Oregon----My trip on the Culinary Oregon Trail

Filet Mignon
2010/10/29 21:57:54
For the better part of October I took a trip through Oregon. I found some great food, met (and re-met) some RF'ers and saw some beautiful scenery. Here's what I found.
I spent most of my time in Oregon around the Corvallis-Albany area, also visiting Portland, Seaside,Gearhart, Astoria and Newport. While it does not have a great variety of restaurants, I did find several that were noteworthy and a few that deserved a second (and even third) visit.
One Saturday night, I met RF'ers Mr. Chips and Trudy at one of our favorite places, Novak's Hungarian in Albany. I had met them there on my last visit to Oregon two years previously and it was top of the list to re-visit. Novak's is virtually the only Hungarian restaurant in Oregon. Even though they moved to a larger location several years ago, they are still owned by the same family who take an active role in the restaurant. We started off with their Langos, which seems to be a Chips family favorite. It is a type of fried bread and comes with three dips-----apricot and strawberry preserves and a garlic dip too.

Dinners were somewhat easy to order. While they have a large menu, all of us seemed to have our favorites in mind before we ordered. Jim ordered the Gulyas Soup, Trudy ordered the Becsi Sezlet, a beef version of a schnitzel/cutlet. I ordered the Parizsi Sezlet, pork tenderloin breaded and fried. Thinking ahead, Jim decided to only have the soup so he would have room for the dessert.
Soup and salad came. The soups were full of beef, carrots and potatoes.

There was a minor mixup when they brought the dinners. Our waiter brought the wrong thing for Trudy. This did, however give me a chance to snap a pic of it before the Beef Porkolt, a dish of sirloin tips in gravy over noodles was returned and the right dish brought to the table.
Trudy received her beef cutlet promptly accompanied by noodles and broccoli.

My dish also came. Surprisingly, the pork cutlet was more of a chunk of pork tenderloin rather than a thin-sliced tenderloin. It was moist and flavorful, and came with delicious mashed potatoes.

Jim had ordered the Dobos Torta to share for us for dessert. It's multiple layers of cake, chocolate cream and almonds.

Everyone had a few bites of it, but we were all so full that he took it home. Hope you enjoyed it the next day too, Jim!
On my way back to California I had arranged to meet Bill Voss for lunch. He suggested a small Mexican lunch counter in a Mexican market as the place to meet. Before that, I had eaten at three Mexican places in Corvallis, none of them anywhere close to the food I regularly get in Southern California. Bill had given me directions to La Tapatia and I was hopeful when I pulled up and saw the sign.

It looked a lot more like the places I was used to eating in. I looked at the menu on the wall to figure out what I wanted. Bill came in soon. Shortly after that, as we talked, it seemed like we had known each other for years. He ordered two tacos and a Bohemia Beer.

I ordered the same tacos, al pastor (pork) and chorizo, plus a chili relleno with salad, rice and beans.

I also got the real Mexican Coca Cola, still made with real sugar instead of corn syrup and in a glass bottle. We went to their condiment bar to get salsa, radishes and the pickled carrots and onions which are the sign of a real Mexican cafe to me.

Bill warned me that one of the sauces was the real thing and very hot. It was, but the perfect thing to go with the fresh tortillas that we got. I was very pleased with the food, the meat having excellent flavor. The chunks of pork had the crisp outside that I like a lot and the chorizo was much better then I usually have, helped no doubt by the fact that as you enter, you pass my a large meat counter with fresh meats, chicken and seafood. The chili relleno was nicely done, not heavily battered so the flavor and the texture of the poblano chili could shine through. I'd finally satisfied my Mexican food craving for the last month, thanks to Bill Voss. By the time I was stuffed, I still had enough tortillas, salad and veggies to provide me with dinner on the long drive back to SoCal.
One of the places I had on my "must do" list was a trip to the oceanfrom town of Newport and Nye Beach. I had my list of places from the Roadfood list to try. Unfortunately, I only had enough time that day since my brother who had joined me for the drive had to be back by 5:00. We walked the town and I looked for the places suggested here. At the top was Shark's Seafood Bar and Steamer Company. Unfortunately, they were closed for lunch, only being open for dinner. The last time I was in the area I'd had some delicious fried food at the South Beach Fish Market, so when we walked by, I decided to try Mo's Chowder. After a quick decision to try the Original Mo's rather than Mo's Annex (apparently only the original can do fried food, the annex is mainly sandwiches and soup) we walked into Mo's, getting a nice table next to an open area blending into the sidewalk. I found out that this was actually a large garage door they opened daily---the spot where someone had once crashed a car into the then closed wall. They had fresh local oysters (Newport is on Yaquina Bay, home of the oyster of the same nam. First I ordered an oyster shot. It was delicious, with a nice tangy cocktail sauce.

My brother started with a shrimp salad while I had a bowl of the clam chowder.

He enjoyed his salad. I thought the chowder was good, although overly thick and much more potatoes than clams.

