Coastal eats ain't just Pig 'N' Pancake anymore.
It took some time, but the Oregon Coast is finally seeing an influx of the sort of ambitious restaurants found in Portland and Willamette Valley wine country. Here are our favorites, moving from north to south and from breakfast to dinner.
Blue Scorcher Bakery & Cafe
In my imagination, the townies call this organic bakery the "Boug Scorcher." They probably don't, but this is the only place in town with pink shaker salt, a massive children's corner and neat rows of carefully rolled, washed-gray woven napkins instead of paper. The baked goods are inconsistent for the price—great scone, meh muffin—but tall windows give the room great light, and you know the hot sauce you're putting on that big breakfast burrito is organic and GMO-free. MARTIN CIZMAR.
Astoria Coffeehouse & Bistro
Best coffee in Astoria? Everyone I asked pointed here. The Caffe Vita drinks hold up, but one step inside the two-room eatery and you'll forget why you came. A case of flaky pastries oozing cream fillings and cakes scintillating with sugar greet you in the coffeehouse room, where the mirrored bar and modernist black leather couches evoke Seattle's hippest cafes. It's made homey by whiffs of lamb kebob, cioppino or pork mole wafting from the tiny, adjacent bistro room. If only it were possible to eat the layered huevos rancheros, copa cabana—a Northwest Cubano with balsamic mustard—and the coffee-rubbed steak with pepper bacon pierogi all in one day. ENID SPITZ.
1114 Marine Drive, Astoria, 503-325-2233. 8 am-2 pm Monday-Friday, 9 am-2 pm Saturday-Sunday, 6-10 pm Friday, 5-10 pm Saturday. Cash or check only.
This divey diner on the main drag in Astoria serves a classic breakfast with a Cajun twist. There are just three booths and a short lunch counter, so be ready to wait on a weekend morning. Breakfast starts with excellent toast made from bread baked in-house accompanied by three pepper jellies and a salsa. We recommend begging the Chef's Mercy ($14 vegetarian; $18 meat, seafood or chef's choice), and letting the guy behind the counter decide your fate. As the menu notes: "If you have control issues, do not order this." If you just can't let go, check out the specials board, recently featuring a ling cod scramble with sea beans ($13) and a vegetarian breakfast crepe with beet pesto ($12). MADELINE LUCE.
Bread and Ocean Bakery
You'll want to arrive early at this small bakery and deli, lest you miss out on the famous cardamom cinnamon rolls, which go well with a cup of coffee made with beans from Sleepy Monk Coffee Roasters in nearby Cannon Beach. If you're hoping to stay out on the beach at lunch time, the deli case always has a nice variety of salads, including a staple sage chicken with wild rice, celery and cranberries ($6.95). Bread and Ocean offers all the normal deli fare—soups, paninis, sandwiches and quiche, as well as a tasty empanada served with a side of plain yogurt and meat-stuffed polenta. It has recently taken over the space next door, and hope to offer a full bar as well as dinner later this summer. MADELINE LUCE.
The best breakfast spot on the coast? You could argue, but your only case would be that Otis is too far inland to count. East of Lincoln City, there's a crossroads with a post office and a teeny-tiny cafe with the same name as the town, Otis. It's no secret—The New York Times dubbed its hash browns with white cheddar "legendary" back in 1989—and it lives up to the hype. Toast made from the house-baked bread is a main attraction. The hulking slabs of extra-moist black molasses and sourdough are a meal onto themselves. But it also makes a killer sausage gravy and oyster omelets. MARTIN CIZMAR.
411 NW Coast St., Newport, 541-265-8082. 7:30 am-3 pm daily.
Cafe Stephanie is going to screw up your schedule. Don't get me wrong: The chipper service is plenty fast. But after you've consumed a saucer-sized cinnamon roll sopped in sugary sauce or a big pile of corned beef hash, you're probably going to need to push back your lunch plans. This sunny nook near the entrance to Nye Beach offers free scones and decent espresso drinks, along with huge portions of well-made cafe fare, like quiche and marionberry crepes. Go, eat, enjoy—then walk all the way up to Yaquina Head and back before your next meal. MARTIN CIZMAR.
Homegrown Pub is versatile. It's a homey pub, it's a restaurant serving up grub made with local ingredients, and in a pinch, it's a sports bar. Your Sunday brunch might include being serenaded by guy on a guitar playing smooth jazz versions of '60s staples. Get the bacon and cheese curd scramble ($10), which makes great use of local squeaky cheese. It's got a good selection of Oregon beer, as well as kombucha and housemade soda on tap. The soda syrup is local—on our visit, the options included aronia berry, the little-seen chokeberry best described as a cross between a huckleberry and blueberry. LIZZY ACKER.
