Tastebuds Coffee & Wine offers its customers a comfortable atmosphere, a taste of culture, and enough food and drink options to keep them satisfied from morning to night.
Owner and founder of Tastebuds, lifetime Wenatchee resident Alisa Strutzel, and her tight-knit mix of part-time and full-time employees run this fully functioning business. Contributing a classy atmosphere to the Wenatchee social scene, the business has grown in every direction to meet customers’ requests.
“Were not just a wine house or coffee spot, we do everything.” Strutzel said of the business she has built from scratch.
Centrally located in Mission Village on the corner of Fifth and Miller streets in what was once a floral shop, Tastebuds has been serving the Wenatchee Valley for seven years. Prior to opening the full-service store, Strutzel owned and operated a nearby drive-thru coffee stand. Thanks to the persistence of one of her regular customers, who also happened to own the property, Strutzel was encouraged to buy the store where it stands now, and Tastebuds has been keeping the community entertained ever since.
With more space to lease and opportunity to grow, Strutzel knew that coffee alone would not pay the bills. So, by understanding the similarities in pallet, rating system, and general enjoyment of a good pour that’s found in coffee, wine was quickly added to the menu.
“The concept was to start your morning with a cup of coffee, then go into a small lunch, followed by a good glass of wine,” Strutzel commented on the original idea behind the coffee and wine combination. “We’ll get you going, then we’ll help slow you down.”
And in 2007, it was a good time to get into the Washington wine scene. According to the Washington State Wine Commission, in 1981 there were 19 registered wineries in the state. By 2000, that number had grown to 163 wineries. In 2007 when Strutzel opened shop, 540 wineries were registered, last year topped off at over 800.
Tastedbuds prominently and proudly displays almost exclusively local and Washington wineries, including Horan Estates from Cashmere, Stemilt Creek from Wenatchee, and Martin-Scott Winery from East Wenatchee. Select bottles are available from the Pacific Northwest and other countries.
“We try and give local wineries a showcase for their wine,” Strutzel said of the wine collection lining the wall, “but if you come in looking for a specific bottle and we don’t have it, we can order it and have it on the shelf the next day.”
Wine at Tastebuds can either be bought off the shelf for retail out the door, for your table or by the glass from one of the many house pours available.
As for the coffee, Tastebuds strives for freshness and receives shipments twice a week from Herkimer Coffee Roasters of Seattle. The full-service coffee bar is capable of making anything from your classic dark roast to your caffé latte, and as for a specific drink that Strutzel recommends trying?
“It’s a lot like wine, drink what you like.”
The wide selection of local coffee and regional wine encourages customers in the door at Tastebuds, but it is the comfortable atmosphere that keeps them in their seats. With a slight hue reminiscent of what they sell, red wine and espresso, Tastebuds is a well-lit and laid-out space where conversations bloom against the warm aroma of percolating coffee beans.
The total space is split down the middle by two antique-looking glass garage doors which when rolled up create a large space that combines the privacy of indoors and the open air pleasure of natural lighting. When the garage doors are closed, two distinct spaces are created. And whether you choose the fireplace ambience indoors on a wintry night, or the sun soaked patio during a midsummer’s day, it’s easy to forget you are sitting at the corner of a busy intersection.
Starting in the fall of 2013, Tastebuds revamped their business plan and began expanding into culinary cuisine. And with that new business avenue came a new kitchen manager, Miguel Ramos.
Before Ramos came onto the crew as a kitchen mastermind nearly a year and half ago, Tastebuds offered brick oven pizzas and light lunch options. These days, Ramos can better explain what you can expect to see on the menu.
“We have lunch and dinner entrees including steak, pasta, salads, and made-from-scratch sandwiches.”
While Ramos personally recommends the Pendleton Whiskey Pepper Steak (an 8-ounce top sirloin glazed in a homemade Pendleton Whiskey peppercorn sauce), or the House Special pasta (rotini tossed with chicken, basil pesto and a host of garden vegetables) one thing that the kitchen takes particular pride in is the wide variety of tantalizing menu options.
Along with the expanded dinner and lunch menu came the opportunity for Tastebuds to begin catering larger events. And stemming from manager Tracy Weaver’s experience in culinary school, Tastebuds has now catered multiple events around the community.
One of their recent ejobs, My Girlfriends Closet for the Junior Service League of Wenatchee, had a mouth-watering menu consisting of dishes like bruschetta, arugula, and pear cups with blue cheese; mini spicy shrimp cocktails with a lemon zest; and a curried torta with cashews and cilantro; all finished off with a chocolate fountain.
“Our catering menus are customizable to each event and the options are unlimited as to what we can do,” Weaver said of the flexibility that is required of catering events. Plates begin at $20 a person.
At their home base, Tastebuds uses their pallet-pleasing abilities, cozy couches, and amazing entrees to create a thriving social scene.
Mondays you can grab half-price pizza all day (dine-in or take out), Tuesdays are all about local jazz from 5 to 7 p.m., and for $9 on Wednesdays you can take part in the weekly wine tastings. Thursdays, the specials take a break, but you can enjoy the regular, everyday happy hour from 2 to 6 p.m. And then on Saturday, enjoy that same happy hour all day until the 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. live music dinner shows. Tastebuds is closed on Sundays.
“But because we’re closed on Sundays, that means we’re available for private rent,” Strutzel said as she goes through her somewhat hectic schedule. “We’ve done baby showers, birthday parties and wedding receptions.”
Strutzel relates a story of a traveling sales group who wanted to watch a Seahawks game last season in a bar, but not in a bar scene. The solution? The sales team rented out Tastebuds Sunday afternoon and Strutzel installed cable. “We can do just about anything,” she said.
Coffee coinsurers, wine enthusiasts, and comfort seekers seem to fill the space at Tastebuds, and those that do on a near daily basis are considered the regulars. And one of the most frequent customers, Dr. Ed Farrar of Wenatchee Orthopedics, is the only regular with a menu item named after him (Ed’s Mediterranean Salad).
“I was attracted here because I thought it was a unique combination of a product and concept, a place that is full of good ambience, good coffee, and a wide selection of regional wines.” Farrar said about why he chooses Tastebuds for his everyday java. “Put it all together with a great location, and it’s hard not to find yourself coming back on a regular basis.”
Farrar and his bicycle group stop by every day after riding the Apple Capital Loop Trail, and when asked to comment on the night life side of Tastebuds, he was quick to answer.
“When the entertainment was added, it was like the crème on a good cup of coffee,” Farrar said with a smile.
And whether you come in every day like Farrar, or just occasionally, Strutzel encourages everyone to stop in and stay awhile.