For generations, hungry visitors have flocked to Oregon’s quintessential beach town in search of classic coastal fare — from fresh Dungeness crab and local albacore to old-fashioned saltwater taffy and ice cream. None other than father-of-all-foodies James Beard, the 20th-century icon of American cookery, learned to prepare seafood during his childhood summers in Seaside. He even taught cooking classes here in the 1970s.
You’ll still find plenty of traditional fish houses and candy shops in town, but Seaside has also fully embraced the Pacific Northwest’s strong appetite for culinary innovation. These days local eateries and food shops specialize in everything from barbecue and farm-to-table fare to artisan desserts and baked goods. Here are five favorite Seaside spots for novel eating experiences.
Coastal-style beer and barbecue
Set in a colorfully converted jail house, Seaside Brewery earns cheers for its crisp Kölsch and heady Belgian Tripel. But this top-notch brewpub has also quietly developed a big reputation for “low and slow” Texas-style barbecue. Owner Jimmy Griffin recently upped the restaurant’s game by purchasing a 1,000-gallon smoker, four times bigger than its predecessor. He uses oak and local alderwood to smoke tantalizing fall-off-the-bone delicacies, such as pulled pork, brisket and prime rib as well as pork spare ribs with a kicky honey-sriracha-lime sauce.
Griffin has even bigger plans afoot. He recently ordered three more 1,000-gallon smokers, which will soon be housed inside a custom three-story smokehouse. Upcoming menu additions include chicken with Alabama white barbecue sauce and vegan smoked soy curls. Seafood lovers can soon look forward to cold-smoked local fish — salmon, black cod, oysters and more, for a coastal spin on barbecue.
Chef’s choice on Mondays
If you want to eat like a local in Seaside, here’s a tip: Check out the Monday-night special at Maggie’s on the Prom, an upscale beachfront supper house that’s anchored by a large stone fireplace. Each Monday evening, diners can savor two enticing entrées for just $30, prepared by chef Brad Dodson — a talented chef who has won top honors at the esteemed Iron Chef Goes Coastal competition, a tradition now in its 12th year.
Dodson is known for a quirky concept he calls “Chef’s Mercy” — a chance for him to display his creativity and prowess with his favorite seasonal ingredients. He regularly changes the lineup, but recent offerings have included a smoked steelhead plate with aged Tillamook cheddar, flatbread crackers, honey, Dijon and green apples. There’s also been a braised chicken leg with a navy bean stew of andouille sausage and purple clams. Up for a walk on the culinary wild side? Order the “True Chef’s Mercy” special, which keeps diners guessing to see what the kitchen has whipped up, for a real surprise. Be sure to save room for Dodson’s Iron Chef Goes Coastal “best dessert” dish: a decadent chevre panna cotta with cranberry jam, honey brittle and bee pollen.
Sweet, savory and craveworthy
At this inviting spot near the Necanicum River, chef Jonathan Hoffman loves coming up with new creations. Regulars at Dough Dough Bakery relish the heavenly pastries, such as marionberry scones and flaky, sweet-and-savory chocolate tahini rolls. Dough Dough also stands out for its expansive selection of well-chosen wines as well as artisan ciders and local beers on tap. They even house-ferment their own water-kefir soda (a bright, dry sipper reminiscent of kombucha). And on Mondays the bakery doles out hearty thin-crust pizzas with creative toppings like butternut-squash hummus and cranberry pesto.
Hoffman, a three-time-winner of the Iron Chef Goes Coastal contest, gets especially excited about developing new bread recipes, including a current favorite, the pretzel baguette. This soft, chewy and versatile loaf is ideal for everything from meatball subs to dipping in the bakery’s tangy cheese sauce.
Homemade ice cream stays classic
New owners Randy and Delilah Reed recently took over Zinger’s Homemade Ice Cream, a beloved ice cream parlor on bustling Broadway. They’ve given the place a fresh makeover, complete with new wooden benches and nifty hand-painted signage with a fun retro ‘50s and ‘60s vibe. (Zinger’s now also accepts credit cards and has expanded its off-season hours.)
But longtime fans of this upbeat oasis will still find rich, homemade ice cream in a rotating roster of fanciful flavors, from gingersnap to Oregon red cherry cheesecake. The Reeds still use all-natural ingredients and won’t be changing any of the classic recipes, but they have added some cool new flavors, including Rocky Road and pralines-and-cream flavors. And sweet tooths can also now jazz up their sundaes with house-made whipped cream, warm caramel sauce and waffle-cone chips.
Tasty and healthy fare in a bowl
Breakfast or lunch at Firehouse Grill in downtown Seaside can involve all sorts of hearty staples: chicken-fried steak with eggs, cinnamon swirl French toast, buttermilk-fried oysters and hefty cheeseburgers, just to name a few. But if you’re seeking a lighter meal that’s every bit as flavorful, you’ve still come to right place. This lively eatery — adorned with vintage photos depicting the building’s previous life as the Seaside firehouse — offers a pair of toothsome, vegetarian-friendly bowls.
Consider the riced-cauliflower vegetable burrito bowl, a lightly spiced mix of black beans and fresh cilantro, with avocado, sautéed peppers and onions, chive cream and a generous helping of house-made salsa. Or tuck into the sautéed vegetable bowl, which is crowned with a medium-fried egg drizzled with Creole aioli. Even carnivores find these tasty bowls satisfying.
If you go:
Casual dining is the norm in family-friendly and pet-friendly Seaside, and many restaurants offer kids’ menus. It’s a good idea to make reservations or call ahead in summer and on weekends, and to confirm hours during the quieter months. For more on the dining scene in town, check out the dining page at the Seaside Visitors Bureau.