Serious Pizza Plus
Food carts frequently grow into full-service restaurants. But ever hear of a camp-store-food-kiosk doing the same? Well, Serious Pizza Plus is currently building out a full restaurant in downtown Ilwaco—not bad for a spot that started with an oven next to the firewood stacks at the camp trading post at Cape Disappointment State Park. Stop in, and you'll get it. This is, as the name says, serious pizza—Neapolitan-style pies made with pricey double-zero flour baked in a wood oven. You can go traditional, but I highly recommend the Waikiki, named for the neighboring beach, which has buffalo sauce, chicken and both mozzarella and blue cheese. Beers are in the cooler, and if you're camping at the park, Serious will deliver right to your site. MARTIN CIZMAR.
Bowpicker Fish & Chips
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. Fresh-caught albacore out of a 28-foot-long, 1932-christened, converted gill-net boat. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Bell Buoy has been a seafood stand of choice for well over a half-century. As the big, blue neon sign atop the low-slung building emphasizes by word and picture, the main reason to stop in is to pick up your fill of sweet, meaty, local Dungeness crab. East Coast and even Alaskan species pale in comparison. Pre-plucked Dungeness meat is always available and, for those feeling flush, one can purchase just the luscious legs (price on a May visit: $45 per pound). But for a traditional Oregon family feed, the only authentic option is to buy your crabs whole, which is to say boiled, cleaned (if you prefer), cracked, wrapped and packed in ice for transport. Cover the table with newspaper and commence to frenzied feasting. Bell Buoy will also sell you magnificently fresh Oregon razor clams in season and beautiful chunks and strips of smoked fish which they prepare right on site. MICHAEL C. ZUSMAN.
Ecola Seafoods Restaurant & Market
208 N Spruce St., Cannon Beach, 503-436-9130, ecolaseafoods.com. 10 am-9 pm daily in summer.
Jay Beckman opened this fish market and restaurant almost 25 years ago, and still supplies the shop with fresh salmon and halibut caught on his two fishing boats. Skip the fried, and pick up something fresh from the left deli case to cook yourself, or go to the right and choose from an assortment of seafood samplers. The crab and shrimp boat ($12.99) has fresh Dungeness crab meat and tiny pink bay shrimp, with a horseradishy cocktail sauce for dipping. If you're looking for something more filling, there's a hearty, clam-heavy chowder. The salmon jerky is a salty treat for a hike or car ride—grab a piece on your way out. MADELINE LUCE.
Buttercup, hidden away in a duplex shared with an antique store in tiny Nehalem, is a chowder and housemade ice cream shop that makes splendid and unlikely versions of both. While waiting for your wonderful clam or Thai or curry seafood chowder to warm, sample beet-orange sorbet (served on a poppy cone) or chocolate caramelized banana ice cream (served on a brown butter cone). Then get the marshmallow ice cream on a chocolate-dipped graham cracker cone—it's amazing. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Kelly's Brighton Marina
Kelly's is like a U-pick berry farm, but for crabs, oysters and clams. For $85 you can get a small motorboat, three crab pots and some bait to catch your own meal on the beautiful Nehalem River. (A shellfish license is required and can be purchased onsite.) If you're feeling lazy, just step up to the outdoor counter and cooking, shucking and cleaning area and place your order. You'll get a mini whiteboard with your order dry-erase on it. Grab some beers from the surprisingly large selection and pay your tab. In 20 minutes, your food will be delivered in a hotel pan, with plastic forks and a randomly chosen hot sauce. Forgo the cocktail sauce and butter, and don't even think of asking for a mignonette. MADELINE LUCE.
Gracie's Sea Hag
The 53-year-old Sea Hag is still home to some of the best chowder on the entire Oregon Coast. A lovely swirl of butter and pepper seasons that thick, clam-heavy broth into a spiced heaven so wonderful it's been profiled by The New York Times. There's also an '80s-style salad bar in the back and perilously deep booths with glass-panel tops. But dear Lord, that chowder. It makes industrial Mo's or even the neighboring Chowder Bowl taste like 2 percent milk by comparison. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Related: Top 10 Chowders of the Oregon Coast
Local Ocean Seafoods
213 SE Bay Blvd., Newport, 541-574-7959, localocean.net. 11 am-8 pm Sunday-Thursday, 11 am-8:30 pm Friday and Saturday through May; 11 am-9 pm Sunday-Thursday, 11 am-9:30 pm Friday and Saturday from June to October.
