The Governor’s Cellar restaurant in downtown Olympia may just be one of the best places to eat in Olympia that you have never heard of. Located in the historic Governor’s Hotel, just across from Sylvester Park, this unique, new venture is unlike anything else in town. Owner Lanette Miles is a Tumwater High School graduate who spent the past twelve years, catering high end weddings from Seattle to Arizona. “I decided to make the move home and was offered this opportunity, so here I am,” she explains. With just a short time to get things up and running, The Governor’s Cellar opened their doors this past January.
As I pull up for our meeting, it is a pleasant surprise to find the free parking garage located directly behind the hotel available for restaurant guests. Walking inside, I am greeted by beautiful, custom iron gates across the arched doorways. Immediately, the decor draws me in with its appealing wine barrel tables and inviting redwood bar top lining the back. The dining room is simple in its black and white decor with pops of color from the fresh orchids floating in the center of every table. Natural light from the many windows brightens the space, even on this rainy Olympia spring day.
Lanette greets me with a smile, and we begin by looking over her impressive menus because really, the food is why I am here. Open every day from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., The Governor’s Cellar offers breakfast, lunch, dinner and a special bar menu, all of which rotate with the seasons. Scanning through the different selections, I find my mouth starting to water, and I am instantly hungry.
“Our food is really unique. It’s modern and super seasonal,” explains Lanette. “We have stuff on our menu that you really can’t find other places in Olympia.” From the popular lobster roll topped by a tarragon lemon aioli, to a hand-cut buffalo steak with a juniper berry wine reduction, her creations are all her own. On the breakfast menu try the pear French toast or baked avocado with sweet potato hash browns.
Having worked in bigger cities, Lanette says the food she has seen and experienced is her inspiration. “I want this kind of food to be available for the food trendy people…for the people who like to go out and eat and not always have the same thing.” Instead of driving north to Tacoma or south to Portland, we now have a restaurant offering a big city experience in the heart of downtown. However, don’t let the trendy vibe scare you away. The Governor’s Cellar is still very family-friendly with favorites including a juicy burger served with a side of tasty rainbow fries or delicious fry bread tacos.
General manager Jordan Kettel joins our conversation and I ask what sets The Governor’s Cellar apart. “Our approach to cooking and how the food is prepared here makes all the difference,” he shares. “It’s not coming from a place of being frozen or standard run of the mill food. It’s all scratch made right here.” Even the cocktail menu features innovative drinks without extra additives. Most of the beer and spirits are also made right here in Washington state as well. You will not find bottom-shelf liquor here as even the well drinks are a step above.
With all this amazing food and drinks and a great atmosphere, Jordan tells me the biggest hurdle has simply been getting the word out that they are here. For many years, there was no restaurant in the hotel and instead it served as a breakfast bar for guests. Now, it is very much open to the public and although they do provide room service and cater the banquet facilities on site, their main goal is to serve the community of Olympia.
The Governor’s Cellar is a great place for a quick business lunch and is easy walking distance to the Capitol Campus and most of downtown’s core businesses. However, Jordan recommends coming back in the evening, too. “Dinner is an experience. It is the environment. Come in and enjoy the hard work we put into rebuilding the bar, see the downtown environment of Olympia and enjoy being here,” Jordan finishes.
Plans are in the works to expand their location by adding a beer garden/tiki bar on the pool deck this summer overlooking Capitol Lake. Both Jordan and Lanette are giving this new venture their everything and it shows. Lanette still manages to squeeze in some wedding catering on the side with her business, Contessa Catering, but The Governor’s Cellar is her primary focus.
“I’m really trying to keep this concept of [The Governor’s Cellar] being fun, ever-changing and cool. It’s not just meat and potatoes. Everything is really beautiful. Coming from a wedding background, I insist everything must be pretty – it’s kind of my thing,” Lanette concludes.
Next time you are planning your anniversary dinner, birthday drinks, retirement party or date night, give The Governor’s Cellar a try. They are open seven days a week from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. serving breakfast, lunch and dinner with a daily Happy Hour from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. The space is also available to reserve for large groups or private parties by calling 360-951-1300.