Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Oregon Coast’ Category

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Two Meals in Astoria (Oregon not Queens)

buoy window

Buoy Beer Company Everyone, if they even know what Astoria, Oregon is, says to go to the Goonie house but I don’t really give a shit about Goonies. It’s a weirdly millennial folly despite the movie coming out in 1985. I mean, there was an entire big spread a few summers back in Lucky Peach devoted to Goonies (which doesn’t appear to be online and it’s just as well because my links might be dead sooner rather than later). I was really more impressed by the seal, ship, and rainbow I captured through the window while sitting inside Buoy Beer Company.

buoy 6

I lucked out because it was stout month and that’s my scene, not the IPAs plaguing the Pacific Northwest. And the food was surprisingly (not sure why I was surprised) good. I had an oyster pot pie, filled with super plump oysters, local, of course, with maybe the best side salad (pickled vegetables, asparagus spears, homemade croutons and dressing, a scattering of seeds) I’ve ever encountered. The Oregon pink shrimp cheesey bread was totally overkill but delicious, nonetheless.


Fort George Brewery Astoria was meant to be a day trip since it’s only an hour-and-a-half up Route 30 from Scappoose where I saw a second branch of Itxtapa, a bar/restaurant called Hump’s, and a long-closed dilapidated near-shack called Myong’s Seoul Food, surprising since I can’t imagine any Koreans living in this part of Oregon, but I got a motel for like $60 and decided to stay overnight.

fort george fish

Dinner was tricky because after dark, in winter, on Monday, the town was ghosty, the only people on the street were shouty doorway-sleepers. I wanted to go to Albatross & Co. (dungeness crab deviled eggs, oyster chowder poutine, craft cocktails, blah blah) but it wasn’t open.  It’s not that weird to eat at two different brewpubs for two meals on the same day in Oregon. I really wanted the steak frites with blue cheese sauce, which my companion ordered, but settled for a smoked fish plate teeming with salmon, trout, pickled herring. Also smoked hazelnuts/filberts (I’m trying to bring back the latter usage). Yes, we could’ve shared.

astoria video store

Astoria, set where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean, is hard to pin down. Like most Oregon Coast towns it’s a bit rough and tumble but there are cutesier elements creeping in. There was just not a video store still in business downtown, but also a JCPenney and Sears in 1940s (just guessing the era) storefronts, which I didn’t get to take photos of before the sun set. But also a vintage hardware shop, a hair salon called Hygge, and a modern, faux old-timey butcher, which I have a hard time imaging enough clientele to sustain it. I swear my grandma worked at a Kenny Roger’s Roasters in Astoria in the ’90s, but maybe that was Seaside since I never ever visited her in Astoria, and now that I say that, it seems mildly absurd like something fleeting that occurred in a dream and decades later it seems like a fact. Maybe I’ll ask her about it.


Eaten, Barely Blogged: Oregon, Better Late Than Never



Mae. I was reluctant to eat at a Southern food pop-up in Portland. Who needs it? (I would be more interested in a Pacific Northwest pop-up on the South except that there isn’t a distinct cuisine to speak of.) But it was one of the highlights of my trip; very vegetable-focused, light when it needed to be (chilled zucchini & buttermilk soup with sweet pepper relish, cherry tomato, and sumac-toasted pecans and lingerie beans, flame nectarine, pickled chantrelles, purslane with brown butter vinaigrette) hefty when it was required (chicken fried in three fats–no idea which). And I will never again underestimate the power of biscuits slathered with Duke’s mayonnaise and topped with nothing more than heirloom tomatoes and bourbon barrel-smoked salt. At $65 (suggested donation) for ten courses (was too busy eating to take photos of them all) and BYOB I would consider it a great bargain, though in Portland that means you’ll be sharing a table with some wealthy middle-aged Bergen County transplants and siblings from Eastern Oregon of mysterious means (and a dubious relationship) one whose child with a septum piercing will be going to Harvard in the fall. I was the only teenager-free diner at the table (even my boyfriend has a daughter going to the cool downtown public high school, which everyone approved of) and when the sister from Pendleton made everyone state their favorite movie, and wouldn’t let up after I demurred, I was like maybe I’m a poor conversationalist? No matter, when there’s pickled ramp pimento cheese to be eaten.


Nodoguru. $125 ticketed omakase that sells out in minutes. It was all right. Something about it felt off for Portland, not that I’m critiquing quality or creativity.  I just couldn’t get excited because I’m a jaded monster.


