Do you like your clam chowder thick and chunky or smooth and creamy? With or without bacon or a little pat of butter on top? However you take it, a steaming bowl of chowder on the Oregon Coast is liquid nourishment for the body and soul any time of year. Here are some popular chowder stops for a wide range of tastes.
Commercial fisherman Rob Seitz today works a 56-foot trawler out of Astoria with his wife, Tiffani, and some of that haul naturally lands on the menu of their restaurant, South Bay Wild Fish House. A real treasure is the chowder, which is based on a beloved recipe Tiffani procured from a Swedish chef who ran a nearby restaurant until the 1990s. “Little Ocean Annie–style” chowder features bacon and red potatoes, but no thickeners and just the right amount of secret spices. “People would come for miles to get that chowder,” Rob says. “It won lots of awards.”
The North Coast is home to at least two more renowned chowders. Bridgewater Bistro — with primo views of the ships crossing under the Astoria-Megler Bridge — has been serving its tomato-tinged clam and mussel version for over 40 years. In Seaside Dooger’s Seafood & Grill sits just two blocks from the Promenade, and visitors have been flocking there for the family chowder recipe for decades. Want to make your own when you get home? Buy a chowder kit from the restaurant or use this clever cook’s recipe online, based on the restaurant’s briny, flour-free version.
In Manzanita warm your bones with a bowl of seafood chowder from Offshore Grill and Coffee House, just two blocks from the beach. This creamy chowder comes with a local mix of halibut, salmon, Oregon bay shrimp, clams, pork belly, potatoes, celery and onions in a luscious cream base. For another nontraditional take, head to Buttercup in nearby Nehalem, where the Northwest-style chowder is more like a soup with no thickeners or potatoes, just lots of fresh seafood, herbs and cream. Lucky you: Buttercup also makes awesome ice cream.
The chowder at Gracie’s Sea Hag in Depoe Bay is an Oregon Coast institution — even included in a cookbook by The New York Times — with its chunks of sea clams bobbing in a creamy base, topped with butter, parsley and paprika. Head outside for some post-lunch whale watching; Oregon State Parks’ Whale Watching Center viewing platform is just across the highway.
If you prefer your chowder in a hearty sourdough bread bowl, Chowder Bowl in Newport’s Nye Beach is the place to go, with a recipe once featured on “The Today Show.” It also sells the chowder base by the pint and quart — you just need to add milk.
For more of an upscale experience, chowder hounds seek out the bread bowls of goodness at Georgie’s Beachside Grill, just north of the Yaquina Bay Bridge in Newport. Its New England-style chowder is available by cup, bowl or bread bowl. Stick around for the Dungeness crab benedict and seafood fondue. The dazzling ocean views will brighten any winter day.
Owned and operated by a local fisherman, Robert Anthony, Luna Sea Fish House has two locations: one in downtown Yachats and one in nearby Seal Rock. Both offer New England-style clam chowder and the harder-to-find-in-Oregon Manhattan style with a tomato-based broth. Don’t forget to grab something for the road, including freshly canned albacore tuna and smoked chinook salmon — all caught wild — available seasonally.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find fresher seafood than what’s on sale at Krab Kettle in Florence. Family-run since 1962, this little seafood market serves up some delightful clam chowder — think more clams than anything else — that you can enjoy hot off the stove at the picnic table out front. Visitors can’t stop raving about the bread bowls of fresh crab chowder at Novelli’s Crab and Seafood in Florence — part of a working fishing operation at the Port of Siuslaw Bay. Catch the action down at the dock or dine inside for a divine waterfront view.
Known for its locally sourced food, the surf-themed Shark Bites Café in Coos Bay offers a creamy chowder that’s gluten-free. The signature version includes fingerling potatoes, hard salami, fresh herbs and tender sea clams. If you still have room, don’t miss the local oysters and Dungeness crab cakes.
In Old Town Bandon, one of the best deals in town is the lunch special at Tony’s Crab Shack: a bowl of hearty clam chowder along with a thick piece of ciabatta bread and a garden salad. Sit at the tables outside on a nice day, or take it to go and enjoy your meal on a bench on the boardwalk, which is just steps away.
The Crazy Norwegian’s Fish & Chips in Port Orford covers all your food groups — chowder and pie — in one cozy shack-like stop. The chowder comes thick and creamy with the option for a bread bowl.
An Oregon icon since 1946, Mo’s wins raves from generations of families who have grown up associating the chain of restaurants with the Coast. Many visitors appreciate the old-fashioned flavors: a buttery and bacon-studded base that’s great for dunking oyster crackers and thick garlic toast into. Enjoy historic photos, a casual vibe and delightfully kitschy nautical decor at every one of the restaurants. There are outlets in Astoria, Cannon Beach, Newport, Lincoln City, Florence and Otter Rock.