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Retro Restaurants: Memory Lane of Historic N. Oregon Coast Eats

Published 07/07/2019 at 7:53 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Retro Restaurants: Memory Lane of Historic Oregon Coast Eats

(Manzanita, Oregon) – While the distinct memory of a favorite dish often fades, the cherished moments of certain experiences at restaurants don’t. The north Oregon coast is full of these, and full of famed and not-so-famous eateries that were once favorites, even if they were fleeting. (Above: Manzanita's San Dune Pub: still around). (See the current Oregon Coast Dining/Restaurant Guide)

This is the first in a series of restaurant retrospectives from the Oregon coast, looking back at the documentation of some historic eateries and watering holes from the last 20 years along the beaches. They come from a precursor to Oregon Coast Beach Connection, another publication called Oregon Coast Guide that was sort of this publication’s ancestor.

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Sea Shack, Wheeler. Long gone now, for at least a decade the Sea Shack provided lots of good times in the Nehalem Bay area, always with an excellent view. It’s now another biz called the Salmonberry Saloon, which comes with its own memories in recent years. Between it and the Sea Shack, the famed building was the Tsunami Grill for a time, which had moved from its initial spot across the street in the old Nina’s Italian Cafe building (which was there from at least the ‘80s through the early 2000s).

There’s a lot of history in Wheeler, and the Sea Shack was a huge part of it: the social hub for Wheeler for a long time.

Care to wander down memory lane? This writeup from the former publication:

“Among other things, the Sea Shack stands out for dockside dining during the summer months. But even during the colder months, when you can't dine outside, you can still grab a bite to eat and watch the bay. Sunsets here are one of the big hidden secrets on the coast, with the still waters of Nehalem Bay reflecting the light in a way that's unforgettable. Sometimes, you may spot wildlife, like elk, cavorting on the land across the way.

The Sea Shack features an extensive menu that includes a large selection of famous seafood items, including interesting stuff like a Bucket of Chili Shrimp (in a spicy broth) or the enormous Sea Shack Platter (consisting of all of whatever seafood they have on hand, made to order, for $30.) They are also slightly famous for their gourmet entrees, like their seafood plates, pastas or the filet mignon. A golden halibut comes seared and basted in garlic and pesto, with the option of getting it topped with a pineapple-tarragon sauce ($15). There's a char grilled salmon filet, buttered and with the option for getting it poached in an orange cumin sauce ($15). Or indulge yourself in the fettuccine alfredo, with a choice of steamed vegetables, grilled chicken or seasonal seafood ($10 - $18).”

La Fiesta was a lovely little Mexican restaurant that once existed on the southern end of Cannon Beach, where the Fresh Foods Cannon Beach now sits. Since about 2000, at least two restaurants occupied the spot, but the building sat vacant for a long time until a few years back when this biz built another structure.

What was said about La Fiesta almost 20 years ago:

“It's a bit of Mexico in this arty little town. Enjoy the brightly painted surroundings and
friendly service, but reasonably priced yet large dinners are the stars here. Mexican
specialties like flautas (crispy fried tortillas wrapped into tubes filled with meat),
sopitos (deep fried corn shells topped with beans and meats), fajitas and Tacos al Carbon
(marinated top sirloin) are around $10 or $11 - all with rice and beans. You can also get
the "family style" meal, serving two for $20, where you can choose meats to go with various
grilled veggies. Combinations combine things like tacos, enchiladas, chimichangas, tamales, tostadas and burritos in various configurations, all between $7 and $9.”

The San Dune Pub in Manzanita has been around for decades and is not one that has gone by the wayside. Stronger than ever, its weekend nights are packed with fun and funky musical acts and a consistent, broiling energy. Yet during the day and dinner hours it’s a laid-back place of delicious grub and smiling staff. Apparently it’s quite famous for its fish tacos.

According to a writeup 12 years ago in Oregon Coast Beach Connection, editor Andre’ Hagestedt wrote:

“I’ll never forget my first time downing their chili burger: a vast expanse of meat, bun and a pile of chili. Visually, it was like an ocean view and seemed to go on forever. Powered by an initial burst of potent onion that gives way to their distinctive chili recipe, it all melts in your mouth and expands as the smooth accent of cheese kicks in. This burger dish is both plentiful and full of layers, yet all neatly wrapped in a package of basic Americana comfort food.”

A decade and a half ago, owner Debra Greenlee bought up the north Oregon coast legend from its owner, and has since kept kicking it up a notch. Historical in its own right, with lots of nods to a famed inn that once occupied another part of Manzanita, the San Dune Pub has created its own history. Among the highlights: a reunion of the famed local band The Crackpots that took place in the early 2000s, which included famed Portlander (and co-founding member) Lil’ Sue. That picture is here.

Another writeup from the former Oregon Coast Guide featured this tidbit, which still stands true today:

“This deep brown and woody inn seems as if it may have borrowed more than a few items from a historic place called the Neahkahnie Tavern (that burned down in the '50s). Just like the décor, which is filled with a sense of the familiar, the atmosphere is friendly and downhome by those who man the bar.” 127 Laneda Ave., Manzanita, Oregon. 503-368-5080.

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