After breakfast consult your plastic bag of muffins for sustenance. Muffins and a piece of fruit can sometimes get you through the day. Come dinnertime, though, you’re on your own.
Food options nearest to the bnb are in Hiouchi itself. But the pickings are slim (really only two spots with food, and one closes early). Crescent City, twenty minutes to the south on 199, and you’re within striking distance of a whopping 15 or so restaurants, but at least half are fast-food joints the likes of Denny’s and Burger King. Venture north, into Oregon and Brookings and your choices increase. But none of these towns are really, really renowned for food.
To edge the odds of a good meal upward, here are my picks for the best in all three towns.
There isn’t a lot happening in Hiouchi. RV hook-ups, gas, propane, a motel, café and booze about does it. Some in-between stuff too, but generally, you want to be provisioned prior to arriving in town. Still, this is my town and my heart often cries out for the place. Here’s what you’ll find, food-wise.
Not just a place to eat in Hiouchi, how about the only place to eat in Hiouchi. This is a ham and egger straight through. But because we’re usually hunkering down in our own kitchen at the bnb – cooking for ourselves or for guests — we hardly ever eat here. That makes it tough to provide much of a description. However, when the electricity goes south or when web goes down, Meg and I will head to the Café for what we think is their best offering – a thick slice of smoked ham (on bone), eggs, hash browns, and coffee. We don’t get around the menu much so we’ll stick with our fave and keep the recommendation simple. And they do have dependably solid WiFi.
2095 Hwy, 199
Across from the RV Park and Chevron Station
Open every day but Tuesday, 7 am – 2:30 pm
Looks like a Chevron station. Get yur gas here. And it there’s washrooms. Don’t even need a key. And hey there, it looks like a mini-mart inside. So is that it? Well, the place looks like a standard-issue gas station-mini mart. Nothing fancy. What you might expect to see out on the state highway. Gas, bathrooms, wine, beer and nibbles. Lots of useful items for campers down at the Jed Smith campground. But there’s a kitchen inside, and — surprise, surprise — they turn out some dependable staples. Options include corn dogs, pasta and noodle salad, meat and cheese sandwiches, the occasional piece of fruit, and coffees (including an espresso cart that sits inside the store). The young kids who work the counter are invariably courteous. And the owner, Mike, is the honorary mayor-designate of Hiouchi. It’s a town hall, meeting place, information center, no-star food purveyor and crossroads of Hiouchi all in one. The grub may not be spectacular but I’ve become fond of the sandwiches and sometimes just give up and head to the Hamlet for some basic caloric intake. Nothing fancy but you’ll be fed. As one Yelper says: “I love the Hiouchi Hamlet. Without it, what would the people of Hiouchi do for fishing tackle, and everything else they could possibly need while living out in the middle of nowhere? They even have a cute little coffee shack right out front, and a copier inside! And a pretty amazing selection of booze. And fishing tackle.”
2100 US Highway 199
Call for hours: Usually 6am to 8pm
There must be a thousand motel rooms in Crescent City, but surprisingly there’s not much breadth to the restaurant offerings in town. Still, we have our favorites.
The Chart Room occupies a choice location overlooking the commercial harbor of Crescent City. And while the commercial fishing industry has taken a hit in the past few years, with the salmon running further north and crabs congregating to the south, this fish house stays busy year round. In the height of the summer it’s not unusual to wait 45 minutes for table. Luckily, that the exception, though it is a popular spot for both tourists and locals. The menu stays pretty close to conventional fish house grub – we give thumbs up to the crab sandwich, the salmon specials, bouillabaisse on nights they serve it, and the fish and chips, as well as the lasagna. The menu ranges much further afield though, with prices going from ultra-reasonable 8.95 for a killer bouillabaisse to high of $29.95 for the seafood combo dinners. Décor is culled from the building’s original use, a marine supply house, with various lighthearted and oceanic-themed items added since the transition. Huge picture windows line the north-facing wall so almost everyone gets some sort of view (though I suggest waiting for a window table if you can). The harbor is usually abuzz with sea lions, seals, gulls, and boats moving in and out of the harbor. All in all, the place reeks of charm, with a bit of funk thrown in to remind iu all we’re way on the left coast in one the few California beach towns that time really did forget.
130 Anchor Way (across from the commercial harbor)
Hours are tricky. Call them at 707-464-5993.
