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Arriving early and leaving late at the Open parking lots

The Oakhouse restaurant features a view of the 18th green. Photo courtesy of RMG Oakbrook

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The U.S. Open will operate two parking lots with free shuttle service back and forth to Chambers Bay, which is better than sitting for three hours on Bridgeport Way inching your way towards the big tournament.

Surviving the free lots, however, takes a little inside knowledge.  Here's a brief explanation for the U.S. Open: "The RED Lot will be located at the Washington State Fairgrounds in Puyallup, and the BLUE Lot will be located at Fort Steilacoom Park in Lakewood. Shuttles will run continuously beginning at 5:30 a.m. each day, and continue for one hour following the conclusion of play. Spectators traveling from points north and east of the city of University Place will be directed to I-5 South, I-405 South and WA-18 West, following championship trail signage to the RED Lot. The shuttle commute to and from the RED Lot and Chambers Bay is expected to take 30 minutes, based on traffic. Spectators departing from points west (Gig Harbor/Key Peninsula) or from points south utilizing I-5 North are advised to proceed to the BLUE Lot, with an anticipated 25-minute commute to and from the course.


In the early morning hours, some golf enthusiasts with tickets to the Open will want to arrive long before 5:30 a.m. to beat traffic, get a good parking place, and be the first to walk onto the course.  This will be a challenge for those hoping to find breakfast while they wait.  At the Blue Lot in Lakewood, there is not a breakfast place open that early within walking distance.  Those willing to arrive later, however, should stop first at Burs Restaurant in Lakewood, which opens at 6 a.m. and is roughly two miles from the parking lot.  Burs is part of the well-known local chain of diners that includes Knapps, the Poodle Dog, the Harvester and more.  They serve no-nonsense diner food with a special emphasis on large plates of breakfast.  For a quick coffee and pastry, Black Bear Frozen Yogurt and Espresso is your best bet, and a 10-minute round-trip walk from the lot.  The espresso with a dallop of vanilla yogurt dropped into the brew can make any wait more bearable.

Returning from the tournament, you might be better off grabbing dinner while you wait for the traffic to dissipate.  Also walking distance to the lot is Hunan Gardens, a popular Chinese restaurant serving the classic American recipes such as sweet and sour pork and almond chicken.  The sizzling rice soup is not to be missed, and the family share meals are both plentiful and varied in taste.  If you can't get enough of golf, then go in the opposite direction of the traffic and dip deep into Oakbrook where the formerly Oakbrook Golf & Country Club is now a public course with the Oakhouse Restaurant.  Ceiling-to-floor windows on one side of the restaurant give diners a nice view of the 18th hole, sandwiched by a duo of televisions for your golf watching needs. The menu highlights a nice balance of appetizers, entrée-sized salads, playful sandwiches and tasty entrées.

On Tuesday, owner Ryan Moore will host an evening event that will feature Northwest-themed hor d'oeuvres, beer from Narrows Brewing and some of Ryan's PGA Tour buddies. Go to


In Puyallup, your options improve a bit for breakfast, seeing there are a couple diners within walking distance of the lot.  But, the same problem exists, neither open until 6 a.m. or after.  Still, if you aren't trying to catch the first shuttle of the day, both serve decent breakfast.  From a coffee and pastry standpoint, I'd recommend Anthem Coffee and Tea.  This is a five block walk into Puyallup's downtown at Pioneer Park, but they open at 5:30 a.m., and the coffee and sweets are exceptional.

On the flip side when your shuttle returns from Chamber's Bay, staying to wait out traffic is easier than Lakewood.  For starters, Don's Drive-in is directly across from the Fairgrounds and features some of the best pie in the region. Owner Ken Burkhammer serves up 10 flavors of pie every day, plus a few seasonal specialties. In June and July, there's fresh strawberry and raspberry made from Puyallup fruits. The recipes come from a former employee, Ducky, who worked there until eight years ago, when she was in her mid-70s. Mark Pinkerton, the cook at Don's, has a favorite in the sour-cream lemon pie, a bestseller. "It tastes like key lime, but with a unique flavor," he said in a former interview, adding, "All our cream pie flavors are made in-house. We don't use pudding mixes."

Next, Spark's Firehouse Deli to the west of the fair, complete with a flashing siren, is tastefully outfitted with donated Puyallup Fire Department equipment, signs and gear. They serve American pub and deli fare including hot wings, thin pizzas, sandwiches, and salads in a casual order-at-the-counter, kid-friendly, firehouse-themed setting with a neighborhood pub vibe.

As for those who want to get as close to Chamber's Bay as possible, the U.S. Open folks wrote: Spectators and local residents wishing to be dropped off near the championship will utilize the Passenger, Taxi or Limousine Drop-Off Zone, located at Sunset Primary School, accessed via Beckonridge Drive. Only 12-passenger and smaller vehicles are permitted to utilize the Drop-Off Zone. From the school, spectators will have a short five to 10-minute walk to access Gate 2."

There aren't any food services on this walk until you arrive at the big show.

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