Pizza Vendor. Totally the break-out hit of this trip. With its straighforward name and no reason to go unless you happen to already be in Scappoose identity, it suited my needs just fine. It’s the childhood pizza of your dreams, half-and-half if you please, lots of cheese, thin, chewy, and puffy cornmeal-dusted crust, except that now you can get pitchers of beer instead of root beer and I still can’t figure out how what seemed like six-pints worth of some local IPA was only $6.99. Bon Appetit had recently declared Pizza Jerk, a take on East Coast pizzerias, one of America’s Best New Restaurants despite it being closed due to a fire. Magically, it reopened two days before I was to head back to NYC. I had planned to hit it on the way to the airport but went back to Pizza Vendor instead.


Hat Yai. It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Portland Thai food. There are all sorts of interesting niches being filled despite the Thai population being practically nonexistent. The shtick is Southern Thai in a fast-casual format with cute branding. Fried chicken, lightly battered in seasoned rice flour encrusted with fried shallots and sweet chile sauce is featured and I tried a combo with a big buttery roti and chicken curry, not exactly a light lunch. I kind of love that there are six straight liquors for $6, soda an extra $1.50 (though I’m sure that’s considered overpriced since a majority of cocktails in Portland are still sub-$10) as I’ve been on a tequila and soda kick (so I can pretend I’m not a lame as a vodka soda-drinker). Sometimes I think I will move back to Portland and then I see middle-aged foodie dudes with goatees setting up elaborate photo shoots (was under the impression this was a blogger of some consequence) who pronounce prix fixe, pree fixay, and I’m all nope, I would just be too mean for this town.


Urdaneta. Stopped in for a snack because I was wandering around the area and recognized the name as something newish and ended up ruining my appetite for the $5 Little Bird happy hour double brie burger I had planned on later. Complimentary pimenton-spiked chickpeas and a sweetbread-topped pintxo would’ve suited my needs fine. The tortilla was substantial, gilded with Idiazabal and sherry aioli, and I couldn’t stop eating it.


Pine State Biscuits. I’ve been before. It was close to my Airbnb.


Giant Drive-In. There’s a shingled A-frame practically in the backyard of the apartment complex my mom and stepdude are now managing. No, it’s not a destination but I would recommend the big, fun (Hawaiian!) burgers and homemade shakes even if you lived a little more than walking distance.




Cedar Plank Buffet. We gathered 10 family members for a Sunday brunch buffet at Spirit Mountain Casino because nothing is too good for my mom’s 66th birthday. Fried oysters, smoked salmon, biscuits and gravy, lemon meringue pie, french toast, and bacon is just all a part of the deal.

Mountain View Sports Bar. Oh, and a late night sports reuben that I carted around from my mom’s to Scappoose because I’m gross and can’t toss food. I can’t remember if this was before or after the mushrooms and Keno (my sister is a hippie) but it was ok because we stayed overnight, no driving.


Coyote Joe’s. Weird that I would encounter biscuits three times in two days because biscuits aren’t particularly Northwesty.


San Dune Pub. An oyster po’ boy with local Willapa Bay oysters. See? New Orleans appropriation.


Little Big Burger. I completely forgot I ate this.


An Xuyen. Banh mi, only $1.49 more than the ’90s. Best sandwich under $3. The owner/cashier was so damn chatty I thought the line of customers behind me were about to kill us, yet when I looked up no one gave a shit.


Pho Van. Part of a mini Vietnamese empire. Solid pho. No, I did not make it to Rose VL Deli.


Shut Up and Eat. My grandma is into this food truck-turned-brick-and-mortar restaurant and I’m half-convinced it’s simply because of the name. The Italian sandwich contained a little more roughage than I’m accustomed to.


Ixtapa. The waiter was all, “I put habaneros in your food,” I guess to get a reaction, but I was all “ok…” That’s humor in Scappoose. The combos are crazy cheap and you won’t feel weird for ordering a chimichanga. That’s all you need to know.


Shari’s. The last two times I’ve been (2x in one year is more than I’d been in two decades) they did not have my first choice or second choice pie. YMMV. They always have tots, however.


