When Lewis and Clark went in search of a water route to the Pacific Northwest, maintaining a regular supply of food was a major concern. One solution reportedly employed was a 93 lb. soup concoction, boiled until gelatinous, and then left to dry until hard. Hardly a meal to look forward to, but it saved the explorers from starvation on more than one occasion. If you make the trip to the mouth of the Columbia River today you will find much more attractive dining options to explore. With no fear of missing a meal, we explored the dining options of the quaint town of Astoria, Oregon. We found some amazing places and broke bread with some great new friends along the way.
1 Blue Scorcher Café
The early morning fog is just turning into a light rain as we head over to meet the pioneers of the Astoria food scene at Blue Scorcher Café. Located in a former car dealership, this raw and eclectic space is a local gathering place where, in addition to enjoying breakfast and lunch, you can keep up to date on what’s happening around town.
The member-owned bakery and café got its start very much by necessity when in 2004 rumors started swirling that the only baker in town was closing shop. A group of locals decided that Astoria should not relegate itself to a future of only factory bread. They got together to take over the business. With a short apprenticeship under the previous owner they learned the basics of how to provide bread and baked goods to the community, daily. Now, years later, Blue Scorcher is still going strong, with its crew of cooperative owners turning out yummy, local-produce based, loaves of bread and baked goods daily.
Some of the owners have even developed their own interests into new product lines for community consumption. Our favorite was the chocolate bars made by sourcing beans directly from suppliers in South America. It is so rare to find good chocolate made locally from scratch, so make sure you don’t miss out on the experience—buy a bar on your way out. www.bluescorcher.coop
2 Frite & Scoop
Along the Astoria river boardwalk, husband and wife team Lisa and Kevin Malcolm run Frite & Scoop. They combined their enthusiasm for sweet and savory and serve Belgian style fries and a selection of daily-changing handmade ice cream flavors.
While living in Seattle, on a weekend trip in 2013 they fell in love with Astoria and decided to move to this small river community and pursue their dream of opening a business. With Lisa’s background as a patisserie chef and Kevin’s passion for ice cream, they thought their combined talents would be a winning combo for Astoria’s food scene.
Kevin has developed his own recipe for craft ice cream, using 40% heavy cream, whole milk, cane sugar, and egg yolks to make French style custard. Experimenting with all manner of natural flavorings like Madagascar Vanilla beans, homemade toffee, caramel, and fudge sauce, Kevin regularly churns out new flavors. Check Frite & Scoop’s Instagram account for new flavors.
Over on Lisa’s side of the business, after much experimentation, the Kennebec variety of potatoes was determined to have just the right texture and consistency for the best hand-cut fries. With a preparation regime no less complex than Kevin’s, Lisa rinses and soaks the potatoes, fries them at a low temperature and then a second time to order. The carefully calibrated process results in the most yummy and crisp fries. On a cold day, like the one on which we visited, the fries are a lovely warming treat. Though not often sold side-by-side, fries and Ice-cream are a great combo. www.friteandscoop.com
3 Clemente Café & Public House
A bit further east on the riverside boardwalk we met up with Gordon and Lisa Clement at their well-frequented café and pub. Lisa’s family has lived in Astoria for many generations, making their living on the bounty of the Columbia River. Daily, her brothers deliver just-caught fish to the restaurant.
Gordon and Lisa tell us they met while they were both living in Santa Fe. On a chance encounter at Whole Foods where Gordon was working, they struck up a conversation about, what else, fish. Their serendipitous meeting ultimately led to a great collaboration at Clemente and we are all the better off for their efforts.
Gordon and Lisa have developed a great menu of fresh-catch dishes with daily specials determined by what hits the nets on the day you visit. Much frequented by locals this is a great place to get into the community and feel the way the current’s flowing. Stop in for a meal or just a drink and a chat. If you’re like us you will not be able to resist sampling the day’s catch. facebook
4 14th Street Café
It’s Thursday night and we are heading over to the 14th Street Café at the Commodore Hotel to meet owners Mika and Jennifer Cameron-Lattek. The husband/wife team bring quite a cosmopolitan flair to Astoria. Mika, who is German and a student of American studies, and Jennifer, who was born in Portland and studied German literature, met in Berlin. There they realized they both had entrepreneurial yearnings that a life in academia just could not adequately satisfy. But what to do?
Jennifer, an avid follower of coffee blogs, came across an ad for a café for sale in Astoria. Knowing a bit about the area, this opportunity seemed like a good fit, so they jumped at the chance, abandoned academics in Berlin and headed for Astoria.
They started by offering amazing coffee, home baked goods, and delicious lunches with a daily changing menu. But the café came with a kitchen not fully utilized so thoughts of a more extensive service were in the air.
At about the same time Chef Andrew Catalano decided to return home to Astoria from several years working in some of the best kitchens in New York and Portland, in search of a kitchen to call his own.
A deal was struck and dinner service at 14th Street Cafe started three days a week, Thursday through Saturday. And quite a special dinner service it is. The small bistro-like atmosphere belies the extraordinary cuisine Andrew cooks up three days a week in 14th Street’s small kitchen. His menu is Italian inspired and, with the amazing network of local producers he has connected with, Andrew’s thoughtful culinary concoctions really make Astoria a place worth visiting for a culinary experience.
We enjoy keeping in touch with and being inspired by 14th Street Café’s daily offerings on their Instagram feed. Looking forward to visiting again soon. www.street14cafe.com
For opening hours, reservations and directions follow the links below
1 Blue Scorcher Cafe; www.bluescorcher.coop
2 Frite & Scoop; www.friteandscoop.com
3 Clemente Cafe & Public House; FaceBook
4 14th Street Café; www.street14cafe.com
Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger
Planning a trip to Astoria? Here is the current weather and what to expect for the next few days.51°partly cloudy87% humiditywind: 23mph WSWH 54 • L 4953°Thu47°Fri46°Sat50°Sun48°MonWeather from Yahoo!