Favorites and Firsts

Wineries dish out restaurants, new and old

By Hilary Berg

Routines. We all have them. Several are necessary. Without routines, many tasks would not get accomplished. Without routines, many of us would be lost in this world — this writer is one of them.

The same can be said of breaking routines. We have all done it. It is necessary. If you never ventured outside your comfort zone, you’d miss out on all that life has to offer, including food. 

As creatures of habit, we all have our go-to restaurants, places where we know the menu by heart and the waitstaff addresses us by name. But I challenge you to balance your usual eateries with new restaurants, expanding your palate and delivering a — hopefully — deliciously unexpected experience.

OWP asked winery staff members around the state for their favorite “oldies” as well as their latest dining discoveries. Here are some of their toothsome replies.

Matt Berson, Love & Squalor, Owner/Winemaker

Favorite “Old” Restaurant: Higgins Pub, Portland

Higgins is like an old warm coat, if your old coat is covered in Belgian beer, house-made charcuterie, the freshest locally sourced everything and the best bunch of waiters you’ve ever met. Actually, I guess it’s those guys who are like an old warm coat.

Must-Have Menu Item: Smoked Seafood Platter paired with Medoyeff martini.

Favorite “New” Restaurant: Nobleoni, Portland

The new café the Noble Rot team just opened at the Oregon College of Art & Craft is full circle for Chef Leather Storrs — his dad designed the campus when Leather was a boy. Eating dinner there — they do lunch and brunch, too — is like running into an old friend who just came back from a Buddhist retreat with a new haircut and a killer fresh talent for making the simplest things seem, or taste, important. And a scenic drive home.

Memorable Menu Item: I can’t pick between the stuffed Portobello and the chicken. See, it’s the simplest stuff from a different perspective.

John & Ksenija House, Ovum, Winemakers

Favorite “Old” Restaurant: Le Pigeon, Portland

Sure, we all know Le Pigeon is a beacon of salty, rich, foie-lacquered goodness, but they surprise us each visit with new, playful dishes that are crammed with intense flavors of the season and little pretense. We inevitably leave wondering how difficult it must be to continue pushing the edge of flavor without falling off the cliff.

Must-Have Menu Item: Foie Gras Chorizo-stuffed Quail. But who cares? Everything here’s great!

Favorite “New” Restaurant: Pono Farm Soul Kitchen, Portland

Having the best beef outside of what one might find in a small village within Kobe, Japan, doesn’t hurt, but then Pono’s chef chooses to grill over coconut charcoal, which takes each steak into another planetary system. And if that wasn’t enough, the execution of raw beef dishes are so detailed you might think chef was consulting with a neurologist. Go before they get “Pine State” busy.

Memorable Menu Item: New York Strip (75 percent Wagyu) Carpaccio — about eight flavors wrapped around the highest quality beef in the state.

Kacy Minnis, Sweet Cheeks, Winery Manager

Favorite “Old” Restaurant: Marché, Eugene

Marché is a classic, high quality French restaurant with some of the best service in Eugene.

Must-Have Menu Item: Steak Frites.

Favorite “New” Restaurant: Grit, Eugene

It is incredibly fresh from the atmosphere to the menu. The food is delish and not overdone.

Memorable Menu Item: Chef’s Board.

Travis Stetzel, Depoe Bay Winery, Tasting Room Manager

Favorite “Old” Restaurant: RingSide Steakhouse, Portland

It doesn’t get much more classic or old school than RingSide Steakhouse. There aren’t many restaurants in Oregon, besides Ringside, that can boast a million-dollar wine cellar either. The RingSide on Burnside is old Portland at its best. It is widely recognized as one of the greatest steak houses in the country.

Must-Have Menu Item: Fork-tender Kobe filet, bone-in ribeye, Dungeness crab, potato leek soup, onion rings

Favorite “New” Restaurant: Restaurant Beck, Depoe Bay

There might not be a restaurant in this great, food-loving state doing things as exciting in the food world as Chef Justin Wills at Restaurant Beck. He is foraging ingredients from our local forests and waters, while executing modern cuisine most chefs in Oregon could only dream of pulling off. The presentation is so beautiful you feel bad taking the first bite. Ever had homemade blood orange Pop-Rocks on a dessert? Only at Restaurant Beck!

Memorable Menu Item: Foie Pho. A play on the classic Vietnamese beef noodle soup but this was sprinkled with freeze-dried foie gras crystals (shavings) that melt in the broth.

Sierra Wright, The Pines 1852, General Manager

Favorite “Old” Restaurant: Celilo Restaurant, Hood River

They really showcase the splendor of the Northwest. They have a fantastic wine list dominated by Northwest wineries, including many boutique wineries that are off the grid. All their food is sourced locally to ensure the freshest, most delicious ingredients. And their execution of the menu is just delicious. I’ve never had a bad meal here, and I always bring guests when I want to “wow” them. My mouth is watering right now...

Must-Have Menu Item: Hanger Steak with Red Wine Sauce.

Favorite “New” Restaurant: Solstice Wood Fire Café & Bar, Hood River

Solstice isn’t a “new” restaurant, per se, but they just moved to their new Hood River location and completely updated their menu. The new menu features delicious, feel-good comfort food using local, fresh ingredients and firing it all up in their amazing wood-fire grill. Their drink menu is fantastic; indoor-outdoor seating is comfortable and welcoming, and this is a very family-friendly place. If you want a nice “neighborhood” vibe with excellent food, then this is the place.

Memorable Menu Item: All their pizzas!


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