Thursday, January 14, 2016

Oregon Coast Seafood

In January 2016 we visited Oregon and spent a significant amount of our time near water. We hit the Pacific Coast at Florence, west of Eugene, then followed the coast north all the way to the Columbia River Gorge at Fort Stevens State Park, west of Astoria. Then we followed the Columbia River most of the way from there to The Dalles. We stayed on the Oregon side of the Columbia until crossing over on a bridge to Longview, Washington. Then traveled south through Washington to Vancouver, then east to Cascade Locks where we crossed a bridge back over the Columbia into Oregon to The Dalles. Then we followed the Columbia again, this time going west on the Oregon side to Portland, viewing the waterfalls along the way. 

When I'm near water I think fish and seafood. So this post shares some of the beautiful sights we saw and some of the fish and seafood we ate along the way.  
Our route is highlighted in red.  
We spent our first night in Newport, west of Corvallis, just off Nye Beach. This is the view from near our hotel the next morning. Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural area is to the back and a light house is visible at the far left end. 
The first night we ate at The Deep End Cafe near our hotel in Nye Beach. We ate there at the recommendation of our hotel host and it was just a short walk.  Deep End is rated no. 11 out of 101 restaurants in Newport on Trip Advisor and gets four stars on Yelp. We learned that the crab boats had just been out about three days seeking dungeness crab after a ban was lifted and we could see the lights on the boats off the coast in the dark. So I was disappointed that Deep End did not have any fresh dungeness crab and had to look at other options.   

