Follow the old men, and you'll find it. Starting at 11 am, across Marine Drive from Astoria's Columbia River Maritime Museum, you'll see them waiting in a single-file line stretching down the steps and into the gravel. What they want is the same thing they had last time, the same thing they have every damn time, the only thing on the menu: The most famous fish and chips in Astoria.
They are served in three-piece half orders and five-piece full orders out of a 28-foot-long, 1932-christened, converted gillnet boat called Bowpicker Fish & Chips, which for 15 years has been dishing out fish instead of hauling it in, from a parking-lot dry dock. In an old cannery town on the Oregon Coast, this is what passes for a food cart. (Across the street, the gas station has a falafel cart of the more traditional sort, but the line's at Bowpicker.)
But don't ask for halibut or cod or something. Astoria has no use for halibut. The breaded fish at Bowpicker is 100 percent Pacific Coast albacore tuna, the steak of the sea, caught by local fishermen and fried lightly in a golden batter. And for a mere $10, you get five chunks of breaded albacore that add up to something like a half-pound. It is tender, and it is moist, and you do not need the lemon wedge. Heck, you barely need the tartar sauce—although you'll use it. And you probably won't finish the steak fries, which aren't that great anyway.
But damn: that tuna. There are no fine seafood restaurants in Astoria—none survive the tourist-free winter, said the man serving salmon chowder one morning. There is just this one amazing chip shack. And I submit: It's good enough for you, for me.
EAT: Bowpicker Fish & Chips, 1634 Duane St., Astoria, 791-2942, bowpicker.com. 11 am-6 pm Wednesday-Sunday.