Just a few miles from the Featherbed Railroad sits the little town of Upper Lake, a historic place that has been on the map since 1854. But the quaint town is going to see a lot more traffic on its vintage covered wooden sidewalks with all the new businesses that have opened up on the street recently.
To see what all the buzz is about, we visited Upper Lake with our tastebuds ready and eyes wide open. The taste buds were important as two new restaurants have come to the historic district, the Vintage Station Deli and Mi Chelas.
The Vintage Station Deli is just what the name implies, it’s a deli located in a 1930s-era filling station. You’re greeted by the old “visible” style gas pumps out front but the real filling goes on inside where a nice menu of all sorts of sandwiches and other deli items is available.
I tried the barbecue beef sandwich which was very thinly sliced roast beef in a barbecue sauce on a French roll. Yum. There were both a big slice of dill pickle on the side and a pepperoncini. There is plenty of seating in the restaurant with outdoor seating with misters for hot days plus spots inside where the grease racks used to be.
But, other than the vintage fuel pumps, there is no sign that cars used to be worked on here as the place is spotless floor to ceiling with that floor being a brand new sealed concrete floor. The place feels very clean and the ‘50s music filling the air is just the right finishing touch.
If you’d rather take your taste buds south of the border, Mi Chelas would be the place to visit. From the outside you’d wonder how more than two people could be in here, but inside the place is actually fairly large. It’s sort of the Tardis of restaurants.
And that reference is in line with the old-fashioned good service here which comes from the fact that most of the team are part of a big family. On the menu are items that owner Elvira Cortez remembers finding in her mom’s kitchen.
Upper Lake has been home to the Lake County Wine Studio for years and that’s still a great reason to visit with owner Susan Feiler specializing in wines from Lake County that you might not find anywhere else. Her unique ability to hunt down “discovery” wines is uncanny and wine aficionados literally drive from out of state at times to see what’s on Susan’s radar.
Another of the new shops in Upper Lake is People Pleazin’ Pantry, a store that specializes in specifically Lake County-produced goods and foods. Owner Carli Tippet has put together quite a collection of unique-to-Lake-County products including her own jellies, jams, cookies and other treats. But there is quite a variety things like beard oils, soaps and so much more.
You’ll also want to visit Stephen Dilley’s Lavender Blue shop which has art, crafts and antiques. Most recently he posted a set of china that dates back to before Upper Lake was founded and some beautiful artwork shot by local photographers.
Stephen isn’t the only one with unique and vintage items on the street. Several antique and curio shops are also worthy stops, particularly Tony Olviera’s Antique store where, for $5, he’ll take you on a tour of his incredible collection of western history.
And right across the street from Tony’s shop is the Blue Wing Saloon, which occupied the space in the 1800s, was torn down during Prohibition, and was re-created in the past 10 years. Today live music and good food are a constant draw that keeps this place busy, busy.
There are more antique shops, a general store, gift shops and other places to check out. The new life breathing into this old town is so encouraging and uplifting. While it’s always been fun to stroll the covered wooden sidewalks and check out the placards telling the story of the town’s past, now it’s even better with happy shopkeepers and restaurateurs inside those shops buildings to answer your questions and show you some neat treats and terrific finds.
Story and original pictures by Anthony Barthel.
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A blog about happenings in Lake County.