I’ve written it before and I will again, we love road trips. And one of our very favorites is the road up to and on the Oregon Coast. We do have some favorite towns that are a must, for me, anyway, but we really made an effort to try some new restaurants. I thought I would share them with you.
For a change we took off Friday afternoon after I got off work, and headed for Petaluma, our entrance to Hwy 101. We have a favorite restaurant there, Giacomo’s, which serves great Italian food and has a nice wine list. We tucked ourselves in for the night in Petaluma, ready to head on up to Eureka.
I love to stop in Ferndale, just a bit off the highway. It’s an old Victorian town; you periodically hear about earthquakes in Ferndale, and there are tsunami warning signs everywhere. There are fun stores plus now there’s a pie shop! We had a classic slice of cherry pie right smack in the middle of the afternoon and it was fun to just sit down and share some pie. Not everyone knows I’ve always loved pie more than cake. Shhh.
In Eureka, there’s a seafood restaurant we have eaten at several times, and it’s good, but it’s that old style, soup, salad, main course and stuff yourself silly type of place. If that sounds good to you, go to the Sea Grill, on 316 E St. I wanted to try something new and found the Bless My Soul Café in the Dining Guide. It’s a Creole Café with great food and it’s clean and comfortable. I tried chicken and waffles for the first time ever – don’t know why it took me so long – and I have to say I liked it. The chicken breast meat was hot with a crispy, not greasy coating. Sweet Mama Janisse is the owner and she runs it with her daughter, who made me a delicious tropical cocktail made with fermented, not distilled vodka. Sweet Mama Janisse is a wonderful lady who knows how to work a room. She sat down and regaled us with stories about catering her style of cooking for the rich and famous in Los Angeles for many years. Please go and see her when you go to Eureka.
Just a bit north of Eureka is Trinidad, an extremely tiny but pretty place up on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific. Amazingly, we bypassed Katy’s Smokehouse (smoked salmon), but we tried The Trinidad Bay Eatery for breakfast, and we gave it both thumbs up. Typical breakfast fare, cooked well, accompanied by Hawaiian music. Yum.
After crossing the Oregon border, you soon reach Brookings, a sweet little town with two must do’s for me: stay at the Best Western in the harbor where every room faces the beach and eat at the Superfly Martini Bar and Grill. Superfly has their own vodka distillery and it’s good stuff. They make delicious seasonal martinis with real fruit – I had the watermelon martini and the raspberry. Oh my. Their food menu consists of small plates, nothing over $10 I think. Their wedge salad so far has no equal for me. Great blue cheese dressing with lots of chunks of blue, balsamic reduction drizzle, bacon, cherry tomatoes and I think walnuts.
We motored on to Florence, with pit stops I won’t bore you with. We found a nice place to stay, the River Inn right in Old Town so we were able to walk to dinner. After looking around we decided on Spice, global but also distinctly Asian. We had a few small plates and loved them. The bartender considers himself a scientist and explained that to me in some detail. I did have the chocolate martini, made with Crown Royal, not vodka and I must say it was delicious. On our way out of town we stopped at Nature’s Café on the main drag. They’re really a gluten, and I think, everything-free place. We ordered biscuits and gravy with an egg and sausage. The biscuits were gummy and awful but the gravy was good, the egg was cooked perfectly and the sausage was good too. The menu didn’t say the biscuits were gf, but I’m suspicious! Need I say, if you go, don’t order biscuits!
At Newport we headed east to Portland. Our first night there we headed downtown to Saucebox, a recommendation from our server at Superfly. This is a nice, kind of hipper than thou, place with really great food. We had 3 marvelous small plates at the recommendation of our server, Raylan: Thai Cucumber Salad, Pork Sarong (noodle wrapped pork balls) with tamarind dipping sauce, and Softshell Crab Steam Buns. The food was so good we didn’t want to stop eating so we ordered the SBX chicken wings, which were just average. Serves us right for being greedy. So if you go, skip the wings and ask Raylan what to have. I just can’t believe he will steer you wrong.
We did a little driving tour of the hipster streets in Portland and happened on Little Big Burger on 2032 NE Alberta. The menu is on the outside wall and it’s very simple. We decided to share a cheeseburger and fries since we were going to the great and magnificent Toro Bravo for dinner. Let me say this: the cheeseburger was served on a brioche bun and the fries were drizzled with white truffle oil. Do I really need to I say more? Regarding the hipster spots, not on the list (in AAA’s Via mag) is the Mississippi district. Go forth and indulge in that!
Ah, Toro Bravo, our last transcendent dining experience. It’s a tapas place which gets very busy, they realistically don’t take reservations unless you have a big party, so get there early. Our prized spot is at the cook’s bar so we can watch them do their magic. Go look at the menu: we had Harira Lamb Osso Bucco, Grilled Flat Bread, Fried Spanish Anchovies, Fava Beans, and Steve’s Cheese Board for dessert. They have a nice wine list too, with Spanish wines too of course. They really do deserve their reputation for quality. This was our last great meal of the trip and it left me yearning for another experience. I did buy the owner’s new cookbook, so perhaps I can conjure up some Toro Bravo magic myself. Meanwhile, when can we go back, I whine.