I had problems making up my mind for the entree. I wanted more oysters but also wanted a few other things too. The cioppino looked good, but I decided on the combo plate, finding it interesting that the oysters were grilled and not fried. The plate also included sauteed green beans, fried Alaskan Cod and fried calamari.

My brother ordered their clam chowder in a sourdough bowl.

The chowder was the same that I had, except in a hollowed out loaf of sourdough. I had mixed feelings about my lunch. The beans were good. The oysters were fried instead of grilled.The flavor was good but it was not what I expected. The fish was a few small pieces and somewhat overcooked. The calamari was fine but lacked distinction. I enjoyed my lunch, but with a big asterisk next to it. I've found out over the years many places that lost what made them famous. They fell victims to the hype, and I think it may have happened here. I've been to many places reviewed by RF'ers over the years as well as a lot of the places written up by the Sterns and I felt that it didn't seem like the same place I had read so much about here. The meal was okay, but not something I would order again---or even return to again.
We headed back to Corvallis, taking the "back road" along Yaquina Bay. On the way, we stopped at the Oregon Oyster Farms, a place that I had enjoyed so much on a previous visit that I had it on my "must visit again" list. On another thread, I couldn't even wait to write about it until I returned home, so I devoted an evening to writing about it on Roadfood.
There were plenty of other interesting places I found in the 4 weeks that I  was in Oregon. I'll continue this thread shortly with some of the other places I visited in Oregon.
post edited by EdSails - 2010/10/30 01:57:29
Re:Oregon----My trip on the Culinary Oregon Trail 2010/10/29 22:06:40

It was great meeting you ed.
Filet Mignon
Re:Oregon----My trip on the Culinary Oregon Trail 2010/10/30 00:27:33
Great meeting you too, Bill.I'll look forward to seeing you again next time I'm up.
One of the places that I'd read about was a place on the outskirts of Corvallis called Emmons Meat Market. A few days after I arrived, I took my brother over there. As we drove up, you could tell they were serious about their meat. I was looking for some jerky, some smoked meats, as well as having read that they had a small lunch counter with sandwiches.

As you walk in, you see several picnic tables set up with a take-out window, obviously the "dining room". The next room contained several cold cases filled with meats as well as shelves of spices and sauces. The last room, where you ordered, had samples of some of their jerky and sausages.

That day, we bought some of the jerky and ordered a few pulled pork sandwiches. The sandwiches were very good, comparable to some of the places I've visited in Alabama and North Carolina. Pulled, not chopped, with a sauce that was more sweet than spicy.
The next week, I stopped by for some jerky. I also got some buffalo stick sausages, also made in their on-premises smokehouse. I also got some of their cranberry and chicken sausages which grilled up for a nice dinner that night.
The next week I went to pick up some "souvenirs" to bring back for friends. I got more of the beef jerky, which I had found to be most and not too chewy. I also picked up some buffalo snack sticks to try.

The week after that, I decided to go back for one last visit. Inside, the specials board told me that a Reuben was the days special. Considering that the pastrami was probably smoked on premises I thought I'd try it. I was not prepared for how awesome it was.

The sandwich was on a marble rye, with the usual sauerkraut and swiss cheese. Two things made it exceptional. One was a simple slice of dill pickle on the sandwich. The other was the pastrami. Moist and juicy with just the right amount of smoke, it reminded me of Langer's pastrami.

I was really blown away by the taste. It had just the right amount of fat, too. Possibly the best Reuben I've ever had----and I've had a lot of them.
Another place I had read about was the Pepper Tree Sausage House in Albany. They made all their own sausages.

I went their one rainy day for lunch. The whole place consists of one table and a counter along the front and side window. In the front is the meat counter, filled with their sausages (probably 15 kinds) and other assorted meats. They apparently do a lot of take out business and I'm sure sell a lot of the sausages for locals to cook at home. I ordered the Octoberfest Sausage sandwich. It's a house-made smoked bratwurst. They serve it with either sauerkraut or grilled onions on it. I got it with both.

It was yummy! Very reasonable, too---$5.50 with chips on the side.
One of the foods I'd come to Oregon was oysters. One day I visited the town of Astoria. It's location at the junction of the Pacific Ocean and the Columbia River tells you that it's a serious seafood town. I had no place in mind, but just walked along the boardwalk and thru the downtown area, looking for a menu for lunch that had something I'd enjoy. After a few hours exploring the town I came across a place just a block off the docks. Andrew and Steve's had been there since the early 1900's. It was still owned by later generations of the Greek family that started it.

When I saw oyster stew on the menu I decided that it was the perfect thing for lunch. Sitting down at the counter, I ordered their oyster stew.