We like and often recommend Vita Cucina to guests. It’s one of the few restaurants, maybe the only, that takes food seriously. Located in a small strip mall in town, Vita Cucina is a very simple place. It looks like a deli/restaurant and makes no bones about décor or embellished ambiance. Really, it has none. The place is driven by its kitchen, chefs, cooks, and staff. Choices are not extensive, but what they do cook and prep up is intentional and smart. Owners Devon and Michelle Morgante come from good stock having attended the Culinary Institute of America, and both sport impressive food-oriented backgrounds. What I admire about the place is that Devon and Michelle are right there in the open kitchen working hard at their craft, day in and day out. Reviews are excellent. It’s a good spot to aim for after a full day of hiking – eat simply or take out food and dine by the shore or bring it back to the bnb. VC aspires to cook good, interesting, ingredient-aware food, which cannot be said about so many other local restaurants. Staff is always bright-eyed and helpful. They do a big catering business in town and they still find the time to open at 7 every day and stay open til 6, sometimes 7.
1270 Front St.
M-F: 7am – 6pm (Fridays til 7); closed weekends
Another terribly simple restaurant that turns out tasty Mexican food. We stay close to traditional here ordering anything pork – burritos, enchiladas, or tacos will please. The two salsas, hot and mild, served with chips, are homemade, outstanding and worth adding to entrees as well. We often buy a container of salsa to bring home with us. Christina’s is a family run business. You might see the young kids studying at a small table nearby and you’ll see plenty of hugs and sweet conversation between patrons and Christina. Four and a half stars out of five on Yelp!
237 Price Mall (you’ll see it from 3rd St.)
Good Harvest Café
A popular spot that has a little bit of everything on the menu. I can’t say I’ve ever had a truly stellar meal here but the restaurant delivers on a couple of very good promises – long hours, open seven days a week, a decent array of vegetarian dishes, and prices that won’t break the bank. The location is directly across the street from the harbor though if you sit on the ground floor level you won’t see much from the windowless rooms. The smaller dining area and bar upstairs has a bank of windows and more natural light – even a view. The menu is one of those XXL documents with soups, salads, and breakfasts that are all over the map. Vegetarian chili, steaks, burgers, po’ boys, pastas, chicken dishes, Mexican… Sometimes I think I’ve died and gone to a Vegas buffet when I look over the menu. The mention of organic ingredients and presence of at least the option of vegetarian and food that aspires to be healthy cuisine cannot be ignored – even deep fried items are cooked in trans-fat free rice bran oil. And the restaurant is open late (the kitchen is dependably open til 9pm, which is late in Crescent City).
575 Hwy 101
You’re in the shadow of the redwoods, a few steps maybe from the salty Pacific, gulls are flying overhead. Very California. Now why in the world would you be craving Chinese food? No matter because when you do (as often happens to us) we head to Wing Wah, next to the Safeway and up a few doors Papa Johns and the US Cellular store. It’s hard to tell if the food they serve is good, passable or excellent (call it strip mall Chinese). For me it boils down to sliding into a booth, immediately being served a piping hot pot of Oolong tea and suddenly feeling that life is good. We order pot stickers for sure, and then anything goes. Sure you can point to an item on the menu but it also works just by asking your waitress for exactly what you feel like eating. Shrimp and snow peas? Check. Spicy sautéed eggplant? Check. Five ingredient fried rice? Check. The staff is friendly and accommodating. The place can get crowded with both eat-in and take-out diners but waits are never outrageous. The décor is blah, the prices mid-range. Nothing out of the ordinary nor extraordinary, but it is the one Chinese place in town we go back and back and back to.
383 M St.
Thirty minutes north on the 101 and just over the Oregon state line, this small town has historically been the place to go for cheap gas, heavy discounts and a crazy selection of food and household items at Fred Meyer. And no sales tax. It’s a utilitarian relationship for sure. But recently we’ve started to depend on the town for reliably decent and near-exotic food, as well as locally made craft beers (and a home brew vodka too!).
Yes, we love the retro/lost-in-time feel of so many Crescent City joints but sometimes we just want to reassure ourselves that the real world – with modern food, casual but competent live music, and locally brewed beer – is relatively nearby.
These are our favorites and go-to spots in Brookings.