Eaten, Barely Blogged: Fresh Seafood and Forgotten Chains of the Oregon Coast

local ocean trio

Because I enjoy generalizing and like seeing the world through my own experiences, I have no problem stating that Oregonians don’t really eat seafood. Not natives anyway. And Dungeness crab aside, local bounties don’t get their due either. You’ve probably had Washington oysters, maybe northern Californian (even in Seattle, some Humboldt Bay bivalves float their way onto menus) but do you even hear about Oregon oysters? I don’t. I don’t even know why.

mo's clam chowder

Regional chain Mo’s and its famous thick, buttery clam chowder is probably the only coastal restaurant with name recognition. And this treatment from the Sterns in Saveur a few years ago is the only food-focused article on the area that I can recall seeing in recent history. It’s strange how so much coastal food is overpriced and geriatric and ‘90s continental crusted in hazelnuts. I just wanted to eat fresh fish, which is how I ended up coercing my mom and stepdude 75 miles from where I was staying in Nehalem, and my sister and her husband (even after a decade, brother-in-law sounds weird) 120 miles from their base in Eugene to Local Ocean Seafoods in Lincoln City for a belated Christmas dinner. (Yep, it’s now April–I’m determined to rein 2016 back in.)

Read more

North Oregon Coast Dining

The Oregon Coast, known to cynics (ok, myself and a few friends) as “suicide city,” isn’t the most uplifting region of the country. It’s chilly, damp, rugged, sunless, and there really aren’t any jobs to speak of. My mom and her husband moved to Nehalem a little over a year ago and have already thrown in the towel. Well, they’re keeping their mobile home for weekend excursions and future early retirement, but it’s back to the Portland area for now.

Manzanita inn captain's bed I was only in the area briefly, yet happened to be there (at the lovely Manzanita Inn, wood-paneled late ‘70s chic complete with Jacuzzi and captain’s bed built into a wall nook) on a freak of nature 80-degree September day. Totally unheard of. I even got a sunburn, which isn’t saying much since I also managed to turn red and peel during an outdoor wedding in Wales.

Unlike, say, the Chesapeake Bay, Nantucket, or other recognizable Atlantic Ocean destinations, the Oregon Coast isn’t particularly known for its edibles. People don’t even eat seafood in the state. Seriously, I never ate fresh fish, crustaceans or mollusks growing up. Gorton’s all the way. I even stumbled upon a message board discussion about why Portland lacks the fine dining seafood restaurants of Seattle, San Francisco, Vancouver or even landlocked Las Vegas—unadventurous, cheap denizens being the theory.

Nonetheless, here is a rundown of what I ate. As to what I drank, that’s a serious question. No matter how much I imbibed, I did not become drunk, just tired. They say that you become inebriated faster at high elevations like Denver. Would it stand to reason that at sea level you gain a tolerance for alcohol?

Wanda's eggs benedict

Wanda’s Café, a cute restaurant high on ‘50s kitsch and hefty portions, is popular with both locals and tourists. There is often a long wait, I’ve been told. We were seated no problem on a Friday morning, though. As I’ve said before, breakfasts rarely happen in my world and normally I get up too late on vacation to indulge in both breakfast And lunch. This 10am plate of eggs benedict was a concession all around. For me, that was early. For my mom and sister that was late. They’re dog people. Cats don’t need to be walked around outside at 7am, which is only one reason why they are a superior pet. This very second it’s Saturday and I didn’t wake up until 11:30am, proof that you only inherit so much from your family.
Bayfront bakery

As if hollandaise and ham topped eggs were not rich enough (I take full advantage of my normal food/alcohol/nicotine regulating while on vacation—hollandaise appeared before me twice in one week) I also picked up a few doughnuts at Bay Front Bakery in Garibaldi while hitting thrift/antique stores. Not because I was hungry for sweets but because I had been regaled with tales of amazing fritters fresh from the oven.

Bayfront bakery fritters

I picked up an apple and a cranberry, which happened to be the two-for-a-dollar special that day. They had just the right balance of soft pliable middles and crackly, fried, glazed edges. My pecan roll was a bit dried out. The fritters are where it’s at.

Just as I predicted, by 2pm I was not hungry for lunch. My sister and husband bowed out of the excursion for Dungeness crabs at the Fish Jetty and my mom and husband showed up but has no interest in eating the creatures. Sister is vegetarian and mom says she only eats her seafood breaded and fried. People!

