The previous week, Brian and I had just moved from the north side of Seaside, Oregon, to a new campground on the south side of town. What a difference! Circle Creek RV Resort was a great place to park for our last week in the area. It had lots of trees, was greener, and put us south of the crazy traffic backup heading into Seaside. Mind you, I would not call it a resort. They do have a small clubhouse with a TV, a store, the usual laundry room and bathrooms, but there’s no pool, hot tub, tennis court, or other resort-style amenities. The Seaside Trolley does its turnaround at the park, so you can hop that into town if you don’t want to drive. Resort or park is becoming a big debate in the RV’ing world – either way, Circle Creek was nice and put us closer to the awesome town of Cannon Beach.
Being on the south side of Seaside gave us easier access to Cannon Beach, which is definitely a foodie town and where we spent most of our off-time that last week. I noted a couple of restaurants in last week’s post and Brian talked about Sleepy Monk coffee.
In just a few days, we sampled quite a few more great places and they are good enough to share with you. The funny thing is we really just wanted to go to Irish Table, but it was either closed or we’d find something different while walking around town. We did finally get to eat there our last night in the area, but I’ll tell you about the other restaurants first.
Sweet Basil’s Cafe
Our Tuesday attempt for Irish Table was met with closed doors (they’re closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays), so we thought we’d try another place we’d heard about – Castaways. We arrived just as they were opening only to see a sign on their door that they were full for the night – on a Tuesday! We drove back into town and spied a little place called Sweet Basil’s Cafe. I’d seen the sign earlier and wanted to try it because “natural, organic, wild”. We checked out the menu – Cajun. Brian’s in! Sweet Basil’s has a lovely little courtyard for outside dining and a small, split interior with the bar on one side and just three or four small tables on the other. It’s a very southern garden vibe. They also have live music – yes, even on a Tuesday.
Their food, in both our minds, was the best we had in Cannon Beach and Seaside. Brian started with their clam chowder, which included lightly smoked salmon. I started with their Bruschetta of Salmon, which blew my mind! It was a perfectly toasted crostini with a light chile oil, layered with a lovely slice of cheese (Maybe Jarlsberg? It wasn’t as strongly flavored as Swiss), a slice of tomato, and a beautiful piece of smoked salmon, then topped with just a bit of fresh pesto. The flavors were amazing and the presentation was gorgeous!
Brian chose the Crawfish Etoufée for his entree and I chose the Dungeness Crab Cakes, which also had a bit of crawfish. Brian said it was probably the best etoufée he’s ever had and I would say the crab cakes were definitely in my top three, ranking up there with Anthony’s in Washington. They were creamy and moist with a light seasoning and breading, leaving the crab and crawfish meat as the stars.
Dessert, for me, was sort of a let down after all that though that was probably our fault. Two of the three choices contained nuts, which I’m allergic to and Brian doesn’t like; so we went with a chocolate lava cake a la mode. It was really good, but it was just your basic chocolate lava cake with ice cream.
The kitchen was open to the area we sat in, so you could see and hear the three-person team working. Chef John Sowa, who our server said had studied under Chef Paul Prudhomme (and we believe it), was in there directing, expediting, and cooking with his two compatriots. The music in the bar side was sort of southern folksy and the perfect volume. The sun was shining on the courtyard. People were talking and children were playing. All in all, it was a fantastic experience that we’re glad to have stumbled upon.
We’d finally made reservations for Castaways and were in town early, so we decided to get an appetizer and drinks before dinner. We stopped off at The Bistro, which coincidentally is next door to Sweet Basil’s Cafe. They have a pretty good happy hour menu that includes a lovely crab crostini. I combined that with a decent semi-dirty vodka martini (I now know that saying ‘fairly dirty’ makes some think I mean only lightly dirty.) Brian had a bourbon and we just relaxed and talked in the bar. The food at The Bistro purports to be French-American and the menu certainly looks it. If we had another few days in the area, we may have tried to join them for dinner.
