The I-5 corridor might look like an endless stretch of fast-food chains, but tucked among the marquee names are locally owned joints well worth an exit from the freeway. Check out these spots to support a family business and maybe find a little roadside adventure along the way.
North of Seattle
Smokey Point Bakery Cafe
Stop into this surprisingly tasty strip-mall cafe for breakfast, deli sandwiches on homemade breads including “pretzel” bread, flaky mini fruit tarts and decadent almond or chocolate croissants. If the kids need some distractions for the ride, Reader’s Choice Used Books has a great children’s selection and is practically next door. Closed Sundays. smokeypointbakery.com, 3323 169th Pl. NE, Suite C, Arlington, 360-572-0238. Less than a half-mile off I-5, east from exit 206.
Hal’s Drive In
A meal at Hal’s is a kitsch trip back to the 1950s, with aqua-colored vinyl booths, vintage pop bottles and a jukebox. The burger joint has a wide selection of kids’ meals, numerous milkshake flavors, crinkle-cut fries and vegetarian meal options, but it’s best to skip the doughy onion rings. And while Hal’s is a little ways off the freeway, Sedro-Woolley has a quaint downtown worth stretching your legs for. Closed Sundays. halsdrivein.com, 321 State St., Sedro-Woolley, 360-855-0868. About 5.5 miles off I-5, east from exit 230.
Skip the more crowded border crossing at Blaine for the less congested passage to Canada east of I-5 and you’ll be doubly rewarded. That’s because in addition to the typically shorter wait at the Highway 539 crossing, you can also treat the family to ice cream at Edaleen Dairy. The family-owned outfit just south of the border makes ice cream from their own Holstein cows. There are traditional and soft-serve cones, and a child’s cone costs only 35 to 75 cents.
Closed Sundays. edaleendairy.com, 9593 Guide Meridian Rd., Lynden, 360-354-5342. About 10 miles off I-5, north from exit 256A/B.
South of Seattle
The owner of this cottage coffeehouse is a chatty, friendly fellow, but that means the service can be slower than I-5 at rush hour. Bypass the delay by calling ahead to place your order. Their coffee drinks are worth it, and check out the breakfast sandwiches on fresh bagels or croissants and crepes with various fillings. Try one of the signature drinks made with homemade caramel, such as the kids’ caramel steamer served hot or iced — it’s like liquid candy. Closed Sundays. caramelcoffeehouse.com, 6217 20th St. E, Fife, 253-922-0238. About 1 mile off I-5, southeast from exit 137.
Pick-Quick Drive In
This gem among Fife’s sprawling car dealerships is a time capsule from 1949. The retro-feeling menu of burgers, Coney dogs, chili and shakes has been updated with locally sourced produce and beef. Service is fairly quick, but you can call ahead if you’re in a rush. In nice weather, the kids can burn off some wiggles running around the picnic tables on the manicured lawn. The one downside: no restrooms. Open daily, Feb. 2 to Nov. 30. pick-quick.com, 4306 Pacific Hwy. E, Fife, 253-922-5599. About 1 mile off I-5, west from exit 137.
This family-run Mexican spot is a great intermission in a Seattle-to-Portland drive. With its folk-art-strewn interior, friendly service and authentic Michoacán dishes, it’ll keep the kids entertained and food-savvy parents well fed. Children’s menu servings are skimpy, so consider ordering from the wider selection of à la carte dishes, most under $3. Some of the items are spicy, so consult with the wait staff if your kids don’t like hot food.
Closed Tuesdays. Facebook: La Tarasca, 1001 W Main St., Centralia, 360-736-7756. About 1 mile off I-5, southeast from exit 82.
This Portland-based chain stands out from the fast-food crowd with its use of local, seasonal, natural ingredients. It’s a favorite for their unbeatable Walla Walla sweet onion rings, delicious shakes (try subbing fro-yo for ice cream), and smoked salmon and hazelnut salad. The veggie burgers are delicious and huge, and the kids’ burger is as big as the regular version. Another plus: gluten-free buns are available. Open daily. burgerville.com, 818 Harrison Ave., Centralia, 360-736-5212. About one half mile from I-5, southeast from exit 82.
Don’t let the unappealing exterior and location fool you. Step inside and Mrs. Beesley’s is neat and clean, and the staff is friendly. This roadside stop is home to a delicious variety of shakes, crunchy tater tots and burgers with toasted buns. Bring cash, because that’s all they take.
Open daily. Facebook: Mrs. Beesley’s, 393 Cowlitz Ridge Rd., Toledo, 360-864-4866. At end of off ramp for exit 59 northbound; east about half a mile from exit 59 southbound.
Antique Deli & Pastry Shoppe
Mellow out your family with a calming dose of tryptophan before tackling the Portland traffic. Tuck into the Turkey Gobbler, with thick slices of turkey and cranberry sauce served on homemade bread, and slurp the daily soup special. The supersized cookies are big enough to share. For a couple of dollars, your kids can browse the antique mall for treasures waiting for your food.
Open daily. Facebook: Antique Deli, 413 N 1st St., Kalama, 360-673-3310. About 1 mile from I-5, east from exit 30.