IMAGE: Ian Johnson
VANCOUVER: For a good dinner just across the river, grab a New York-style pie at 360 Pizzeria (3425 SE 192nd Ave., 360-260-3605) or Higgins-esque Northwest cuisine at Roots (19215 SE 34th St., Suite 110, 360-260-3001, rootsrestaurantandbar.com). The side-by-side restaurants are owned by Brad Root, a prolific restaurateur and chef with a knack for the whole farm-to-table thing. For international fare, try the shrimp aguachile or ceviche tostada at Morelia Mexican Grill (5930 E Fourth Plain Blvd., 360-213-1004).
HOOD RIVER: The only restaurant worth splurging on is Celilo (16 Oak St., 541-386-5710, celilorestaurant.com), where chef Ben Stenn makes the pasta in-house, and a pretty great veggie burger at lunch. For smaller budgets, try the nigiri at Kaze Sushi (212 4th St., 541-387-0434) or the excellent coal-oven pizza and fresh brews at the Double Mountain Brewery & Taproom (8 4th St., 541-387-0042, doublemountainbrewery.com). Down I-84 in The Dalles, Baldwin Saloon (205 Court St., 541-296-5666, baldwinsaloon.com) offers some pretty good burgers in a 134-year-old downtown edifice.
MID-WILLAMETTE VALLEY: Salem has never been a great food town, but Word of Mouth Neighborhood Bistro (140 17th St. NE, 930-4285, wordofsalem.com) makes a good, hearty breakfast and lunch. La Capitale (508 State St., 585-1975) is, according to WW’s Richard Meeker, the closest you’ll come to a Portland-style restaurant or French bistro in the state capital (he recommends the smoked trout salad and onion soup). Albany has a growing restaurant scene, thanks mostly to prolific chef Matt Bennett. The best of his four restaurants is Sybaris (422 1st Ave. W, 541-928-8157, sybarisbistro.com), where Bennett prepares really excellent Northwest standards with no fussiness whatsoever. Corvallis also has a growing number of good restaurants, lead by Frenchy Le Bistro (150 SW Madison Ave., 541-754-6680, lebistrocorvallis.com). The latest addition is Luc (134 SW 4th St., 541-753-4171, i-love-luc.com), a supper club-turned-restaurant in the Portland mode.
WINE COUNTRY: McMinnville chef Eric Bechard has brawled in defense of local meat, an ethos reflected at his very good restaurant, Thistle (228 NE Evans St., 472-9623). If you prefer a less bellicose dinner, Nick’s Italian Cafe (521 NE 3rd St., 434-4471, nicksitaliancafe.com) has specialized in comfort and fresh pasta since 1977. In Dundee, Farm to Fork (1410 N Highway 99W, 538-7970, innatredhills.com) is a self-descriptive place known for fresh, simple flavors. Long-lived local standby Tina’s (760 Highway 99W, 503-538-8880, tinasdundee.com) is still very good.
ASTORIA: The former commercial capital of the Northwest is showing signs of emerging from a long culinary slump. Drina Daisy (915 Commercial St., 338-2912, drinadaisy.com) serves authentic Bosnian fare heavy on phyllo and lamb. The Bowpicker (17th and Duane streets, 791-2942, bowpicker.com), a retired fishing boat refitted with a deep-fryer, has the coast’s best tuna fish and chips. Fort George Brewery (1483 Duane St., 325-7468) makes some excellent beer—try the stout—and housemade sausages. Astoria Coffeehouse & Bistro (243 11th St., 325-1787, astoriacoffeehouse.com) is the place to go for salads and comfort food—and Stumptown coffee. Blue Scorcher Bakery & Cafe (1493 Duane St., 338-7473, bluescorcher.com) serves a good, vegan-friendly breakfast, and the barbecue at Rollin’ Thunder (77 11th St., Suite C, 325-5936) should satisfy die-hard carnivores.
