Every time we drive to Mt. Rainier National Park via the western entrance, we point out a handful of eateries we should ‘definitely try the next time we’re here!’ Finally, after many, many instances of making this commitment, we followed through.
This past weekend we had a break in the weather and decided to take the motorcycles for a ride. Our journey took us along some lovely, curvy, wooded backroads to Ashford where we popped in Wildberry Restaurant for a mid-afternoon meal.
The restaurant features a menu of ‘traditional American mountain cuisine’ along with authentic Sherpa-Himalayan dishes from Nepal. While I’m sure their burgers taste as delicious as they look, we were there to try the more worldly fare.
Despite what we thought were odd hours, the restaurant was busy with people eating in their outdoor seating areas or grabbing food to go. We opted for a spot under the covered patio and ordered a couple of dishes to share.
We started with vegetable samosa – small crisp patties filled with peas, potatoes, onions and Himalayan spices – YUM! This bite-sized appetizer ended up being one of my favorite dishes, and we were battling over the homemade tomato and sesame sauce that accompanied it.
Thankfully the sauce also accompanied our momo – delicious steamed dumplings filled with minced pork and spices. While akin to other steamed dumplings we’ve eaten, the spices and chutney set the flavor of these apart.
Last but not least, we shared the thali – a dish that gets its name from the literal dish, or thali, it is served in. This traditional Nepali platter came with chicken curry (there were other curry options, but that’s the one we chose), jasmine rice, lentil soup, pickled vegetables, coleslaw, and roti – a Nepali flatbread. Everything was amazing, but Brian was particularly obsessed with the flatbread, which I think was his favorite part of the entire meal!
On the way out of the restaurant, Brian pointed out a climbing suit in the corner of the room that I had missed on our way in. The display was very interesting, but what really blew me away was the story behind it.
As it turns out, the restaurant is owned by Lhakpa Gelu Sherpa who set a Guinness World Record for the fastest ascent of Mt. Everest on May 26, 2003 – having climbed from basecamp to summit in 10 hours, 56 minutes and 46 seconds. The exhibit included the climbing outfit he wore on that ascent. In total, he’s summitted Mt. Everest 15 times (!!).
After moving to the U.S. and working multiple jobs to support his family and send his children to school, he landed in Washington where he co-founded a company to guide climbers to the summit of Mt. Rainier. He’s summited Mt. Rainier more than 100 times. He now focuses on his restaurant and his foundation, which raises money to improve education for children in his hometown of Kharikola, Nepal.
If you find yourself near Ashford, Washington, I highly recommend checking out Wildberry Restaurant. All of the dishes we tried were excellent, and there are many American dishes on the menu if Himalayan cuisine is not your thing. Regardless of palate preference, everyone can be inspired by the exhibit dedicated to the owner’s achievements.
Great motorcycle ride to a great new-to-us restaurant!