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Best Seafood on the Southern Oregon Coast
by Laurel Gerkman
(Excerpt taken from 30 Great Seafood Restaurants, Oregon Coast Magazine, February 2008)
Great Seafood Lunch ~ The Crazy Norwegians
On the west side of Highway 101 in Port Orford, The Crazy Norwegians (541-332-8601) is an amusing atmosphere, and its seafood sizzles. Owners Patrick and Mary Evans strive to please and are devoted to making everything from scratch.
The Norwegian greeting Velkomen welcomes patrons at the door while tunes by blues masters such as B.B. King and Eric Clapton fill the dining room. Whimsical gnome statues peek from amongst plants in the windowsills, and for lap-toppers, this crazy Norwegian has a lickety-split WiFi connection.
"We play blues almost exclusively. Mary is the blues lover, although her interest has won me over. Customers comment they love it and truly appreciate it. It sets a relaxing mood," says Evans.
Alaskan cod, jumbo shrimp or clams are cooked to perfection, served with fries and Marys coleslaw, potato or pasta salad. Crab cakesmade from local catchcome accompanied by a remoulade sauce, lemon slices and a crisp, green leaf lettuce salad. Theres home-made clam chowder too, with Sourdough bread.
The Crazy Norwegians is no longer a best-kept secret, in the July issue of Sunset Magazine, it was named one of the best seaside seafood restaurants in the western region; so if you are concerned about crowds, call ahead.
Best Seafood Breakfast ~ Grants Pancake & Omelette House
On Hwy 101, mid-town Gold Beach, the barn-sized, Grants Pancake & Omelette House (541-247-7208) dominates the skyline. Owner, Carla VanProoyen, promotes what shes repeatedly heard from customers. She outfits her wait staff in t-shirts imprinted with their mantra 'Best Breakfast on the Southern Oregon Coast.'
Grants was established about 40 years ago and has upheld a long-standing tradition for quality and quantity. In 2000, VanProoyen decided to relocate and built the new lodge-style restaurant with better visibility, more seating and a meeting room.
The Grants team slams out thousands breakfasts and lunches annually. If you have to wait in line, sit outside under the huge, covered porch on over-sized wooden benches. Inside, under high vaulted ceilings and massive Port Orford cedar beams, the spacious ocean view dining area has counter seats, table and chairs, or roomy, cushioned booths.
Seafood seekers should try the Crab Benedict or omelets generously stuffed shrimp or crab with cheese. Plates come overflowing with choice of hashbrowns, home fries, grits or a bowl of fruit and three, dollar pancakes or toastcome hungry.
Best Seafood Dinner over $20 ~ Spinners
Get Hooked! reads the Spinners Seafood, Steak & Chophouse (541-247-5016) sign on Highway 101 in central Gold Beach. Proprietor Martin Dewey Powers dares you to try their tempting fare.
Spinners is named after Spinner Bill Cronenwett, known as one of the most colorful characters to live along the Rogue River. A true entrepreneur, he helped originate the 104 mile jet boat trips, made a small fortune in real estate and was a avid gambler. Powers had the pleasure of golfing with him for 12 years.
Powers honored his friend with the establishment of this fine dinner house in 2001. He combines 24 years of restaurant savvy with the talents of veteran chef Dick Stokes. Together, the duo is dedicated to exceeding customer expectations.
As host, Powers dons a dapper tie and greets you with a genuine smile. Linen covered tables are set with budding flowers and bottles of herb-infused olive oil. The full bar concocts a martini to entice any connoisseur and Powers wine selection has something for everyones budget and taste.
Stoke's menu focuses on seafood. Fresh wild salmon filet is roasted on a cedar plank served with chefs old vine Zinfandel sauce or wrapped in leeks and pan roasted with shallots. Crab cakes are prepared Chesapeake Bay-style with no fillers, spiced and sauted gold brown. For pasta-lovers, the Maricella combines jumbo prawns and sea scallops in a creamy Asiago cheese sauce. The Crab Pasta is blended with a sun-dried tomato pesto.
Oyster lovers can choose from having them grilled alongside garlic-mashed potatoes or topping a Caesar salad. The crispy, deep-fried Fishermans Platter is outrageous, loaded with prawns, scallops, oysters and Ling cod.
For something extra special, inquire about the Australian Cold Water Lobster Tail with drawn butter or locally caught, Wild Abalone Almondine, flashed in the pan with toasted almonds and lemon beurre blanc sauce.
Best Seafood Dinner Under $20 ~ Whaleshead Beach Resort & Restaurant
Twenty miles south of Gold Beach, Whaleshead Resort and Restaurant (541-469-7446) is perched on property owned by the McNeely family for generations.
The original ranch was homesteaded in the 1800s and eventually grew to include 17,000 acres of sheep and cattle rangeland. Several large parcels were sold off over time. Today, the McNeelys now tout it as southern Oregons most unique resort with 142-park model cabin and RV sites overlooking the scenic cove named for a sea stack shaped like a head of a breeching whale.
