Memorial Day Weekend 2014: Day 3 - Newport, Tualatin, and back to Portland (Fishtails Cafe, Panera Bread, and more Voodoo Doughnut)

My alarm went off at 6 am.  Not exactly the most sensible thing for someone spending a single, relaxing night by the ocean, but I didn't know if the morning crowds were as bad as the evening ones at the local restaurants.  I love breakfast food, and don't go out for it anywhere near as often as I would like because, well, I loathe getting up early.  Yet here I was, doing it on my vacation, and all because someone on my Facebook page happened to mention an eatery that I had already been kind of interested in while I was griping about my disappointing dinner the previous night.

Welcome to South Beach...

Across a bridge from Newport proper is South Beach.  It's not a town, nor is it just a section of Newport like the North End is to Boise.  Wikipedia describes it as an "unincorporated area".  It's where you'll find the Hatfield Marine Science Center, the Oregon Coast Aquarium, and even more importantly an area called Aquarium Village, which is kind of a cheesy tourist theme area.  It's in that area that you'll find Fishtails Cafe.

I know, I know, but it fits in with the neighborhood aesthetic.  It's not as hokey inside.


It turns out that I needn't have worried; I was the first customer of the day.  I loved the place from the second I walked in.  I loved the outdated diner aesthetic (yet clean, everything was absolutely pristine), the old-school small town waitstaff, and the strong, black coffee.

Very strong, very black.  Don't know about the Hawai'i cup though...

My waitress told me that they use and espresso blend for their drip coffee, ground fresh in-house.  She also apologized for the fact that they had run through their entire supply of cloth napkins during the busier than normal previous day, and therefore had to stick me with the paper kind.  While we discussed this, the other waitress was talking to the kitchen staff about how drunk her husband had been when he got home the previous night, and how hard it was to sleep so she could be up for work that morning, what with him puking in the next room and all.  This was related with no anger or malice, it was really very matter-of-fact, maybe with even a tinge of good humor.  Hey, at least the guy isn't an angry drunk, right?  Not that I can relate to that or anything.

Where was I?  Ah yes, breakfast.  I didn't need to go so far for breakfast.  Hell, I didn't even need to take my car.  It's not like there weren't several options just a stone's throw from the hotel.  Of course, none of them serve oysters for breakfast, which is what I wanted.  With eggs, home fries and sourdough toast.

House made, hand-sliced sourdough toast with marionberry jam.

You know how so many people around Idaho freak out about huckleberries?  In Oregon, the marionberry is king.  When I ordered toast, I wasn't presented with the usual options of apple butter, Smucker's grape, marmalade, etc.  They just brought out a paper cup of marionberry preserves.  Which is fine, because it's freaking delicious.

Oysters with over medium eggs and home fries.

I was served a respectable pile of fresh Yaquina Bay oysters, panko-dusted and pan-fried.  These are small, mild-flavored yet sweet oysters, and by far the freshest I've ever had.  The breading, so thin that it was nearly transparent in places, resisted my fork more than the oysters.  The eggs were cooked perfectly to my specifications, with the yolks still beautiful and soft (I have a thing for egg yolks, don't judge me).  Even the tartar sauce was balanced and very tasty.  The only weak spot was the home fries, which seemed to be nothing more than diced red potatoes that had been given a quick spin in a pan to crisp their edges.  There was no detectable seasoning at all, not even salt and pepper.  Everything else was so great that I just didn't care though.  My mood was definitely improved.  This was by far my favorite meal of the entire weekend.

Or as I said on the survey sheet: "Best oysters ever."

It was during my meal that my roommate texted me.  I thought she was going to say she was ready to be picked up, since we had talked about getting an early start, but instead she said that she wanted to be picked up around 10 am.  Since I'd only seen the Bayfront the night before, and in the dark, I asked her where I should go to see the Ocean, and she recommended Nye Beach.

Not bad at all.  And so it was that I sat there, vegging out and listening to the waves, until she texted to let me know she was ready.  When I swung by and picked her up, she told me she needed to make a stop before we left town.  Back at the beach.  Because the kid wanted to say goodbye to the Ocean.

Is that freaking adorable or what?

It had been about three hours since I'd had breakfast, and we still had about a two hour drive to collect the other child.  By then it was about lunch time, and most of us were getting a little peckish.  We decided to stop in Tualatin to try one of those places people are always raving about but which seemingly has little interest in opening an Idaho location.