It came with a thick slice of garlic toast. The stew, rich and creamy, was chock full of whole oysters.Topped with fresh herbs, the stew was the perfect lunch.  It was delicious.
More places to come......
post edited by EdSails - 2010/10/30 13:56:16
Re:Oregon----My trip on the Culinary Oregon Trail 2010/10/30 00:36:38
Loving your report so far.  I've traveled Oregon quite a bit in the 80's and remember outstanding seafood.
Sounds like you're off to a great start!  
Did you get to eat sauteed Razor Clams anywhere? Fried Halibut in beer batter in Astoria?
Oregon has some great places and things to eat.
Filet Mignon
Re:Oregon----My trip on the Culinary Oregon Trail 2010/10/30 00:57:31
No, no, yes, Marlene. I had asked about the razor clams at a few places including Mo's Chowder and was told they are frozen, usually from Alaska. I was going to go back to Astoria to go to the Bowpicker for beer battered fish and chips but for fall/winter they are only open 3 days a week and I had just missed their open days.
I did get some dried bing cherries and red sour cherries from Hazelnut Hill Farms in Corvallis. Neither bag lasted very long...... I also filled up on their dried cranberries and dried blueberries. Didn't see any fresh cherries, even at the local farmer's markets and fruit stands I went to. I'll be writing about those places later here.
Re:Oregon----My trip on the Culinary Oregon Trail 2010/10/30 01:21:53
I'm thinking that the Razor Clams have to be local and in season.
Next time!
I've had a lot of fresh cherries in my life, even climbing trees in Banning, CA to pick them and believe me... I had the absolute finest from the back of a car just north of Cannon Beach.  Every single cherry was perfect.  Dark, meaty and delicious!
Looking forward to more of your report!
Filet Mignon
Re:Oregon----My trip on the Culinary Oregon Trail 2010/10/30 05:31:57
You seem to have found a great vein of food in Oregon ... my favorite state, but it does suffer from RF voids in some spots.  You are hitting the jackpot ... good planning for sure.  Thanks.
Re:Oregon----My trip on the Culinary Oregon Trail 2010/10/30 08:25:42
Enjoying your report....great photographs of great food in a great part of the country....thanks!
Filet Mignon
Re:Oregon----My trip on the Culinary Oregon Trail 2010/10/30 08:58:06
Hi Ed, Happy you had a good time, great report I hope my fellow Oregonians treated you well. The Bell Buoy fish store and Fish and chip restaurant in Seaside Oregon has the rights to the commercial Razor Clam harvest. They use these clams for the Clam chowder and will lightly sautee a few on the grill for you. I think they do a good job with the Halibut fish and chips, I don't order Halibut fish and Chips in most cases because the halibut comes out dry, they do a good job here, nice light batter and tender and moist on the inside. There is nothing like a sunny day on the Oregon coast, it's always a favorite spot for a short trip in the summer...........Take care................I don't see a lot of reviews on Kenny & Zuke's Deli or Rose deli and bakery. I would like to know what Mr Chips thinks about these places. I'm always going through Portland at the wrong time to stop.....................Take care.....BillyB
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Oregon----My trip on the Culinary Oregon Trail 2010/10/30 12:30:48
Yum! Especially enjoyed the pastrami shot, and the pork cutlet! Oregon is a place I'd like to explore more - I've only been to Portland, and a brief tour of the north area of the state.
Filet Mignon
Re:Oregon----My trip on the Culinary Oregon Trail 2010/10/30 14:02:00

The Bell Buoy fish store and Fish and chip restaurant in Seaside Oregon has the rights to the commercial Razor Clam harvest. They use these clams for the Clam chowder and will lightly sautee a few on the grill for you. I think they do a good job with the Halibut fish and chips, I don't order Halibut fish and Chips in most cases because the halibut comes out dry, they do a good job here, nice light batter and tender and moist on the inside.

Funny you should say that. I'll be adding something about the Bell Buoy here next. I don't remember if I asked them about the razor clams. I know I saw them on the menu but just was craving something else that night. Now I wish I tried them there!
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Oregon----My trip on the Culinary Oregon Trail 2010/10/30 16:46:26
I had razor clams a couple of weeks ago at Camp 18.  I think they said they were from Alaska.  Since they were a speciality of the house i got them anyway, they were sure bigger than I expected.
mr chips
Filet Mignon
Re:Oregon----My trip on the Culinary Oregon Trail 2010/10/31 20:35:00
It was great to see you again. Trudy and I enjoyed our meal with you at Novack's and enjoyed your company. I'll defer further comments about our adventures among the the portland food cart culture and other restaurants until you write about them.
Filet Mignon
Re:Oregon----My trip on the Culinary Oregon Trail 2010/10/31 23:25:41
Thanks, Jim. I'm chipping (no pun intended) away at this one section at a time. Portland is coming up, as is a few more of the delightful areas I visited. Got some good cart pics to show!
Re:Oregon----My trip on the Culinary Oregon Trail 2010/11/01 10:34:47
Very nice, Ed, and just a little bit cruel.  Like a good report should be.
My parents recently spent a couple of weeks driving around Oregon and northern California.  I know they ate at the Silver Salmon Grille in Astoria but I'll have to ask them about their other stops, although since my dad doesn't care for seafood I'm guessing a lot of their meals were more of the "fruit of the land" variety.
post edited by Brad_Olson - 2010/11/01 10:40:17