It’s easy to spot the Roslyn Café in the opening credits of “Northern Exposure.” The camera lingers on the eatery’s iconic camel mural, as a moose ambles past the building at the end of the sequence.
Less obvious is the exterior of the same restaurant doubling as the Sunset Diner in the current Amazon series “The Man in the High Castle.” After all, the camel is covered up with a wall of World War II-era propaganda posters for the alternative history sci-fi show.
Still, for fans of both series, the old coal-mining mountain town of Roslyn will feel familiar. The heart of the historic town, a short strip of Pennsylvania Avenue – with its clapboard buildings and their false fronts – provided scenery for each show.
Nestled into the foothills of the Cascade Range, Roslyn – and its next-door neighbor Cle Elum – offers a picturesque backdrop for stretching your legs and grabbing a bite to eat on the way to or from Seattle – or, better yet, for a weekend getaway.
And, of course, you needn’t have seen either show to enjoy the pine-scented air, sense of history and rustic charm of either location.
Founded in the mid-1880s with the discovery of coal, Roslyn, about 80 miles east of Seattle and 4 miles off Interstate 90, quickly became a bustling mining camp-turned-company-town that served as home to one of the most diverse populations in the region. When coal was king, immigrants from all over Europe came here for work.
After the last of the mines closed in 1963, the area declined. The population peaked in 1910 at 3,126 people. In the 1960s, the town had about 1,900 residents. Today, about 900 people live there.
But, with its legacy as a filming location as well as the completion of The Lodge – and other amenities – at the nearby master-planned resort community of Suncadia in the last decade or so, tourism has experienced an uptick.
Revisit “Northern Exposure.” Before Roslyn served as the fictional Canon City in “The Man in the High Castle,” it doubled as the also-fictional outpost of Cicely, Alaska, on the television drama “Northern Exposure.” The show ran from 1990 to 1995 and, more than 20 years after the last episode aired, fans still stop here, seeking remnants of the show. Here are a few ways to find reminders:
Check out the set of the fictional KBHR Radio station, home of “Chris in the Morning,” in the window of the Northwestern Improvement Co. building, 101 E. Pennsylvania Ave.
Pose for a photo with the camel mural on the side of the Roslyn Café, 201 W. Pennsylvania Ave., then grab a bite to eat. The café features dishes such as a banh mi Burger, pulled pork sliders and Salmon La Sac omelet, made with house-smoked sockeye salmon, green onions, diced tomatoes and cream cheese. On the web: theroslyncafe.com.
Have a beer at The Brick, 100 W. Pennsylvania Ave., distinguished by its distinctive neon sign out front and massive wood-burning stove in the main room. Established in 1889 at the heart of town, this longtime favorite watering hole offers pub fare, live music most weekend nights and annual spittoon races, which transform the running-water spittoon that lines the base of the bar into a mini race course. On the web: www.bricksaloon.com.
Squeeze honey on your crust at Village Pizza, 105 W. Pennsylvania Ave. This storefront appeared in the opening credits of the show. Inside, tables come equipped with bottles of honey as well as boxes of cards from old games of Trivial Pursuit. The Village Combo – with Canadian Bacon, pepperoni, sausage, olive, onion and mushroom – is a favorite.
Get a glimpse of the past. Explore Roslyn’s 26 ethnic and fraternal cemeteries, including the graves of coal miners who died in an underground explosion on May 10, 1892, in Mine No. 1. Forty-five miners died in what remains the worst coal-mine disaster in Washington state history. Today, some 5,000 graves line 19 acres on the hillsides on the back side of town. These burial grounds are divided by heritage – Croatian, Serbian, Polish, Lithuanian, Slavonian – as well as several lodges. More information can be found at the Roslyn Museum, 203 W. Pennsylvania Ave., which offers a look at all kinds of old mining equipment and other artifacts from Roslyn’s early days, including an antique permanent wave machine from a long-ago hair salon. On the web: www.roslynmuseum.com.
Catch a movie in the morgue. It’s not as morbid as it sounds. The Roslyn Theatre, 101 Dakota St., is located in a historic 1890s clapboard building that once served as the town mortuary. It was converted into a movie theater in the late 1970s and now shows first-run films. The building is hard to miss; a larger-than-life-size mural depicting Marlon Brando in his iconic role in “The Wild Ones” decorates one side of the building. On the web: http://www.roslyntheatre.com/.
