Oregon’s Bay Area  has many eateries where your nutritional needs can be met, if not in fine style then at least at the right price. Somewhat oddly, in both Coos Bay and North Bend, you won’t find it easy to dine on seafood—in these hard-working towns, eating well seems to require heartier fare. For fresh seafood, you’re advised to head to the docks in Charleston.
Nearly all the following are located along a two-block section of busy Broadway, which is the name given to southbound U.S. 101 as it passes through downtown Coos Bay. So just park the car and check out which of the following looks good.
The Blue Heron Bistro (110 W. Commercial Ave., 541/267-3933, 11 a.m.–9 p.m. Mon.–Sat., $12–18) is located in the heart of downtown Coos Bay—with its Bavarian-style half-timbered exterior, you can’t miss it. The specialty is traditional German cooking, such as sauerbraten, schnitzel, and sausages, although fresh salmon and seafood are also featured.
For old-school Italian food, try Benetti’s (290 S. Broadway, 541/267-6066, 5–9 p.m. Sun–Thurs., 5–10 p.m. Fri.–Sat., $9–24). Choose between pasta dishes such as spaghetti with house-made meatballs, chicken parmigiana, or a grilled steak.
The Coney Station Restaurant (295 S. Broadway, 541/269-6948, 11 a.m.–midnight daily, $8–22), combines features of a pub and steakhouse, with good burgers, sandwiches by day, and grilled chicken, beef, and ribs by night. The bar features over 20 regional brews on tap.
Another spot for a light meal is Shark Bites (240 S Broadway, 541/266-7582, 10 a.m.–9 p.m. Tues.–Thurs., 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Fri.–Sat., $8–19), a hip little eatery with a droll sense of humor (the surfboard shop next door is owned by the same couple) and good, freshly prepared food, with several local seafood options. A variety of wraps and sandwiches, including a very tasty halibut burger, as well as pasta and fish tacos, are favorites—best of all, prices are fair and quality is high.
Another place to get your seafood hit is Sumin’s Sushi Bar (298 S Broadway, 541/267-0119, 11 a.m.–8 p.m. daily, $4–18), a friendly Asian food outpost with a selection of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean food. The quality is high, particularly for the sushi and hand rolls—try the Coos Bay Roll, with salmon, salmon skin, crabmeat, and spinach.
In North Bend, the two top places to eat are both Mediterranean.
If you’ve had enough of the standard coastal fare, try Cafe Mediterranean (1860 Union St., 541/756-2299, 11 a.m.–9 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 3–9 p.m. Sat., $8–19) for Middle Eastern–style Mediterranean food, including a locally famed lentil soup, in a friendly relaxed setting. This is a good spot for sharing a mezze platter, a Greek salad, and some kebabs. The Food Network’s Rachel Ray stopped by for a Chicken Shawerma Sandwich when she was filming in the area.
Porta (1802 Virginia Ave., 541/756-4900, 5–9 p.m. Tues.–Sat., $13–22) has excellent handcrafted Italian food. All pastas are made in-house, as are sauces; local seafood and produce are used as much as possible, and the menu changes frequently to reflect what’s fresh and at its height of flavor. Highlights of one autumn menu included pumpkin-filled ravioli with sage butter sauce and a perfectly cooked roasted chicken with sautéed apples and thyme. The dining room is very small, so call ahead for reservations.
The Mill Casino (3201 Tremont Ave., North Bend, 541/756-8800 or 800/953-4800, www.themillcasino.com ) has a total of five dining options, including the Timbers Café (24 hours daily, 8–22), with burgers, sandwiches, and other light dining options. The more upscale Plank Room (8 a.m.–1 a.m. daily, $12–28) offers three meals daily in a waterfront dining room. At the Saw Blade (4–9 p.m. Fri.–Sat., $25 adult, $12.50 children 11 and under), a seafood buffet is offered on weekend evenings.
Stop in at Sozo Tea and Coffee (1955 Union St., 541/756-5422, 9 a.m.–9 p.m. Mon.–Thurs., 9 a.m.–11 p.m. Fri.–Sun.) and you may find yourself lingering with a pastry or dessert just to absorb the warm atmosphere.
Natural-food fans converge at Coos Head Natural Foods (1960 Sherman Ave., 541/756-7264, 9 a.m.–7 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Sat., noon–5 p.m. Sun.), which has the largest selection of certified organic produce and food on the south coast.
You can’t go too far wrong looking for a fresh seafood meal down at the docks—a number of casual restaurants (some are more like shacks) cluster here, including one spot where the crab cooker is always on.
The Sea Basket (63502 Kingfisher Rd., 541/888-5711, 7 a.m.–8 p.m. daily, $8–16) typifies the good seafood, fast service, and fair prices you expect on the docks. Oysters are especially tasty in this restaurant, with noted breeding farms close by. It is also famous for its Bigman burgers. The fluorescent glare above the cafeteria-style tables frequented by anglers in work-blackened denims may not count much for atmosphere, but you’ll leave satisfied.
Close by, the classier Portside (63383 Kingfisher Rd., Charleston Boat Basin, 541/888-5544, 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m. daily, $13–34) has won several Silver Spoon Awards from the Diners Club in recent years. Fine dining in Charleston might seem a contradiction in terms, but the chance to select your own lobsters and crabs out of a tank, along with the sight of the fleet unloading other dinners just outside the door, would whet the appetite of any gourmet.
Just before the Charleston Bridge, the Fisherman’s Grotto (91149 Cape Arago Hwy., 541/888-3251, 11 a.m.–8 p.m. daily, $13–21) is a good place for fish-and-chips or seafood dinners such as grilled salmon or stuffed sole. If you’re an oyster lover, you’ll certainly want to visit Qualman’s (4898 Crown Point Rd., 541/888-3145, 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m.), which sells incredibly fresh oysters from its nearby beds. Just look for the signs on the north side of the Charleston Bridge on the east side of the highway.
Charleston’s fine-dining restaurant of the moment is the casual but upscale
Oyster Cove Grill (63346 Boat Basin Rd., 541/888-0703, 5–9 p.m. Tues.–Sun., main courses $20–28), with seafood every bit as fresh as it should be and tastier than you’ll generally find it. The simple preparations of wild salmon or Alaskan halibut are delicious, and the chef also has a way with Cajun spices—crab-stuffed halibut loaded with cheese and topped with spicy sauce ($27) is a worthy splurge. The house specialty is Oysters Charleston, crispy fried oysters on a bed of creamed spinach topped with Bayou sauce. Steaks are also taken seriously.