First we ordered three raw oyster shooters with cocktail sauce and lemon. The oysters were large and plump and were shipped in from Washington. They were good, but the cocktail sauce needed more horseradish. So I ordered one more shooter and asked for extra horseradish. I piled it on and got a good nose clearing from it. 
Clam chowder was screaming out to me, so I ordered a cup, the first of a number of clam chowders on the trip. It was decent - nice and thick, but lacking in clam. What clam there was seemed to have been blended into it, instead of in chunks. However, it was cold outside and the nice warm chowder warmed my insides and was worth every spoon full.  
Judy ordered the Oregon Pink Shrimp Florentine with local fresh pink shrimp, mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, garlic and shallots in a white cream sauce on linguini pasta and parmesan cheese. It also came with some nice toasted bread. I'm not a real pasta person, but it was pretty good. It was our first of several times eating fresh-caught Oregon pink shrimp, the best pink shrimp I've ever tasted.  
I'd just been reading Eat My Globe by Simon Majumdar where he mentions eating his first po'boy sandwich in New Orleans. He described it as "a long roll, dressed with lettuce and tomato and then filled with deep-fried chunks of cheap local fish and seafood like catfish, shrimp, and oysters." It was created in New Orleans for poor boys, "a cheap, filling meal for those down on their luck." Simon described it as "one of the great sandwiches" and described biting down on the soft roll and the nice "crunch of the fish and seafood". I'd never eaten a po'boy (also written po or poh boy), so when I saw Pacific Oyster Po Boy on the menu, with panko breaded and crispy fried oysters on a Hoagie roll with lettuce, tomatoes and tartar sauce, I had to have it. Simon's description was still fresh on my mind. 
It was a great sandwich. The roll was very soft and the oysters had a crunchy outside, but were moist and sweet inside, unlike some cooked oysters I've eaten in the past. There was enough tartar sauce to meld all of the ingredients together and it was filling. I liked it very much and got another poh boy later in Portland, filled with fried catfish, but that will be a later post. 
We were full, but I talked Judy into sharing a Northwest Marion Berry Cobbler. We found that marion berries are popular in Oregon and found in lots of dishes. These were combined with an oat and hazelnut streusel and served warm with Tillamook vanilla bean ice cream. We were to visit the Tillamook factory the next day and this was a nice preview and a very nice dessert. All in all, a good meal, perfect for our first night near the water. 
The next morning we drove south to the peninsula overlooking Yaquina Bay, near the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse. The huge span of the Yaquina Bay bridge crosses the water impressively. We could hear the loud yelping of sea lions at some distance from inside the bay. I'd read that the sea lions congregate near the pier, so we drove in to investigate. We parked the car and walked along Bay Boulevard where lots of commercial fishing boats bring in their catch. Fish Peddler's Market had fresh caught dungeness crab in a display case. Seeing the crab boats the night before whetted my appetite for crab, so I ordered a quarter pound of the expensive delicacy ($38 a pound) with a little cocktail sauce on the side. It was fantastic. In fact it went so fast I didn't get a photo. We walked along further and finally found where all the sea lion noise was coming from. Literally hundreds of sea lions were on breakers and jetties in the same vicinity raising a cacophony unlike anything I've ever heard. They were a blast to watch. 
These were just a few of hundreds of sea lions all seemingly adding their voices to the Newport sea lion choir.
Another view of some other sea lions on a rock jetty with a boat coming in to harbor and the beautiful Yaguina Bay Bridge in the background.  
This kind of atmosphere does nothing but raise my appetite for seafood. So when I saw Mo's signs advertising "world famous clam chowder", yeah right, I had to try it. Mo's is rated no. 24 out of 101 restaurants in Newport on Trip Advisor and gets three stars on Yelp. We ordered a cup to go and ate it in the car. It was better than the clam chowder at the Deep End. It was not quite as thick, but it had lots of butter and much more clam. It was not on the level of Splash Cafe, in Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo, which I measure all clam chowder by, but it was tasty and worth the calories. 
Mo's had three different store-fronts along Bay Boulevard. Two are visible here and there was another on the other side of the street. 
Note the butter floating on top and pieces of clam are visible. 
From there we drove out to Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural area, a peninsula jutting into the Pacific north of Nye Beach. A light house was near the far end and we took some stairs down to a wonderful rocky beach. The rocks on the beach are smooth and rounded and make a wonderful, soothing shifting sound as the waves wash back out and the rocks collide against each other. 
The rocky beach below the lighthouse. 
A seagull on a rock as a wave splashes in the background. 
From Newport we drove north to Lincoln City where I made an abrupt turn into the parking lot of Barnacle Bill's Seafood Market.  The siren song of shrimp, crab and smoked salmon beckoned me in to their clutches and it was close enough to lunchtime to justify a stop. Barnacle Bill's is rated no. 14 of 94 places to eat in Lincoln City and it gets 4.5 stars on Yelp. It had no place to sit, but that is what cars are for. We bought a variety of delectable delights and tied in to them immediately and saved a little for later snacking on our trip.
The $4.99 per pound is for the live dungeness crab. The pure dungeness crab meat was still $38.00 per pound, as it had been in Newport. 
We ordered another quarter pound of dungeness crab as we had in Newport. This picture was taken after some of it had already been consumed. At least this time I managed a photo. It was good, but not as good as the crab in Newport which was sitting in its own salty, liquidy crab juices. 
The real winner was this boiled large shrimp advertised as "spicy." Our quarter pound order gave us five shrimp. It did have a wonderful spicy taste infused in each bite. I would love to learn how they cook it. It was exceptional. 
