Astoria’s restaurants, coffee houses, pubs, wine tasting rooms and seafood markets.
Astoria has become an epicurean nirvana with terrific restaurants, coffee houses, pubs, wine tasting rooms, and seafood markets. The handsome post-1923 downtown buildings constructed after a devastating 1922 fire are intact and today house shops, lodging, art galleries, and eateries. You can stay in many of those charming hillside Victorian homes that have become bed and breakfast inns, like the eclectic Clementine’s. Or, immerse yourself downtown at the spiffy no-frills Commodore Hotel or the more luxurious vintage Hotel Elliot. For opulent, whimsical weddings, parties, or overnight extravagance, check out The Banker’s Suite . Owner Trish Bright has turned a vintage 5,000-square-foot, two-story bank into an enchanting marvel. If you prefer stunning river views with huge ships seeming to glide by at arm’s length and the Astoria-Megler Bridge spanning wondrously nearby, The Cannery Pier Hotel will leave you agog.
Experience a touch of history firsthand near the site of that original Fort George, where you’ll find freshly baked breads and pastries and wholesome organic soups, sandwiches, and salads at the Blue Scorcher ,which shares a historic building with Fort George Brewery and Public House . On tap are a dozen brews: IPAs, stouts, a home-brewed wasabi ginger ale, and an 1811 lager commemorating the bicentennial. Brewery production tours are every Saturday at 1 and 4pm. Downtown, venture into part of Astoria’s historic underground at The Cellar on 10th for wine tasting every Saturday amid one of the largest selections of wines in the Northwest. Owner Mike Wallis’s extensive assortment of Pacific Northwest wines is almost legendary. Cheers to Astoria’s trading history with a French, Italian, or Spanish bottle of bubbly, or toast the Oregon Country with a Willamette Valley Argyle Brut Rosé.
When hunger strikes, the Bowpicker is fun to be sure, with fish and chips served in a boat high and dry on a street lot, but there’s no comparison to Clemente’s halibut, salmon, petrale (and sometimes sturgeon) fish and chips, flash-fried in rice oil. The seafood here is tops. Chef Gordon Clemente’s traditional Italian roots and his passion for fresh, local, natural foods meld perfectly with his wife Lisa’s dedication to healthy sustainable nourishment. Lovely light fare includes marinated Hijiki with lotus root, sesame, soy, and red pepper; local albacore tuna carpaccio with olive oil, black pepper, shallot, lemon zest, and garlic; or a traditional Adriatic cioppino made with seasonal fresh fish and shellfish. Oh, and the poke—sashimi-grade yellowfin in sesame soy with ginger and cucumber is delectable. Willapa Bay Manila steamer clams in white wine, onion, and garlic is mouthwatering. An aromatic Maysara 2009 Autees Pinot Blanc or a full-bodied 2007 Montinore Pinot Gris complements the seafood. For a real treat, try the Momokawa Junmai Ginjo sake with the poke.
Just up the block from Clemente’s is T. Paul’s Supper Club, a sister establishment to Astoria long-time favorite, T. Paul’s Urban Café. The more sophisticated supper club atmosphere with lounge is quirky—shark heads on the wall, feathers in vases, suspended-from-the-ceiling paintings—and serves a lunch and dinner bistro-style menu that includes quixotic quesadillas layered with smoked oysters, shrimp, and Dungeness crab, plus salads, sandwiches, and pastas. A highlight is the tender prime rib dip smothered in onions and mushrooms served with sweet potato fries, which goes nicely with an on-tap Fort George Vortex IPA.Combine several inventive items from the “small plates” menu at Bridgewater Bistro for a fun-to-share meal. Choose from oyster shooters and Dungeness “crab-scargo” in garlic, herb, and hazelnut butter, to prosciutto-wrapped figs, five-spice-encrusted pork tenderloins with orange-chipotle dipping sauce, or green garlic and herb butter gnocchi. Soak in the breathtaking river views while enjoying “coquilles St. Jacques,” scallops baked with mushrooms, garlic and white wine cream, and Asiago crumb topping, paired with an Erath Pinot Noir.
You’ll find colorful locals at the tiny Columbian Café. The chef has an eclectic repertoire, including wonderfully fresh seafood cooked right in front of you, and it’s the place for breakfast with lacy potatoes, crêpes, scrambles, and freshly baked bread. Service can be slow, but yum! If you’re yearning for some Old World “comfort food” head to Drina Daisy , a Bosnian restaurant downtown. Fordinka Kanlic learned to cook with her grandmother at age five near Sarajevo and has been honing her skills in the kitchen ever since. Just walking in the door, you enter another place and time—the savory kitchen aromas are sure to take you back. Fordinka’s husband Ken Bendickson greets guests warmly, making certain to enlighten diners about unfamiliar menu items and the mostly Eastern European beer, wines, and spirits. Arrive early enough in the evening if you want the succulent roasted lamb (Jagnejetina na Rostiflju). It’s not only Old World (no embellishments, no fancy sauces), it’s out-of-this-world delicious. Arriving on a platter accompanied by a fresh green salad, a vegetable medley and a meticulously arranged tower of fruit, it looks too beautiful to eat. But eat it one does! Paired with a full-bodied red Dingac, “Croatia’s most famous wine,” this is a treat indeed. Vegetarian (Zeljanica) or beef (Burek) pitas are baked densely filled layers of filo pastry. (They take time, yet are worth it, so relax perhaps with a rich Piraat amber ale from Belgium).As Astoria celebrates its illustrious past, now is the time to visit and sample the historic city’s richly evolved cuisine.
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