Resting at the foot of Mt. Saint Helena on Highway 29, Middletown has long been the gateway to Lake County. The first stagecoaches entering the county came through town and stopped at the hotel before either heading up Cobb Mountain to the numerous hot springs resorts or continuing on to the shores of Clear Lake. In fact, Middletown’s called Middletown because it’s–surprise–the midway point between Calistoga and Lower Lake. But Middletown has more than just stories. It’s also got some great places to shop and eat.
- Swing by Koontz Mercantile to pick up unique items you won’t find anywhere else in the county. Owners Reuben and Cassie Koontz bring a special, artistic touch to all they carry. Step inside, and you’ll see some of Reuben’s artwork welded into unique shapes and designs. Plus, they’ve got a great selection of unique gifts, local products, and a room filled with outdoor supplies.
- Head down the road and swing into the Bunk House Gift Shop to pick up some great gift items. They’ve got a selection of baby clothes, wine accessories, gift cards, and such a plethora of fun and thoughtful items you’ll be sure to find the perfect gift for that special person.
- Middletown Florist and Gifts is the perfect place to pick up a handcrafted bouquet of flowers, but it’s got so much more. The shop carries a collection of locally-made items as well as thoughtful gifts, like their famous tin Christmas trees. You gotta see them! And one of the best things in the world is their bacon jam. Pick up some flowers for a loved one, then complement it with a special present.
- For a dose of art, be sure to stop at The MAC. It’s hard to miss: it sits on the corner of Highway 175 and Highway 29. Of course, The MAC has regular, rotating art shows in its top-end gallery. That alone makes it worth a stop. And they’ve also got a good selection of artisanal items for sale to complement the artwork. Handmade jewelry, cards, and other small items make for the perfect, one-of-a-kind gift.
- Is local Lake County wine on your list for gifts or your Christmas dinner this year? You can save yourself some time by stopping by Hardesters Market on Main Street, where you can choose from a variety of quality local wines from all over the county, reaching from Albariño to Zinfandel. I promise you won’t be disappointed with their selection.
Odds are, after some shopping, you’re probably hungry. Fortunately, Middletown has some great restaurants. Pick any one of these three restaurants, and you won’t be disappointed.
- La Parrilla Grill is located at the edge of town and is well worth the stop. They take pride in making high-quality, handmade dishes, such as their spectacular molé. But if you’re curious, you’ve got to try their alambres, a cross between fajitas and fantastic.
- The Cowpoke Cafe is a Middletown institution. It’s been a go-to for breakfast and lunch for decades, and if you’re looking to enter hungry and leave full, stop here. I’m a big fan of their pancakes, but whatever you choose, you’ll get plenty of tasty food.
- Since Covid, Buddha Thai’s moved to take-out only, but that doesn’t mean their food’s changed. Since the beginning, Buddha Thai’s been one of the best restaurants in the county. They only cook from scratch, using family recipes. You have to get their spring rolls. That’s a no-brainer. And for a flavor sensation, order their Salmon Basil Eggplant Stir Fry.