No drive from Santa Cruz to Oregon would be complete without at least one stop at the legendary Olive Pit in Corning. Located just off Highway 5 about an hour south of Redding, Corning is composed of a Taco Bell, a Starbucks, a couple of very clean gas stations and The Olive Pit.
Started over forty years ago by husband and wife Pete & Anne Craig, the Olive Pit began life as small shelf of hand-bottled local olives in their burger joint. Realizing there was a huge market for these delicious, locally-grown olives, the Craig’s shifted the focus of their business, and soon, a Northern California road trip landmark was born.
We stop at the Olive Pit every time we head up to visit Christine’s family and over the years have tried a number of very tasty olives. Our favorites have always been the stuffed variety: garlic stuffed, almond stuffed, sun dried tomato stuffed, you name it, we’ve tried it.
And though we never leave the Olive Pit without a jar or two of the garlic stuffed, I have to say our new favorite flavor is the blue cheese stuffed olives. Bottled in silky canola oil, those things melt in your melt…and though I personally think they taste better cold, that room temperature blue cheese is pretty amazing too!
And olives are only the beginning here for the Olive Pit also features a huge array of locally-grown almonds, nuts, tasty jams, a whole line of gourmet mustards and pretty much anything else you can think of. Seriously, you will not leave this place hungry. Our usual routine is to hit the tasting bar first, sample the newer flavors and then pick up a crate and stuff it full of jars of olives.
In keeping with its burger stand roots, there is also a restaurant located inside The Olive Pit that serves lattes, ice cream and all your basic diner fare at shockingly cheap prices. But strangely enough, Christine and I have never eaten there. I guess the gravitational pull — not to mention the speed of service — of that Taco Bell across the street is just too strong…
So, if you ever happen upon this little gourmet mecca in the middle of nowhere, make sure and stop by for some olives. Oh yeah, and bring your laptop too because not only does the Olive Pit now have cute little tins of Olive Pit mints, but they also have free Wi-Fi.
Take that, Taco Bell!