The legendary scenery and quaint small towns first drew Dee and me to the Oregon Coast nearly a decade ago. As Route 101 leads south from Astoria to the California state line, every section offers new places for us to explore. But it was the Coos Bay area that left the biggest mark on us. We came for the coastal hiking. What makes us want to come back is the evolving culinary and craft beer scene, anchored by our time at the Coquille Indian Tribe’s The Mill Casino in North Bend, Oregon.
We reserved each morning for the Plank House Restaurant. We savored our breakfast in the elegant atmosphere overlooking Coos Bay while we set the day’s agenda. The chef’s personal attention to every dish on the menu made it feel like a bed and breakfast. Plank House bakes its pastries in-house, so the biscuits are as fresh as the gravy is scrumptious.
When Dee and I travel, we love to immerse ourselves in everything local. Dungeness crab is an icon of Pacific Northwest cuisine and I’ve tasted it in a dozen dishes along the coast. Plank House’s Crab Benedict elevated this traditional breakfast to a true gourmet meal. Rich, fresh hollandaise sauce perfectly complemented the light, creamy taste of crab.
We got to know our breakfast waiters over the course of our stay and each raved about the restaurant’s tribally caught salmon. Returning for dinner after an afternoon at the slots, we were relieved that we didn’t miss out on Plank House’s crème de la crème—salmon baked on a cedar plank and paired with the most amazing tribally grown mushrooms. I wouldn’t share this seasonal, coastal delicacy! It’s a big reason we heard of so many travelers returning year after year—regardless of season, Plank House has a locally sourced fish on the menu.
One of the great things about staying at The Mill Casino is how easy it is to find the most delicious cuisine. When the mood hit us for some generously poured margaritas, we knew Whitecaps—another onsite restaurant—would not disappoint. The place is a sleek, modern dining locale with a glorious view of the bay and the Coast Range rising in the distance.
We spent the afternoon playing blackjack and making fast friends with a local couple. When we were done playing, we invited them to an evening at Whitecaps. Over a round of Dungarees Crab Cakes and tender burger bites, we swapped travel stories and misadventures. Very familiar with the Coos Bay area, the couple urged us to visit their favorite microbrewery, 7 Devils.
Oregon is renowned for craft breweries, and 7 Devils Brewing Company takes the cake for the South Coast. Its roots run deep in the community and we learned that nearly everything served and poured there is regionally sourced. And conveniently it’s only five minutes from the Casino.
Dee and I ordered flights that covered their current taps. Dee drinks anything hop-forward while I tend to like my dark ales, porters and stouts. My favorite was the Blacklock Oat Porter—robust and roasted with flavors of chocolate and coffee. Dee and I both enjoyed the Groundswell IPA, which was ultra-hoppy and rounded out with pine notes. Although we wanted to take a pint to go, our server told us the casino actually serves 7 Devils brews on site. Duly noted!
Annie and Carmen, who own 7 Devils Brewery, clearly didn’t base all their success on the beer alone, as the food was just as delectable. Our meal included generous helpings of Coos Bay fried albacore tuna breaded with our favorite Lighthouse session ale. Even the chocolate stout mousse dessert highlighted the brewery’s best drafts.
Another great dinner stop out on the town, Tokyo Bistro, serves traditional Japanese fare and sushi with clever twists. Tokyo Bistro grows its own wasabi. The restaurateurs carefully cultivate the plant, which isn’t native to the area, because they’re so dedicated to preserving traditional tastes while using local resources. The folks there make their own sake as well.
Each morning, restaurant staff select fish from town fishermen, right out on the dock—I don’t know how much more fresh you can get. This relationship with the fishing community is essential to the restaurant’s success. Japan felt a little closer after dining at Tokyo Bistro.
Regardless of time of year, the Oregon coast is never in an “off season.” One of the most magical times to visit Coos Bay is during the return of the salmon each fall. Sturdy and tenacious, large salmon make their way upriver from the ocean, creating a visible reminder of the rhythm of life in the Northwest. The Coquille tribe celebrates this event each year by putting on a traditional salmon bake and festival for locals and regional visitors alike. The festival includes canoe races, tribal music and dance and is truly something a traveler will not experience anywhere else.
As our final sunset faded into evening, we reflected on our grand adventures by the bay. The Coquille Tribe and community provided a welcoming atmosphere that made gourmet food accessible to laidback travelers like us. Seeing as each restaurant has seasonally changing menus and taps, we look forward to a whole new adventure next season.