Oregon and Washington’s excellent seafood is the star of this road trip through the region’s most appealing cities and towns.
I’m very proud of my Pacific Northwest roots. It’s such a beautiful part of the country with its rivers, mountains and vast forests. The people are friendly and the food is delicious. Tourism is growing in the area, the number of visitors to Oregon has increased each year since 2010. When I go to Portland (my hometown), I visit my favorite haunts, see friends and family and try to get in a bike ride or a hike. On a recent trip, my family and I did things a little differently and chose to make Portland a jumping off point for a road trip throughout Oregon and Washington.
We planned it around food of course and made reservations at a lot of great restaurants. Salmon, spot prawns, halibut and Dungeness crab were all in season.
Whether you already live in the area or are planning a visit, put these stops on your itinerary.
First Stop: Portland
Oregon’s largest city is an ideal place for launching a Pacific Northwest road trip. After arriving at PDX, known for its throwback carpet and a mix of local shops and restaurants, rent a car and drive to The Society Hotel in Old Town, an 1881 building that used to serve as a hotel for sailors who came into port. For dinner, travelers should head to the Flying Fish Oyster Bar in the new Providore Fine Foods marketplace in Northeast. The Flying Fish Company started in Sandpoint Idaho in 1979 and sources only the best sustainable seafood from local fishermen and women. At the oyster bar, diners can dig into Oregon Dungeness crab cakes, poke, ceviche and one of the deepest oysters selections in the country. Because of its expertise, Flying Fish carries oyster varieties that typically aren’t found in restaurants because they’re too difficult to shuck.
After a night or two in Portland, take I-5 to Eugene and turn onto the 126. The highway takes you along the gorgeous meandering McKenzie River on your way to the next stop, The Suttle Lodge.
Second Stop: Near Sisters
The Suttle Lodge reopened in late summer 2016 with a new look and a new team at the helm (it’s being run by the same people behind Portland’s Ace Hotel). In Deschutes National Forest on the edge of Suttle Lake, the location is absolutely gorgeous. Trails lead from the lodge to Black Butte, Round Lake, Cache Mountain and Camp Sherman. Accommodations range from rustic cabins to loft suites with lake views. The restaurant in the lodge serves delicious rustic fare. The standout fish & chip sandwich features trout battered in potato chips that is fried until golden brown and served on a fluffy potato bun with coleslaw, tartar sauce and pickles.
Third Stop: Seattle
You can count on three things when visiting any of James Beard award-winning chef Renee Erickson’s restaurants: industrial design, flawless technique and exceptional local and sustainable ingredients. Squeeze in two of her celebrated spots by staying at the charming Ballard Inn in Ballard, a historically Scandinavian seafaring community. The boutique hotel in a former bank is just a few blocks from The Walrus & the Carpenter, a fishing pub that has an excellent happy hour from 4 to 6 pm. Save room for dinner at The Whale Wins in nearby Fremont where the Hama Hama Clams with green garlic and white beans are so addictive, you’ll use the accompanying toast to soak up every last bit of tangy broth. I also love her new wave steakhouse Bateau and the doughnut shop General Porpoise.
Fourth Stop: Lummi Island
The Willows Inn on Lummi Island should be on every seafood lover’s bucket list. The small hotel’s restaurant offers a 21-course tasting menu featuring dishes like side stripe prawns, pink singing scallops, grilled geoduck clam and black cod steamed in current leaves. Guests this year can look forward to a revamped breakfast menu that changes daily and might include smoked salmon, buckwheat crêpes with rhubarb compote and farm fresh duck eggs.
To get up close with the pristine waters that supply much of the menu travelers should book a Wild Foraging Educational Kayak Tour with Moondance Sea Kayak.
Fifth Stop: Astoria
This town situated where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean is still very much a working port town and the seafood is delicious. At Buoy Beer Company in a former cannery, steamer clams and wild salmon can be enjoyed alongside an excellent German Lager or American Pale Ale. For fish and chips, Bowpicker in a converted gillnet boat serves beer battered Albacore tuna with thick cut fries.
The Commodore Hotel makes a great home base and has cabin-inspired rooms and quirky events like record swaps in the 1926 building’s basement.
Do you have a favorite seafood restaurant in the Pacific Northwest? Please let me know in the comments below.
Heading to Northern Idaho while you’re in the Pacific Northwest? Check out my guide to Sandpoint on Lake Pend Oreille here.