It’s a blustery day in Lake County. The wind whips the palm fronds stretched across the restaurant’s facade and across the highway, the lake, muddy brown, froths and splashes against the bulkhead of Lucerne Harbor Park. It’s cold, rainy, and miserable outside. But inside Grillagan’s island, it’s sunny, warm, and tropical. Calypso music plays on the speakers, tropical prints spread across the walls, and fishing nets hang from the ceiling. It’s the perfect place to get away on a short vacation and enjoy some great food. Cold, wet weather calls for grilled cheese and tomato soup; we all know that. And there’s no better place to enjoy it than at Grillagan’s Island. They specialize in grilled cheese and offer multiple ways to enjoy that delightful sandwich.
FOOD AND DRINK
Tuesday afternoon in Kelseyville, August. Mike Guarniero and Danny Prather perch on barstools next to the front window, half-full beer glasses on the floor next to them. Danny’s taken the lead on a Neil Young tune he’s finishing, and odds are they’ll switch it around on the next song. Between the two of them, they could play all day and never repeat a tune. Danny gives a hearty strum on his guitar as the song ends, then grins as he leans over and takes a sip of his beer. Caroline Chavez, co-owner of Kelsey Creek, sees his glass empty and quickly brings over two full ones. “Now everybody,” she says, walking the smooth walk of a skilled bartender, “You all need to pitch in. I’m the only one buying them beer right now.” Mike and Danny happily grab their full brewskis, sip off the foam, and start a new song.
“Do you hear that?” I asked after just stepping out of the Gaslight Grill on Main Street Lakeport. It was an ordinary Thursday evening, or so I thought. The winter chill and seasonal lights brought a festive glow and the perfect ending after a delicious dinner. We’d just finished a mouth-watering bacon blue cheese burger, fried pickles, a fresh seasonal salad, and a pint of good beer. It’s always the perfect meal experience with the friendliest faces and consistently some of the best food in Lakeport.
I’ll never forget the first time I found my favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurant. You know the place I’m talking about. It’s all about the food, convenience, comfort, and, most of all, consistency. No, this isn’t where you go for a business meeting. You go there because it’s quick, convenient, and your personal favorite spot for any number of reasons.
Kelseyville’s a great place, perfect for an afternoon or a weekend away. Resting at the foot of Mt. Konocti, it has kept that small-town, country friendliness. Plus, holiday shopping doesn’t get any easier than on Main Street. Just park your car and spend the afternoon perusing shops filled with local goods, tasting at award-winning wineries, and enjoying some great places to eat. We’re highlighting seven great places here, but that’s just a start: Kelseyville’s chock-full of great shopping.
Lakeport’s Main Street still has many original buildings, and it’s pedestrian-friendly and filled with shops. It’s simple to just park the car, hop out, and spend the rest of the day strolling through the shops, eating, and enjoying great food. Plus, if you’re looking for a diversion, swing by Lakeport–the Courthouse Museum’s one of the best in the county, and it’s right on Main Street so that the trip won’t slow down your shopping groove.
Resting at the foot of Mt. Saint Helena on Highway 29, Middletown has long been the gateway to Lake County. The first stagecoaches entering the county came through town and stopped at the hotel before either heading up Cobb Mountain to the numerous hot springs resorts or continuing on to the shores of Clear Lake. In fact, Middletown’s called Middletown because it’s–surprise–the midway point between Calistoga and Lower Lake. But Middletown has more than just stories. It’s also got some great places to shop and eat.
When we think of small, locally-owned businesses, we rarely think of our local grocery store. I remember amid the early years of motherhood, the grocery store was often a moment of sanity. Just to be an adult, even for only that moment, meant the world to me. I knew what every aisle was going to have. I never had to guess where the pasta and cereal was. In some ways, especially when I was in a hurry, that sense of sameness was an absolute comfort and lifesaver. But I’ll never forget that one trip when I was in the canned food aisle of a major supermarket. There I was, looking at the beans. I don’t know why it was the bean aisle, but it was. I needed something different to cook, something inspiring. All I saw were beans staring blankly back at me, offering nothing new or original.