THE COAST: The northern stretch of 101 is hard on foodies, but Seaside’s Bell Buoy (1800 S Roosevelt Drive, 738-2722) can always be counted on for smoked and fried critters from the deep. In Manzanita, Vino (387-D Laneda Ave., 368-8466) has good wine, decent small plates and live music, but the best meal around is a steamed crab and a bottle of viognier on the deck at Great Northern Garlic Company (Laneda Avenue and U.S. 101), a very Portlandy specialty-food and wine shop that opened in 2009. Fifteen minutes south is the fine-dining star of the north coast, the somewhat expensive but very good Nehalem River Inn (34910 Oregon 53, 368-7708, nehalemriverinn.com). A great lunch stop in Bay City is the Pacific Oyster Company (5150 Oyster Drive, 377-2323), where the signature dish is heralded by roadside middens of shells. Don’t order anything but oysters or clams. Blackfish Cafe (2733 NW U.S. 101, 541-996-1007, blackfishcafe.com) has the best dinner anywhere near Lincoln City, with classic fish and pasta that rivals many of Portland’s finest. One-year-old Restaurant Beck (2345 S U.S. 101, 541-765-3220, restaurantbeck.com) has brought justifiably spendy contemporary cuisine—“scallops, sugar-snap pea purée, crispy lamb cheeks, cucumber, toasted fennel-seed vinaigrette”—to Depoe Bay. Newport’s dining scene is slowly improving, and you can’t go wrong with the fishy fare at Local Ocean Seafoods (213 SE Bay Blvd., 541-574-7959, localocean.net) or Frenchy breakfast at La Maison (315 SW 9th St., 541-265-8812, lamaisoncafe.com). Florence has a surprising number of good eateries; our favorites are the cheap, Spanish-inspired Waterfront Depot (1252 Bay St., 541-902-9100, thewaterfrontdepot.com) and equally cheap, vertically plated comfort food at Feast (294 Laurel St., 541-997-3284, eatafeast.com). We haven’t made it to the south coast recently, but we hear from reliable sources that Wild Rose Bistro (130 Chicago Ave. SE, 541-347-4428) in Bandon is pretty good.
BEND/SISTERS: ’Round central way, Jen’s Garden (403 E Hood Ave., 541-549-2699, intimatecottagecuisine.com) has been making waves in Sisters with exquisitely plated, French-influenced fare. Bend’s dining scene is recovering from a brutal 2009; check out the homey seasonal fare at Jackson’s Corner (845 NW Delaware Ave., 541-647-2198), the prix fixe Florentine dinners at Trattoria Sbandati (1444 NW College Way, 541-306-6825), the top-notch steaks at The Blacksmith (211 NW Greenwood Ave., 541-318-0588, bendblacksmith.com) or the nouveau Middle Eastern nosh at Joolz (916 NW Wall St., 541-388-5094).
SOUTHERN OREGON: Grants Pass is home to one of Oregon’s pioneers in farm-to-table dining, Summer Jo’s (2315 Upper River Road Loop, 541-476-6882, summerjo.com), which is actually on an organic farm. In Medford you can’t do better than the old-school Italian-American at Pomodori Ristorante (1789 Stewart Ave., 541-776-6332). There’s more choice in Ashland. The recently revamped Chateaulin (50 E Main St., 541-482-2264, chateulin.com) does updated takes on dated French fare, Liquid Assets (96 N Main St., 541-482-9463, liquidassetswinebar.com) is the best place to explore the Rogue Valley’s growing wine bounty, and Taj Indian Cuisine (31 Water St., 541-488-5900, taj-indiancuisine.com) is a refreshing antidote to the whole wheat and alfalfa sprouts that dominate the city’s affordable restaurants. If you pass through Central Point, don’t miss the artisan foods retailers that have sprung up around Rogue Creamery (311 N Front St., roguecreamery.com). Lillie Belle Farms’ chocolates (211 N Front St., 541-664-2815, lilliebellefarms.com) are amazing!
EUGENE: Molly Templeton of Eugene Weekly recommends the newpaper’s last restaurant of the year, Belly (291 E 5th Ave., 541-683-5896, eatbelly.com), a moderately priced rustic European place from chef Brendan Mahaney., the longstanding French-centric Marché (296 E 5th Ave., 541-342-3612) and the brand-new, earnestly traditional Osteria Sfizio (105 Oakway Center, 541-302-3000). In Springfield, we like Aiyara Thai Cafe (1010-1012 Harlow Road, aiyarathaicafe.com), a restaurant in the vein of Portland’s Red Onion.