Covering 180 miles of Oregon coast travel: Astoria, Seaside, Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Nehalem, Wheeler, Rockaway, Garibaldi, Tillamook, Oceanside, Pacific City, Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Newport, Waldport, Yachats & Florence.
Sneaky Oregon Coast Restaurant Reviews - Manzanita's Terra Cotta
Four and a Half Stars (out of Five)
(Manzanita, Oregon) - Welcome to the first installment of a new feature at BeachConnection.net: a series of clandestine visitations by two writers on the coast (who will remain anonymous) to various beachy places to munch. They carry with them a fierce hunger – not simply in their bellies, but a hunger to inform as well, along with a feisty wit. The result is something between the Food Network and TMZ. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll get hungry - and sometimes you'll just be turned off. It's dining with attitude. And it's about damned time.
Our first up is Terra Cotta Café in Manzanita, which our writer gave four and a half stars out of five. We’re praising quite high right out of the gate, but that won’t always be the case.
You gotta love the Manzanita area and Nehalem Bay area. Yeah, there’s a helping of crusty local redneck guys in cut-off shirts, a la Larry the Cable Loser Guy, along with a smattering of the usual semi-toothless constituency you find on the coast. But largely, Manzanita and the bay area smack of civilization in this curiously laid back, coastie way, where creative-types abound (hey it has more artists than purportedly artist colonized Cannon Beach), and some legendary eateries have occupied this little bit of heaven on the coast. Some of that creativity has rubbed off on the local food hotspots. Of note in the past has been Blue Sky Café and the stunning culinary fireworks of Treasure Café - both now long gone and still lamented to this day.
Luckily, we have Terra Cotta Café in Manzanita.
Now there’s two ways to look at this gem, depending on your personal predilections. One, it’s stuffy and uptight, and you're probably of the heavily-tattooed set and would rather get some greasy fish and chips anyway. The other view is that it’s dreamy (although the preponderance of pastel pinks kind’a make you feel out of place if you’re not gay). It’s thoroughly romantic, intimate (more so if you are a gay couple), and it’s upscale yet beach flip-flop friendly.
Next door, owners Sandy and Harvey ran The Malt Shop for years until recently. This was also famous for exquisite burgers and lots of other pleasures: simple Americana dishes done with mouth-watering flair. They dropped that business a few years ago and ventured into more cutting edge gastronomic territory. A shame, since it was gourmet food for those who didn’t like serious gourmet.
Your experience here begins with the breadsticks. They are unique: they’re not hardened, upright and oblong chunks of bread, but rather, limp, braided creations that sing upon impact with your mouth. They are moist, tender and full of life.
I suck them down like there’s no tomorrow (because, if you're listening to the melee of my growling, starving stomach, there isn't another day). It's gastro-orgasms as I douse them with the real (oh yum) butter.
Next up comes a soft, silky bisque made of artichokes and tomatoes. This is a recipe of Sandy's, and it’s wowing to say the least. The whole thing goes down smooth and creamy, but there’s a touch of a zing, given by the artichokes, yet subtle and far from overpowering.
Then comes the New York steak - which is among the best specimens of steak I’ve ever come across. It’s a perfect blend of charred layers on the outside and rich, juicy meat on the inside.
This whole experience set me back about $18.
Another regular favorite of mine here is the Stuffed Chicken Breast ($15). This deceased fowl comes crammed with spinach and blue cheese, sort of like a cordon bleu, but with more of a Greek slant than a French one. (Do chickens have psychic intuitions about what they’ll be cooked with after death?) It's pan seared and comes with nifty little caramelized red onions. And it’s so damned good it hurts. The chicken is extra tender and juicy, and the tang and tart of the cheese mix harmoniously with that serious flavor of the spinach.
Another interesting concoction is their spaghetti and meatballs. No, not as pedestrian as it sounds, so halt those rolling eyeballs of yours. There’s a hint of spice in this Italian baby, brought on by Harvey’s affection for southwest flavors: like Anasazi meets Italy (without the cannibalism, of course).
There’s a halibut Papillotte and a salmon version, which are wrapped in parchment paper. This strange and mysterious, voodoo-like cooking method locks in some interesting layers of flavors.
The menu consists of a few pasta specialties, many kinds of seafood, and meat and chicken dishes – all with an innovative flair that would make these plates at home on some cable TV foodie show. Prices generally range from $17 to $25. Manzanita. (503) 368-3700.