Stretching from northern Washington to southern California, Highway 101 traverses the world’s most beautiful coastline. You’ve got glittering ocean vistas, giant trees, weird roadside attractions, hundreds of campgrounds, quirky motels, and a gazillion amazing beaches. Road trip? All the way. But there’s one problem. Despite the coast’s many great dive bars, good restaurants are hard to come by. Coastal food tends to lean toward Krab Shacks or overpriced and underwhelming “fine dining.” Sure you can get good fish and chips. And good chowder. But Highway 101 is a long road and fried cod gets old after a while.
Don’t despair — we’ve got you covered. I’ve driven this highway* hundreds of time and eaten many a mediocre Reuben and uninspired burrito in the quest for greatness. I’m happy to report that my arduous research paid off and I uncovered a few gems.
Best Mexican food on the Oregon coast?
Seaside is more famous for drunk spring-breakers than it is for cuisine, but this local favorite is the real deal. Like most good Mexican joints, The Stand doesn’t go in for fancy ambiance but instead focuses on delicious fucking tacos. Order the carnitas. I thought I’d died and gone to Michoacan.
109 N Holladay Dr, Seaside, OR
Best seafood on the Oregon coast?
That’s a tough one, but my vote would go to Local Ocean in Newport. This bi-level bayside restaurant is a bit swankier than my normal haunt, but damn! The chef sources from the fishing boats in the bay across the street, and you can tell. Although the menu varies from crab po’ boys to mocqueca de piexe (Brazilian stew with coconut milk), the diverse dishes are unified by a fresh delicacy. I particularly enjoyed the barely-grilled albacore tuna kabobs, but everything was good–so good that I’d recommend sharing many small plates in order to sample as much as possible.
213 SE Bay Blvd, Newport, OR
Best Burger on the Oregon Coast?
I am in love with a little restaurant called Homegrown . Everything about this place is good: they use local organic ingredients and quality meat; they pickle in-house; the servers are friendly and funny; the bar consistently offers a fine selection of beer and cider; they have wine on tap; they serve cocktails; it’s owned by a local woman (thereby proving that us small town people can be hip too); and it has an addictive pub plate, with pickled red onions, smoked fish, and chive cream cheese, served with an abundance of fresh bread. I’m sorry, was I talking about burgers? Yeah, the burgers are great. Eat one.
294 Laurel Street, Florence, OR
Best Reuben on the Oregon Coast?
I consider the Reuben to be a kind of deli litmus test. If you can’t make a good Reuben you shouldn’t be serving sandwiches, and if you can make a good Reuben then you earn my undying devotion. Conveniently, one of the state’s best can be found at Homegrown’s extension deli, right next door to the Florence restaurant. The best thing about this sandwich? The bread is appropriately crispy (obviously pressed correctly) and the greasy goodness is cut with tangy red cabbage sauerkraut that’s clearly house-made.
Best Soup on the Oregon Coast?
If you like Homegrown, chances are you’ll also like Siuslaw Riverside, another family-owned Florence establishment with friendly service, a homey ambiance, and tasty soup and sandwiches. The deck-side seating proffers a gorgeous view of the Siuslaw River, and the chef shows real attention to detail–the coleslaw and tomato soup are simply perfect.
1340 Bay Street, Florence, OR
Best Burger in Sonoma County?
The Railroad Station Bar & Grill is so great that I will actually go hungry in order to eat there. (And for me, that’s saying something.) Only 200 miles till Cloverdale, I’ll think as I attempt to sate my appetite with unsatisfying trail mix. So why the suffering? This refreshingly unpretentious bar has superb pub food, a solid beer selection, excellent local wine, brash bartenders, and a roster of salty and gregarious locals. What more could you want? Home cut fries and the region’s greatest burger? Oh yeah, it has that too. Also the salad is fresh with tender greens topped in a tangy house-made vinaigrette — so rare for a bar.
236 S. Cloverdale Blvd, Cloverdale CA
Best food in Eureka, CA?
My hands down favorite is Cafe Nooner, which is also homey and unpretentious with a menu that emphasizes local and organic ingredients. Are we sensing a theme here? The restaurant makes a delicious burger, but you may be tempted by the wide range of Mediterranean and Creole food, including superb, perfectly-spiced kabob plates.
409 Opera Alley, Eureka, CA
*Due to the enormity of the coastline, here we’ll deal with the stretch of road from northern Oregon to Northern California.