Oregon Coast restaurants are well known for delivering some of the best and freshest seafood dishes anywhere. But it may surprise some to hear that towns on the North Coast also have an abundance of eateries specializing in international cuisine. Of course, some of it centers on the famous seafood, but a diverse community of chefs cook up fare from far-flung shores.
In the port town of Astoria, diners have plenty of options to choose from: Italian, Mexican, Japanese and even Bosnian, which you’ll find at Drina Daisy Bosnian Restaurant. Located downtown in a historic Italian Renaissance storefront, Drina Daisy offers dining in a beautifully restored Mediterranean setting and bills its entrees as “A Taste of Sarajevo.” Chef Fordinka Kanlic grew up cooking in her grandmother’s restaurant, and she operated an eatery of her own in Bosnia for nearly 20 years.
The nearby community of Warrenton has a not-so-well-kept secret: Nisa’s Thai Kitchen, a restaurant that in-the-know locals flock to for dinner. The specialty here is authentic Thai cuisine made with fresh ingredients and based on the recipes of chef Nisa Blacker’s homeland.
“Flaming beef is one of our most popular dishes,” says Blacker. “It’s our specialty entrée and features tender slices of meat seasoned with black pepper, pineapple, fresh ginger and cilantro in a teriyaki sauce, all served flaming to your table with a side of rice.”
Blacker and her staff make all their own sauces, seasonings and appetizers.
“The other dish we have that people really enjoy is Drunken Noodle”, she says of the dish also known as Pad Kee Mao. “It’s a wide rice noodle served with your choice of meat and we add all these other ingredients: egg, brown chili, garlic, onions, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, bell peppers and basil leaves. It has some heat to it.
Also in Astoria, Himani Indian Cuisine draws fans all the way from Portland to feast on dishes originating in both Northern and Southern India.
“We have southern specialties, which is what makes us a little unusual for an Indian restaurant,” says Lorenda Nakka, who operates the restaurant with her husband, Sujay Nakka. “We have food from the whole region, but we offer southern specialties, such as rice and lentil bread, which is common in southern India. Another thing that is really special about Indian food is that so many dishes are gluten-free and vegan.”
Cruising farther south to Cannon Beach, diners looking for global flavors can dip into a number of local haunts, from Caribbean dishes on the menu at Castaway’s to Old World favorites at The Irish Table. But that’s only skimming the surface.
Chef John Newman, owner of Newmans at 988, creates dishes that are a blend of French and Italian, mirroring the fare one would expect to find at the border of the two countries.
“My philosophy on food is to use the freshest, local and seasonal ingredients,” says Newman. “And then I put a strong emphasis on seasoning and execution.”
Entrees include the lamb rack marinated in Dijon mustard with rosemary and garlic, duck breast served with polenta, chicken marsala pasta, lobster ravioli with marsala sauce and Oregon hazelnuts, and the ever-popular crab cakes. “I call it all killer, no filler,” says Newman.
Another favorite in Cannon Beach for international flavors happens to double as a cooking school. At EVOO, Chef Bob Neroni and his wife, Lenore Emery, offer live dinner shows nightly with a rotating menu — recent dishes have ranged from grilled flatbread to buttermilk-fried sturgeon.
“Over the course of three hours, we prepare anywhere between 25 and 35 recipes, focusing on cuisine where extra virgin olive oil is the core cooking medium,” explains Neroni. “We focus on technique with the goal of inspiring people to go home and to cook themselves. We want guests to come hungry — for good food and education, because we offer an interactive dining experience.”
While the family-friendly town of Seaside has a reputation for classic beach eats and artisanal desserts, The Stand offers something a little different: a wide-ranging and authentic menu of Mexican dishes, served for lucky lunch diners Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“We’re special because our food is different; it’s not what everybody else in town has,” says Tami Saucedo, who operates the restaurant with her husband Jose. “We offer a lot of vegetarian food, as well as traditional dishes. We have things that aren’t on other Mexican menus, like our vegetable tamale, green chili and mushroom quesadilla, and pork and cabbage tacos. They’re just delicious.”
Vietnamese cuisine is the specialty at the Saigon Deli in Seaside. “We have really good Pho,” says manager Sara Bell. “It comes in beef or chicken. That’s definitely our most popular. We have a Bahn Mi sandwich, which you can order with beef or pork and it has a spread with cilantro, cucumber, pickled carrots and fresh jalapeno. That’s my favorite.”
Hungry yet? The next time you dine on Oregon’s North Coast, you only need ask yourself where your appetite longs to travel.