Panera Bread, for those of you who don't know, is a fast casual chain.  What can I say, I dig places like that.  The ingredients are usually fresh and good quality, the menu diverse enough that everyone can find something to enjoy, and the results are consistent from location to location.  Not something I would want every day, but that I can enjoy from time to time.  I'd certainly rather do that than fast food.

The atmosphere is about what you'd expect from such a place.  Big menus at the front, along with well-presented impulse buy items...

...and a casual, pleasant dining area with something of an assembly line feel.  Panera's focus is on baked good and sandwiches, primarily.

Plus, they have yummy frozen lemonade.

The Tween had eaten a little later than the rest of us and wasn't very hungry, and the wee one played it safe with a PB&J and a tube of organic yogurt.  The roommate and I both decided do the "You Pick Two" option, where you mix and match two items between a cup of soup, a half sandwich, a half order of pasta, a half salad, or a flatbread sandwich.

My roomie picked the Roasted Turkey & Avocado BLT and the Broccoli Cheddar Soup as her two choices.  You also have the pick of an apple, chips, or a hunk of baguette for a side.  Though it was one of the two sandwiches I was most interested in, I didn't try hers.  It's a pretty straightforward combination of all-natural roasted turkey, applewood-smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato and sliced avocado, served on sourdough bread dressed with reduced fat olive oil mayo.  The soup (she upgraded to a full bowl, just FYI) was rich, creamy, and very cheesy (you might be able to tell that I did try that).  She was very impressed, and bemoaned that we had found another place to be depressed about not having back home.

As for me, I went with the Bacon Turkey Bravo and the Pesto Sacchettini.  I'm a person who generally prefers strong flavors (there are some exceptions, just in case you're trying to reconcile that statement with my love of dim sum), and whomever came up with these two menu items must have felt the same.  The sandwich consists of smoked turkey, smoked bacon, smoked Gouda cheese (are you seeing a pattern here?), lettuce, tomato and "signature sauce" on tomato basil bread.  You would have to suck at life in order to put those ingredients together and have the outcome be anything less than delicious.  Keeping with the basil theme, the Pesto Sacchettini combines pasta stuffed with SIX cheeses (Cheddar, Mozzarella, Romano, Jack, Ricotta and Parmesan) with nut-free pesto, which is then topped with Asiago and more Parmesan.  Do I even need to say that it was good?  For my side I chose baguette, because what else was I going to mop up the leftover pesto with?  I also gave some to my dining companions to soak up a little of the soup with.

Did I mention that at Panera, you can add a pastry on to your meal for an additional 99 cents?  There are a LOT of options available but, since I intended to share, I chose a cinnamon roll because everyone in our party loves them.  And yeah, we liked this one just fine.  Personally, I prefer the taller, more chewy/dense variety, but this was still better than you'll get out of a can or a grocery story bakery.  So far, I've been unable to find a petition or Facebook campaign to bring Panera to Boise.  Maybe I'll start one.

As we passed through Portland, I had one more thing I had to do before we began the long trek home...

Pic taken by roommate, as I didn't have the patience.

Yes, I went back to Voodoo Doughnut, and yes it was for the second time in less than 48 hours.  Well, it was Voodoo Doughnut Too specifically, but that's all semantics.  What can I say, I wanted another of those amazing Mango Tango doughnuts.  And I had to get another Bacon Maple Bar since they had just put out a fresh batch.  The Tween actually wanted her own Voodoo Bubble this time, and her sister decided that she needed one as well.  The roommate had a Raspberry Romeo, the same kind she had on her first trip to Portland and had to throw half of it away as she was boarding the plane.  Call it unfinished business, I suppose.  Oh, I did get a Portland Cream to have with my coffee at home the next morning.  You know, maybe it's a good thing that I don't live closer to Portland.

After that, it was a long, boring drive home (at least once we were back to the desert areas), interrupted only by a fast food stop in La Grande for girls' dinner, which oddly enough seems to be becoming something of a tradition for our road trips.  The fast food meal on the return journey is almost like a closing ceremony.  Oh, and we stopped in Baker City for gas after being unable to find an open gas station in scenic North Powder.  Anyway, drove far, arrived late, spent a lot of the following day sleeping.  At the back of my mind, I'm already formulating a return trip to Portland to focus on just the amazing diversity of street food that's there And possibly another jaunt to the Coast for more seafood.

Fishtails Cafe on UrbanspoonPanera Bread on UrbanspoonVoodoo Doughnut Too on Urbanspoon

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