These Oregon pink shrimp are only about $7.00 per pound and are fantastic. Extremely fresh, plump with a very pleasing mouth-feel. 
Smoked salmon dip. It was very salmony. We later bought some crackers and thick bread and I wolfed this stuff down. 
Smoked salmon. Very orangish/pink. Advertised as "Oregon's best smoked salmon." It was relatively moist and had a nice smoky taste, but I prefer it fattier and moister. It was just okay smoked salmon for me.
This salmon jerky was substantially drier and was less than okay for me. We let most of it go uneaten. 
We stopped in Tillamook at Bear Creek Artichokes for some artichoke dips (smoked and regular) as well as crackers. Then we stopped at Tillamook Cheese Factory toward evening for some ice cream and cheese samples and at Blue Heron French Cheese Company for some nice brie cheese samples. But those are off-topic. We spent the night at a hotel in Seaside, just north of Cannon Beach. The next morning we drove back to Cannon Beach where we walked about three-quarters of a mile out near the famous haystack and drove into Ecola  State Park just north of there. 
The famous haystack on Cannon Beach. This picture does not reveal the beautiful sandy beach between the grass and the haystack. 
Waves with white caps and Ecola State Park which is on the peninsula in the background. Photo taken from Cannon Beach.
The ocean through the trees in Ecola State Park.
For lunch we decided to stop in Gearhart, just north of Seaside, at what was described to us as the only cafe there. It was recommended to us by the proprietor of our hotel in Newport. Pacific Way Cafe and Bakery is rated no. 1 out of 8 restaurants in Gearhart and gets four stars on Yelp. We arrived a few minute before the 11:00 a.m. opening time and spent a few minutes in a small grocery store across the street. When we got in I could see why the eccentric owner of the Newport Hotel had recommended it. It was chock full of antiques and oddities. It felt like a high-end antique store that happened to serve food.
Pacific Way Cafe is is about a half-mile off Hwy 101, the main thoroughfare along the Oregon coast. 
The room we were seated in.
Delicious bread baked on the premises. The cheese bread in the middle was particularly outstanding. We ordered a loaf of it to take in the car. The bread was the best part of our lunch.
I ordered a bowl of clam chowder. It had a real crunchy ingredient that I found annoying, probably celery. It was quite full of potatoes that were in fairly large pieces that I also did not like. It did have quite a bit of clam and in fairly large pieces. I found the chowder a little off-putting, the taste was just not clam chowder to me. I would not order it again.   
Judy ordered a soup with lentils and vegetables. It was good.
Judy ordered a crab cake on a Caesar salad. It had romaine lettuce and homemade Caesar dressing and grated Parmesan and Pecorino cheeses. The crab cake was made from fresh crab and was quite good. Judy did not particularly like the dressing. 
I ordered the Seafood "Louie" with bay shrimp. The dressing was a "traditional dressing of onions, green peppers, chili sauce, mayonnaise, & lemon juice." I was not fond of the dressing and found that it detracted from the rest of the salad. It also had a hard boiled egg, black olives, tomatoes and Oregon bay shrimp. Other than the shrimp, nothing about the salad really clicked with me. Probably my most disappointing meal in Oregon. 
From Gearhart we drove north to Fort Stevens State Park and braved the biting wind and some rain to view the mighty Columbia River drain into the Pacific Ocean. The pictures of this spot are not spectacular, but something about the raw power of that mighty river entering the ocean really resonated with me. I found it awe-inspiring. The wind was whipping the water into white caps, both on the ocean and on the Columbia. 
I love this image of a woman sitting on the beach with the mist in the background smearing the image of several layers of mountains and the choppy seas coming to shore. This area was very near where the Columbia entered into the Pacific.
Waves crash against the south jetty at the mouth of the Columbia. Awesome, awesome power and wind-driven, wet cold. 
The mouth of the Columbia. The forested raised level in the background is in Washington State. 
I've got to admit that for beauty, the Columbia River Gorge does not hold a candle to the Oregon Pacific coast. The Gorge is beautiful, but by comparison is lacking. However, it has a majesty and power of its own and is distinctive and beautiful in its own right. The strong winds often created white caps on the Columbia which gave it some character. Large boats, islands, bridges, and other features added interest and variety. 
The Columbia River Gorge, the Oregon side looking over to the Washington side. Note the white caps.
The Columbia River Gorge.
For me, rivers do not inspire the same seafood passions as the oceans. The ocean is full of crabs, lobsters,shrimp, oysters, mussels, clams and myriads of fish species. The varieties of edible species in rivers is much more limited. So as we found a restaurant in The Dalles, Cousin's, rated no. 3 of 64 restaurants in The Dalles on Trip Advisor and with a 3.5 star rating on Yelp, I found my desires shifting to fish. So I ordered cod & chips and asked for onion rings instead of the chips, and ended up getting both. I also had to have some clam chowder. Judy ordered a bowl of a split pea soup (and was originally brought a cup, then a bowl once they discovered their mistake).
Battered and fried cod was cooked very nicely - crisp outside and juicy inside. The french fries (chips) were pretty good as well.  
The onion rings were still very moist inside. The batter was good, just bordering on too much. 
The clam chowder was nice and thick with a pleasing consistency. 
Judy really liked the split pea soup. Nice chunks of ham and quite thick.
From The Dalles back to Portland we admired the many waterfalls on the Oregon side, completing our long journey along much of the water border of Oregon. That journey was greatly enhanced by the food offerings derived from the ocean.
A portion of Multnomah Falls - part of the 542 foot upper falls and part of the 69 foot lower falls, bisected in the middle by a viewing bridge. 
176 foot Horsetail Falls. 


  1. I think our best find were the little shrimp, served cold with a bit of cocktail sauce on the side. Wow, those were good. The oceanside atmosphere also made everything taste just a little better than it would in another setting.

  2. I love the food in Oregon. The scenery is pretty incredible, too.