air. Sounds a little cliché, yet it’s totally true. I order the “Big Bob Brat,” pile the house-made apple cider sauerkraut high, and apply a liberal layer of stoneground beer mustard.
It’s easy to join the throngs of eager sausage gobblers at this insanely popular outdoor spot, but it’s harder finding a seat. Best bet is to have one person stand in line and order and another hunt for a free place at one of the large wooden picnic tables. But even if you had to stand, it’d be worth it.