Get a bite to eat. Part bookstore, part coffeeshop, Basecamp Books and Bites, 110 W. Pennsylvania Ave., specializes in regional and outdoors titles as well as quick, seasonal fare. Front and center of the first floor is a teal-colored La Marzocco espresso machine. Dinner and drinks – think stuffed pork loin and a Black Walnut Brown Sugar Manhattan – are served in the daylight basement bar and dining room, adjacent to Roslyn Yard. The private park-like setting is open to the public and features Adirondack chairs and a little free lending library. On the web: www.basecampbooks.com and www.roslynyard.com .
Nearby, the Red Bird Café, 102 E. Pennsylvania Ave., offers simple but hearty breakfasts and sandwiches as well as scratch-made desserts in a charming setting with a modern retro feel. One of the signature breakfast dishes is the Bird’s Nest Stacker with bacon, ham and Havarti cheese sandwiched between two eggs cooked in toast.
Coal was discovered near Cle Elum about 10 years after it was discovered in Roslyn, and the town’s history largely mirrors that of Roslyn, with the rise and fall of coal mining. However, its proximity to I-90 and easy through access has helped aim it toward tourism, recreation and as a pit stop for travelers.
Meaning “Swift Water” in the language of the Kittitas tribe, Cle Elum’s population peaked in 1910 with 2,749 residents. Today, about 1,900 people live there.
Stretch your legs. The Coal Mines Trail runs from Cle Elum to Roslyn and Ronald, passing old mining sites. The trail, which stretches about 5 miles following an old Northern Pacific Railway branch line, is flat and makes for an easy trek for hikers of all levels. On the web: www.traillink.com/trail/coal-mines-trail.
Get baked. A baked good, that is. The Cle Elum Bakery, 501 E. First St., has been a Cle Elum institution since 1906, when it was started by an Italian couple who met aboard the ship en route to America. They specialized in Old World-style breads baked in a wood-fired brick oven, which is still in use today. The bakery has been in the current owner’s family since 1937. It specializes in breakfast and lunch items, espresso, doughnuts, cinnamon rolls and torchetti cookies. For a sit-down lunch, try the Bakery House, tucked behind the bake shop and specializing in soups, salads and sandwiches.
Cozy up with a cup of coffee. Relax in front of the fireplace at Pioneer Coffee Roasting Co., 121 Pennsylvania Ave., in the heart of downtown Cle Elum. It’s been serving “Coffee with Altitude” since 1991. On the web: pioneercoffeeco.com.
Call me maybe. See the switchboard that operators in Cle Elum, one of the last cities in the country to quit using a manual telephone switchboard, had in service until 1966. Today, the Telephone Museum, 221 E. First St., is located in the old Pacific Northwest Bell building and features a collection of telephone technology spanning nearly 100 years as well as mining artifacts and other pieces of Cle Elum’s history. On the web: kittitashistory.com/sites/telephone-museum.
Feel the warmth of Italy in northern Kittitas County. Since 1986, Mama Vallone’s Steakhouse and Inn, 302 W. First St., has been serving up steaks, pasta and other Italian favorites. But its signature dish is the bagna cauda, featuring fresh vegetables you cook yourself in a cast iron skillet with olive oil, garlic, butter and anchovies. Reservations are recommended. On the web: mamavallones.wixsite.com/cleelum.
Where to stay
There are a handful of small inns and bed-and-breakfasts as well as dozens of Airbnb rentals in the area, including rooms above Mama Vallone’s and Red Bird Café. For a world-class resort experience, there’s Suncadia, 3600 Suncadia Trail.
Set on 6,400 acres, The Lodge at this destination resort features 254 rooms as well as on-site dining in the Portals restaurant and adjacent Fifty 6 Degrees Lounge, both of which offer spectacular pine-covered mountain views. Activities abound year round – from ice skating and tubing in winter to swimming in indoor or outdoor pools as well as hiking, biking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing on trails that crisscross the property.
Swift Water Cellars, 301 Rope Rider Drive, is located within the resort as is Glade Spring Spa, where guests can purchase a day pass to use the amenities – saunas, steam rooms, outdoor mineral baths – without booking a treatment. When they aren’t covered with snow and ice, take the 1,000 Steps from the main lodge to river below then take the steep switchbacks back up.
Visitors don’t have to stay on the property to book spa appointments or make dinner reservations or just come in and enjoy a drink overlooking the majestic setting. On the web: www.destinationhotels.com/suncadia-resort.