You know that place. It’s your go-to destination with friends, family, celebrations, date nights, business meetings, and all the in-betweens. It’s set apart, away from it all, and there’s no place quite like it in Lake County. Where are you at? Red’s At The Skyroom, of course.
Nothing says comfort food more than what comes out of the oven, right? One of our family’s favorite breakfasts starts with a Betty Crocker-inspired Sour Cream Coffee Cake. With the help of a bundt pan and a little glaze, it becomes nothing short of decadence not only to the eye but, most importantly the tastebuds.
It’s a bright sunny morning at Suites on Main in Kelseyville, and the day is full of possibilities. And yes, our goal is still not to leave Main Street. So here’s how we do it. First, start the day with a great cup of coffee. There’s something to be said about consistency, especially when it comes to the morning’s consciousness.
It’s a short fifteen-minute drive from our home in Loch Lomond to the small town of Kelseyville. Tall oaks and pine trees stretch high into the sky on the meandering road showing off their bright green brilliant colors against the late afternoon blue sky. Settled at the edge of Mt. Konocti is the country town of Kelseyville. Our only plan once the car is parked at Suites On Main is to not leave town for the weekend.
It’s a hot August evening in Kelseyville. The lingering summer’s heat is settling in. Off in the distance, Mt. Konocti stands tall, long evening shadows reaching toward it. But this isn’t your typical Thursday night in this small town. A barricade crosses Main Street, temporarily closing through traffic between 2nd and 3rd Street. But this closed block is far from empty. At Main and 2nd, a large stage is set for tonight’s Kickin’ it in the Country, a monthly Kelseyville tradition from June to September every summer. Lawn chairs sit in the shady spots on the street where cars typically park. Kids run across the yellow painted lines, reveling in their freedom. Nearer to the stage, a growing crowd sways to Dave Broida and the Blues Farm, tonight’s opening act. But that isn’t for a while, so there’s still plenty of time to grab a bite to eat before the party gets started.
Lake County has some spectacular wineries and great places to take old friends for a taste. Whether you spend an afternoon touring the vineyards at Six Sigma, enjoying the views at Laujor Estate Winery and Wild Diamond Vineyards, or enjoying a picnic at Brassfield Estate, there’s always somewhere to have a great experience. But sometimes, having a few friends over for a tasty home-cooked meal is the most enjoyable way to enjoy wine. We all know that wine’s best when it’s shared, and with Labor Day Weekend coming up, there’s no better time to try something new. Here are six of our favorites from three small, local wineries that are meant to drink with friends on a summer evening.
It’s a balmy mid-summer evening. The sun is still high and the night young in Clearlake. The day’s warmth lingers, and the evening breeze is still a long way off. But, it’s no bother since La Chilanguita primarily offers indoor dining. Step inside and enter a charming family-owned restaurant where friendly faces greet everyone. Then, it’s choose-your-own-seat casual dining.
I’ve always had a dream like this,” Bob Zany begins, a cigar in his hand. “I’ve never performed before fifty-two people in a meeting room in Upper Lake.” He pauses, looking around the room. “I’ve arrived.”
In the heart of Big Valley, nestled among vineyards and orchards, sits one of the largest retired pear processing plants in Lake County. While it no longer processes pears, the facility still serves as a cold storage and winery. A single car is parked on the massive concrete slab just in front of the large storage building that reads Mt. Konocti Growers, Inc. Off in the corner is a more modest building, parking area, and patio, home to Mt. Konocti Winery’s tasting room. This is a working winery, and the familiar aroma of wine fills the air. The left side of the building is filled with offices and cases of stacked wine. To the right lies the tasting room, a former office redecorated and transformed. A display rack holds a modest collection of hand-crafted wine bags, aprons, candles, and, of course, bottles of wine. Old photos and pear labels hang on the walls. A thoughtful wine bar made from two wine barrels and old pear packing boxes sits in the corner. It’s still possible to see the label on the boxes, another reminder of the history of the place. Originally started as the Lake County Fruit Exchange in 1926, there are plenty of stories here. Currently, much of their business is custom crush and wholesale, but they also create some uniquely Lake County wines, all grown from local grapes. Here are five great ones we recommend.