One thing you should know about Castaways Restaurant and Tiki Bar – at least in the summertime – make reservations. They seem to fill up quickly, even on weekdays, and getting in on the spur of the moment likely won’t work.
My entree was the Jerk Chicken with rice and vegetables, which were very salty. The jerk seasoning was a good balance of spice without causing me pain and the mango salsa worked well with it. Brian had the Lobster Bisque to start, which was really well-balanced with a light creaminess and subtle flavor, and his entree was their Seafood Linguine.
Castaways has great reviews on all the sites and, while it’s good, we didn’t think it was amazing. Well…the bisque was very good. What impressed me most was our server. He was upbeat, very knowledgeable about the food and the restaurant, and ‘on it’. If we could combine our server here with the ambiance and food at Sweet Basil’s Cafe, that would be a perfect dining experience.
The Irish Table
If Ireland was in the Pacific Northwest, this would be their traditional food. Seriously. The Irish Table is a family-owned and run restaurant whose female chef/owner does a beautiful job combining the sense and flavors of Ireland and the British Isles with our amazing Northwest foods. I’m so glad we made the effort to dine there.
You’re not able to make reservations for two, so we went to Cannon Beach early (and tasted some fantastic whiskey and bourbon at the nearby Cannon Beach Distillery.) We thought they opened at 5:00pm, but quickly found that it was actually 5:30pm; so we hung out on their front lawn. In Brian’s In search of…coffee! post, he talks about Sleepy Monk. They share space with The Irish Table and the coffee shop, which closes at 4:00pm, actually transitions to be the restaurant’s front of house. Outside is a nice lawn space with all kinds of chairs and some benches where the coffee shop patrons typically hang out. They even have a basket of shawls people can use if it’s chilly. (I’m torn between admiring that idea versus shuddering at the thought of sharing a shawl that multiple strangers have used.)
Anyway, we hung out waiting for the restaurant to open, people-watching and getting some sun. Quite a few other parties arrived in that time and I was a little worried we’d all be running for the door once it opened, but everyone was very orderly and pointed out who was first, second, etc. It’s so good to witness people being polite and easy-going!
The restaurant itself is fairly small, but with decent spacing between tables, and the ambiance makes me think of a warm, comfortable place to be with friends during those chilly coastal days. I can imagine the chef and owners hanging with friends and playing with new menu offerings over the slower winter months. It makes me want to come back some cold January day just to see if I can hang with them.
The food was extremely good. Brian started with a seafood chowder that he felt was very well-balanced with great flavor. He also helped me with the Dungeness Crab Toast that I ordered, which was piled high with fresh crab on top of Boursin and drizzled with a light and very flavorful lemon sauce. Brian’s main course was the Vegetarian Shepherds Pie. Yes, you read it right – Brian had a vegetarian dish. He does that now and then. The main vegetable in the pie was mushrooms that were the size of medium broccoli florets. It looked and smelled wonderful! If I liked mushrooms, I’d have tried it. My entree was the Flat Iron Steak with Colcannon and a Jameson Peppercorn Sauce. The steak was cooked perfectly and the sauce elevated it nicely. What I really liked was that the colcannon (potatoes and cabbage) was a small portion and it was very light. So many places like to fill your plate with the (cheap) starch. I appreciate it when a restaurant provides a well-balanced entree.
Dessert was absolutely the best we had in Cannon Beach. We chose the Berry Crisp – steaming hot blackberries, marionberries, blueberries, and raspberries under a perfectly spiced crisp topping with vanilla ice cream on top. It was sweet, melty and gushing over the sides, making a perfectly decadent mess. Days later, I still wish we’d purchased several to freeze and have later.
Seaside’s Honorable Mention
I can’t complete a foodie blog about Cannon Beach without mentioning Angelina’s Pizzeria in Seaside. I’m pretty sure I had the perfect piece of pizza there. It’s a great, casual spot to go grab a cold beer and a hot pizza, calzone, or stromboli. The crust was that best combination of crispy and slightly chewy. The toppings were piled high and the cheese was the perfect amount to hold it all together. It was a great end to a day spent exploring the area.
Thanks for joining us as we live our journey…