Jetty fishery

With roots in the Baltimore/D.C. area, James is a crab fanatic. I, myself, have only ever had blue crabs and in his presence. Despite more than two decades on the West Coast, I never ate a single crab (ok, once in grade school a friend’s family brought me along to a crab festival in Astoria but I don’t recall actually eating any, just the plastic bibs, wooden mallets and the thought that maybe crab-eating was a black thing because none of the white people I knew ever ate them).

So, we were excited to try Dungeness. “This is the first time all week I’ve seen you two smile,” remarked my mom. We were totally alone in our crustacean fervor.

Jetty fishery bay

The Jetty Fishery is down a steep hill where Nehalem Bay forms an inlet. There, you can rent a boat and catch your own seafood or have whatever is on hand in tanks cooked for you. There are a few picnic tables, an outhouse, a convenience store where you can pick up soda or beer, but oddly no sinks or handiwipes in sight. Eating crab is messy. Bring your own handiwipes.
Jetty fishery seafood

I don’t think James realized the size difference between blue and Dungeness crabs because initially he was going on about getting half a dozen. That’s excessive. I can’t recall the exact prices per pound, possibly $8, but we ended up with three crabs and three oysters (I didn’t even think to ask what variety these monsters were) for about $48. We had everything steamed, took a number and waited about 20 minutes for our chosen items to arrive in a metal pan. Old Bay is not de rigueur in Oregon, but they do have big plastic shakers of seafood seasoning, very similar in flavor, if you ask.

Jetty fishery dungeness crab

I have not eaten enough crab in my life to make authoritative taste comparisons, but for sheer ease of eating, Dungeness is a million times more superior. Blue crab picking is fiddly, hard work and I leave still hungry, hands cut up and stinging. This is like eating real food, more like lobster, lots of payoff.

Jetty fishery oyster

The oysters were so meaty, it was practically like biting into a cutlet. I don’t know if these are typically eaten raw, it seemed assumed that we’d want them steamed. Smoked oysters are also a big coastal treat. I ate the first oyster immediately, and got a mouthful of warm briny liquid. I didn’t tackle another until much later and the cooled down meat had absorbed all its juice. Get them while they’re hot.

For dinner, my sister and I treated my mom for her birthday. Choosing a suitable venue proved challenging. Price wasn’t so much the issue, but finding someplace special occasion worthy that wasn’t stuffy. Not that anyone gets dressed up to dine in Oregon anyway. Polos and Dockers are as good as it gets.

Wine bars are not ubiquitous at the coast, and in Seaside, the Jersey Shore of Oregon, they are particularly unusual. Casual, fun, non-crappy was what I wanted and that’s what I got with Yummy Wine Bar. Yeah, the name’s a bit eh, but you have to keep context in mind. This isn’t a major city where small plates and wine flights are on every corner.

Yummy wine bar cheese plate

We chose the meat plate, cheese plate and hors d’oeuvre platter to share and start. Split amongst six, and two non-meat-eaters, the cheese was gone in an instant. In addition to crackers, we were also brought warm slices of focaccia with honey butter.
Yummy wine bar starters

The spoons contained a black bean puree topped with smoked trout. I picked a Loosen Bros. Riesling and a La Rioja Alta Rioja for the table. Simple but good.

Yummy wine bar greek shrimp

My attempt to eat three substantial meals was just about thwarted by these tiger prawns. I chose something with lots of fresh produce—and the dish enlivened by capers, lemon juice and basil was light—but I could barely get through it. And dessert was an impossibility.

I was looking forward to a few after dinner drinks at the only bar in Manzanita, unfortunately, the San Dune Pub had a $5 charge to listen to cover band versions of “Superstitious” and rowdy frat guys were crowding the entrance. Instead, I drank a few bottled microwbrews in my sister’s motel, which was also party central with youngsters drinking and running around outside all night (apparently, James and I had booked the classy, pricey adult no, not “adult” hotel in town) and tried to avoid all of the 9/11 coverage on TV.

Oregon slug On the two-block-walk back to our hotel I spied one of my Northwest enemies, the slug. Ack, I’d marveled all week about how the unusually warm weather must be keeping these normally rampant slimy guys at bay. There he was on my final night, quintessential Oregon.

Wanda’s Café * 12870 H St., Nehalem, OR
Bay Front Bakery * 302 Garibaldi Ave., Garibaldi, OR
Jetty Fishery * 27550 Hwy. 101, Rockaway Beach, OR
Yummy Wine Bar * 831 Broadway, Seaside, OR