Oregon’s Coast is, if nothing else, scenic with its long grey sandy beaches that seem to stretch out into the Pacific for miles, towering cliffs covered in pine trees, and a plethora of picturesque lighthouses that make any photo look good. But winter can be frustrating. Yes, the coastal highway is mostly empty, allowing you to zip from one beach to another, but if the weather isn’t bad, it’s usually breaking bad. That means a lot of time indoors. And what does one do while waiting for the weather to clear? Eat!
I spent several days driving along the Oregon Coast, mostly sitting in restaurants, sampling everything from clam chowder to oysters, where fresh seemed to be the word of the day. Oregonians have a hang-up for freshness. Even the local fast food chain, Burgerville, sources its ingredients from the Pacific Northwest. So it wasn’t surprising to find a lot of excellent seafood. But one restaurant, in particular, deserves to be called out for its attention to quality: Local Ocean Seafoods in Newport.
Normally, I wouldn’t spend 500 words on a restaurant review, but the concept behind Local Ocean Seafoods is as enticing as the meals it serves: ingredients sourced directly from the boats sailing into Yaquina Bay. Founded in 2005 by Laura Anderson and fisherman Al Pazar as more of a market than a restaurant, locals began lining up here for fresh grilled fish. The unexpected success forced the owners to broaden their vision, and in 2014, a fine dining room with sweeping views of the harbor was added above the market.
I chose to sit in the less ostentatious (but arguably more interesting) market section of the business with its open grill and fresh fish on display. Local Ocean Seafoods is all about transparency, and as I looked over the seafood on ice, I noticed that I was not only told the location of the catch but also the vessel that had brought it in. Like something out of a Portlandia sketch, I could have easily gone down to the wharf and interrogated the skipper responsible for my salmon over his sustainable fishing techniques. Luckily for the fishermen of Newport, I was more interested in eating.
Alongside a pint of local Rogue ale, my first course was roasted garlic and Dungeness crab soup (it was crabbing season, after all). I was immediately impressed by the richness the crab gave the soup, which wasn’t quite the consistency of chowder but elegantly creamy. A touch of Parmesan also really added some depth.
For the main course, I was able to sample both freshly caught Chinook salmon, grilled with peppers and Oregonzola cheese (yes, its a thing), and classic fish and chips made from local rockfish. The salmon was cooked a perfect medium rare, with a hint of orange, and went very well with the peppers and cheese.
The breaded rockfish was also very well prepared, although, I must admit, I prefer Atlantic cod for this dish. My only real complaint was that the fish was so good, in and of itself, it was almost a shame to alter it in any way.
Words like “organic” and “farm to table” have been bantered around to the point of meaningless these days. But if done correctly, sourcing not only helps with sustainability it also increases the quality of the product. Local Ocean Seafoods has managed to take “locally sourced” to the next level, and it shows in their superior fare.
Local Ocean Seafoods is located along Newport’s waterfront at 213 SE Bay Blvd. Entrées run from $17 to $32.