It’s early Saturday evening in Lake County, and there are more things going on than a person can possibly fit into one evening. The solution? Pick a general area in the county; if you plan it right, you can party-hop all night long. It goes without saying that the best parties start with a designated driver. After you’ve figured that out, let the fun begin!
Once you’ve passed the heart of Middletown and are working your way towards the winding roads of St. Helena, you’ll pass by La Parrilla Grill. You might not notice it right away, but it’s there on the right side of the road. If you pass The Geysers Visitor Center, you’ve gone too far. La Parrilla’s part taco stand, part restaurant, and is filled with incredible Mexican food. And Lake County’s full of good Mexican joints. But here, you’ll find unique, homestyle dishes you won’t find anywhere else.
It’s springtime; the birds are back and busy building nests, the wildflowers are blooming, and the weather’s getting warm. There’s no better time to take a road trip around Lake County. If you’ve got a free day, hop in the car and enjoy some of the county’s most beautiful, unique, and tasty places.
There’s nothing new about celebrating wine and art together. It’s been a uniquely human experience since the beginning of time. And today is no exception. A warm, gentle spring breeze and bright orange-yellow California poppies welcome us as we head towards Six Sigma Ranch and Winery’s wine cave. To the left, winery equipment rests for the time being, while the vines are just beginning the hard work of producing this season’s harvest. Ahead, friends gather in conversation on the broad concrete patio outside the cave’s large open doors. Inside, a table lines one wall, filled with various hors-d’oeuvres, wine, and chocolate. Rows of full barrels fill the back of the cave. Their contents perfume the air, a reminder that this is a working wine cave. And to the right, the recent artwork of Ben vanSteenburgh covers the wall, reaching far into the depths of the cave. It’s the reason for this celebration.
One of the best parts about Lake County is that there’s so much to explore. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, there’s something new to discover. Around each corner of the road, there’s another hidden gem just waiting to be found. This is part two of our road trip. Today we get to enjoy some great views of Mt. Konocti and the Clearlake arm of North America’s oldest lake, then spend some time shopping in two unique towns.
It’s springtime; the birds are back and busy building nests, the wildflowers are blooming, and the weather’s getting warm. There’s no better time to take a road trip around Lake County. If you’ve got a free day, get in the car and enjoy some of the county’s most beautiful, unique, and tasty places. Part one wanders from Middletown, up and over Cobb, until it winds up in the Kelseyville Riviera, edged up against the side of Mt. Konocti. Come take a ride with us.
It’s a clear Lake County winter morning. The morning sun glints down off Susie Q’s Donuts and Espresso, reflecting off the building. It’s a hard place to miss; the bright pink paint draws the eyes immediately. Step inside, and, depending on the time of day, the smell of donuts, bacon, or coffee fills the building. The same pink that covers the outside continues indoors. Dark wood floors and tables contrast the bright walls, and country music comes through the speakers, creating an inviting atmosphere. It’s a place to come, grab a donut or sandwich, and sit down to enjoy them over a cup of coffee.
Just across the road and down the hill from our room at Laujor’s loft lies Boatique Winery. The sign on Red Hills Road’s hard to miss; it rests between two rock pillars and glimmers in the winter sun. Several strips of hardwood have been pressed together to create a laminated frame that holds the profile of a wooden boat. Below, a dark script reads, “Boatique Winery”. We turn off the road, wind our way down the ancient olive tree-lined driveway to the brick-lined parking lot, and enter the brightly-lit tasting room. A fire glows in the large fireplace, and Francesca, Director of Hospitality, finishes pouring the last taste for a couple, who excitedly pick up a few bottles of wine to take home.