For my money, Local Ocean is absolutely the finest seafood restaurant in Oregon. Situated across from the docks in Newport's Bayfront neighborhood, this two-story fishhouse buys fresh local protein, then dresses it up into worldly plates with yakisoba noodles, avocado salsa and Israeli couscous. Well-spiced fish soups and stews are popular, especially in colder months, but I'm a huge fan of the tuna mignon, a thick steak of albacore wrapped in bacon and grilled until it has a beautiful sear and a perfect pink center. You can go for dinner, but the crowds are far lighter at lunch. It ain't specially chichi—there's a fish counter—but reservations are accepted and recommended. MARTIN CIZMAR.
DINNER AND DRINKS
See our feature on Albatross owner Eric Bechard's move to Astoria here.
Drina Daisy Bosnian Restaurant
It says something about the state of coastal cuisine that Drina Daisy dedicates a full paragraph on its menu to explaining its fare is not "ethnic food." It says something else that Drina Daisy might be the only Bosnian restaurant in the world that doesn't make ćevapi, the spiced sausage that is the country's national dish. It's like an American restaurant without a hamburger. What they do make at this slightly fussy Old World eatery is good, though. Especially the bosanski gulas, an ultra-rich beef stew with a nice kick of paprika, and the stuffed cabbage rolls. MARTIN CIZMAR.
San Dune Pub
Everything goes dark by 10 pm on Manzanita's four-block main street. That's closing time on the San Dune's sign—but behind its carved-wood door, the party continues. Multiple flat-screens play ball games, drowned out by the big-band crooning of a singer who looks like Elvis and the incessant ka-ching of five video poker machines. Out back, the gargantuan patio twinkles with Christmas lights. Inside, it's warm with log cabin walls, a blazing fireplace and aging couples swing dancing under the disco ball. The drinks come strong and the fried fish comes fast, and they'll keep coming until the bartender decides it's last call. ENID SPITZ.
9 pm Sunday-Thursday, 11:30 am-10 pm Friday-Saturday.
Netarts Bay is ground zero for oysters in Oregon, but you won't find the heralded Nevør Shellfish Farm open on weekends or at dinner hours. Instead, go a few miles north of the farm to find the Schooner, an old-time seafood spot with a gruff attitude, a big patio and an oddly midcentury-modern roof. The old-school hardwood bar is home to the freshest Netarts Bay oysters you might ever eat—oysters that might have been in the ocean just a couple hours previously. There'll be multiple options, like grilled oysters and barbecue sauce they'll swear is famous. Don't be fooled. You want those sweet, floral oysters in only the liquor God gave them, while staring out at the bay they came from. The kitchen dishes and the cocktails were flawed on our visits, but the oysters are unimpeachable. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
If you've learned anything in your years of touristry, it's probably to avoid restaurants with views. Precious few places make food to match the beauty out their windows. Well, Tidal Raves is an exception. Overlooking the rocky coast that opens to Depoe Bay, this comfortable room is best described as an Italian steakhouse gone beachy. Wild shrimp are all over the menu, and the cioppino, the famous San Francisco-bred shellfish stew, impressed my wife. The cocktails, unfortunately, veer toward spring-break-level sweetness, but fresh Block 15 Sticky Hands is on tap. MARTIN CIZMAR.
This new Nye Beach Italian spot is the casual sister of Restaurant Beck, where chef Justin Wills does $90 prix-fixe meals for guests of the tony Whale Cove Inn. There's nothing too fancy here—housemade pasta, braised pork ribs, Neapolitan pizzas and fried calamari—but everything we've had was extraordinarily well-made. The foccacia, desserts and pastas are highly recommended, especially the ultra-rich Paglia e Fieno, two types of bucatini, tossed with prosciutto, meaty mushrooms and Parmesan. Skip the wine, and go for a cocktail—the three we tried were every bit as good as the ones you'll get at a high-end Portland bar. "Is there another place in town where we can find cocktails like this?" I asked my waitress. "No," was her reply. MARTIN CIZMAR.
The Sandbar & Grill
722 NW Beach Drive, Newport, 541-265-6032. 11 am-close Monday to Saturday, 10 am-close Sunday.
The Sandbar & Grill in Nye Beach is a sports bar and grill that caters to Newport locals—girls in full makeup on a night out and dudes in shirts that advertise how much they love hunting and fishing. But it's the kind of dive that makes you want to be a regular. The drinks are cheap and incredibly stiff, and for $19 you can get a bucket of clams. Pro tip: When you get a chance, order everything you think you want. There's only one or two people working the counter and the Sandbar is a super-happening place on a Saturday night. LIZZY ACKER.
Luna Sea Fish House
Starting in late April, Luna Sea Fish House Village Fishmonger on U.S. Highway 101 in the center of Yachats plays live music every weekend under a little tent in front of picnic tables while you eat fresh fish, brought in from the restaurant's boat, along with crunchy-then-soft garlic bread, thick fries and unlimited tartar sauce. The house special is a whole crab—they did the catching, you do the cracking. LIZZY ACKER.