The on-premises, ocean view restaurant is open to the public as well as guests for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The atmosphere is truly northwest featuring heavy Fir beams, dozens of antlers and mounted hunting trophies of cougar, elk and deer. On the mantel above a darkened stone fireplace mantel, photographs of the founding pioneers are proudly displayed.
The From the Depths menu proposes a variety of deep-fried, grilled, or scampi-style seafood dishes. Oysters, scallops and prawns are prepared how you like em. The Grill comes with a mix of lemon-peppered prawns, bay shrimp, sweet bell peppers, and mushrooms. Chef Geno Ferstman offers a light and flaky New Zealand Orange Roughyseldom offered on the Oregon coastdipped in egg, floured and grilled. The Razor clams are worthy of mention too.
Ferstmans house specialty is Genos Cioppino, a combination of crab claws, prawns, scallops, clams and Alaskan Coho salmon heaped into a hot, Pappa Bear-sized, ceramic bowl. Its arrival to table often evokes ooohs and ahhhs from neighboring diners, and theres plenty to ladle out between 2-4 persons. Bibs are provided.
Best Seafood Breakfast~Oceanside Diner
Whats different about the Oceanside Diner (541-469-7971) on Lower Harbor Road in Port of Brookings is evident upon entry. Your Pit Stop for Breakfast & Lunch is the motto of owner, Harriet Opsahl, and chef Michael Daigan. Its appropriate, reflecting on the restaurants entire dcor of NASCAR paraphernalia.
Daigan takes his love of cooking just as seriously as his NASCAR collection, and he shares them both with customers. Opsahl and Daigan teamed up more than a decade ago, and have created a formula that attracts locals and visitors alike with their can-do attitude for customer service.
"If you want it, and we know how to cook it, you can have it," says Opsahl.
Oceanside prepares several seafood omelets. The Oyster has plenty of shellfish, bacon, green pepper and onion. The Lighthouse is busting at its seams with prawns and spinach. Their most popular is the Oceanside with shrimp, scallops, and calamari. All three come with Swiss or you may substitute your favorite cheese.
Daigan also runs a lean, mean catering machine. Its a custom-designed, self-contained 5th wheel that can cook anything, just about anywhere. Hell prepare a romantic meal for 2 or a banquet of 500. Seafood? Can-do!
Best Seafood Lunch~Chetco Seafood Company
Approximately mile further west on Lower Harbor Road, Chetco Seafood Company (541-469-9251) is a long-time favorite, known for its consistent good food. Jim and Carol Bonham recently purchased the business from his folks. The Bonhams moved ahead with some modifications while aiming to maintain the restaurants solid reputation.
What will stay the same are the great seafood lunches and dinners. For their infamous fish & chips, Bonhams use cod, coated in their own blended light, seasoned breading that is thinly applied and then precisely deep-fried. The same technique is used for prawns, scallops, and clam strips, all accompanied by fries and homemade coleslaw. For a lighter option, try the Grilled Petite Salmon with salad.
If you prefer, other items can be grilled-to-order. Entrees come with salad, grilled bread and choice or baked or fries plus a side of steamed mushrooms, veggies or baked beans.
Fresh oysters are soldindividually or by the bucket and when in-season, locally caught live crab is cooked on the premises.
Best Seafood Dinner over $20~The Nautical Inn
A stones throw across the California border, The Nautical Inn (707-487-5006) has stood the test of time, since the 1950s. Its close proximity to the ocean offers up close and personal views of crashing surf and pristine beaches from every table, and the seafood could almost jump from the waves onto your plate.
Sandy and Kevin Hislop took a very brief hiatus from the restaurant business, after operating a successful breakfast and lunch joint for 20 years. Around 2004, they bought the Nautical Inn. Its Sandys dream come true, to own a fine dining establishment.
Through the weathered-driftwood entry, two very different experiences are presented. To the right theres a simple, yet elegant, dining room. On the left, a more casual, nostalgic piano bar setting awaits. For your pleasure, theres live entertainment, usually on weekends, and Sandys wine list is extensive.
The lounge menu, bistro picks for lighter appetites or the exquisite selection of specialty entrees, will satisfy all palates and budgets. Sunday and Monday are sushi nights featuring spicy Ahi, smoked salmon or tempura prawn rolls and more.
For starters, try the Nautical Shrimp Salad. Four jumbo prawns are sauted with Vermouth, roasted fennel, limejuice, red chili and garlic served bed of salad greens. Or, sample the shrimp and cream cheese wonton wraps with a sweet chili Thai dipping sauce.
The Nautical Inns signature dish is Alaskan Halibut, lightly crusted, topped with lemon buerre blanc sauce over jasmine rice. Other unique items are the large shrimp stuffed with Dungeness crab, topped with lobster cognac sauce or the jumbo sea scallops pan seared is also topped with Dijon cream and chives over angel hair pasta and spinach.
The brochure claims, 'you'll come for the view and stay for the food'.