Chetco Brewing Company
The Chetco Brewing Company is our new favorite spot in Brookings. Streamlined décor, well-lit, the CBC is a no-nonsense spot tucked behind a Radio Shack and a Thai restaurant on the town’s main drag. The CBC serves only beer, a lineup of twelve, hand-crafted beers the owner brews up in a nearby brewery facility. Most of the tap room’s seating is the 20-odd stools that ring a hockey-stick shaped bar. A few additional tables provide seating where beer guzzlers, er, patrons are often playing board games and sipping on pints or flights of beer. Hang out at the bar for a while and you will lose count of the locals who roll in to fill and refill their growlers (64 oz) and growelettes (32 oz) with fresh beer poured straight from the tap. Unpretentious and intentionally low-key, believe me, you will light up when you start in on the CBC’s array of beers. Figure on nine or ten beers from brewmaster John Doe’s total of twelve he makes being available on any given day. Add a couple of “guest beers” on tap, root beer and a cider and you have the complete lineup of offerings. No food at the CBC but you can bring grub in from any outside restaurant — order from the Thai place next door, or make up sandwiches at home to eat at the bar. Highly recommended for exceptionally satisfying beers and a friendly, neighborhood feel.
927 Chetco Ave., behind Khun Thai
Open 2pm-9pm Mon-Thurs and 12pm-9pm Fri-Sun
Oxenfre Public House
Not so sure about the name, but the vibe and food in this brew-pub is spot on, tasty, fairly priced and eclectic. The vibe is near-Portland cool but less manufactured and a bit less polished. There’s a bar to drink and eat at, some bar-height tables and a few two- and four-tops spread around the room. An outdoor area overlooking a few non-descript Brookings side streets provides some welcome quiet when the music heats up in the main room. Food runs a decent range from burgers and steaks to pan-roasted veggies to a hot pastrami sandwich. The kitchen serves a full menu till nine, then there’s a shortened list of edibles that are served til closing (including the pastrami sandwich, short rib tacos and a Kobe beef frankfurter). The scene is decidedly modern and hip but there’s zero pretense. The wait staff is straightforward and approachable. You’ll probably have a few kind words with the folks at nearby tables. This is a friendly spot, connected to the real world and the clear choice to aim for anytime, but especially on Sunday and Monday nights when most Crescent City spots are either closed or closing early. Easy to imagine you’re by the beach in LA or in relaxed New Orleans bar in the warehouse district. My advice, go.
631 Chetco Ave.
Open for dinner daily, 4pm-9pm Late night menu 9pm-no earlier than 11pm. Lunch on Fri and Sat 11am-4pm.
Superfly Distilling Company
Another Brookings restaurant we would kill for to have in Crescent City, this four-year old spot just off the main drag in Brookings is the offspring of a pre-existing Brookings vodka distillery. Opened with the idea of extending the vodka brand and generating general awareness for the booze end of things, the restaurant stands on its own. The food covers a broad range of style and cuisine but doesn’t go overboard on options. We just rediscovered Superfly so don’t have whole lot to say about the menu. But on our latest foray, BulGoGi for me and a tuna entre for the misses, were spot on and insanely priced ($10 and $12). Ambience is pretty basic. Natural light pours into windows set on two sides of the restaurant. A three-sided bar seats about 12; then about a dozen more tables round out the rest of the interior space. Seven picnic tables are perched on a patio adjacent to the entrance so you have some options when the weather is good.
623 Memory Lane, Brookings
Mon – Thurs: 7am – 10pm
Fri – Sat: 7am – 12am
Sunday: 9am – 9pm
A smallish place off the main drag in Brookings is Kitanishi, a Japanese restaurant we often recommend to guests. We stick to the raw fish sushi and specials and are rarely disappointed. Sometimes the fish is local, other times fish is flown in from Hawaii. But if you follow our best practices for Kitanishi and ask owner Beth Wong (or any of her staff for that matter) what is fresh and what is local and go from there, you will be pleasantly surprised to be eating what is often absolutely sublime sushi. You won’t find flash or exotica at Kitanishi. It’s a quiet spot, favored by locals, that relies on its food for sizzle. Desserts are worth a special mention and come from the restaurants two master bakers, Noreta and Rebecca. Coconut cake and any cheesecake would be a great choice.
632 Hemlock Street
Open Tuesday through Saturday only; call for hours