You love Portland because you love nature. Drive a little over an hour one way and you’re at the coast. Drive 45 minutes the opposite way and you’re at majestic Mount Hood. Being a Portlander means you like to travel around the region and experience the best your state has to offer.
That’s why we wanted to step outside of our normal routine, step away from the hottest new scene, and introduce you to a coastal restaurant that aims to give you an experience straight from the sea.
A Coastal Experience Located in bucolic Gold Beach, Oregon, the Chowder House provides coastal travelers with a delicious meal just a few hundred feet away from crashing waves and salty spray.
Originally a standalone restaurant called Spadas, the Chowder House was purchased by Gene Pranger in an effort to expand on the amenities offered at his property next door, the Pacific Reef Hotel. It wouldn’t be easy, however, as the building was a mess and plagued with terrible reviews.
“We basically shut it down for three years, remodeled the interior and the exterior, and renamed it,” Pranger explains.
Once reopened, The Chowder House had a new lease life, and focused on a simple dining experience based on coastal foods, a banquet space to hold events, and delicious house-made fudge.
The coastal dining experience adequately begins with a bowl of teaming clam chowder. “We go through gallons and gallons of clam chowder every day, and during the high season ten to twenty gallons,” says Pranger. The clam chowder is made in-house and from local ingredients. It’s not too heavy, but not watery, with slightly firm potatoes and a dash of paprika.
Next up is a trio of shrimp tacos. House-made cole slaw, pico de gallo and a creamy aioli smothers slightly blackened shrimp – plump, juicy and cooked perfectly. The single corn tortilla is lightly toasted and provides a hint of smoke to round out the flavor.
With guests of the hotel getting $10 off breakfast, stopping in to start the day becomes a no-brainer. The breakfast burrito comes heavy, filled with scrambled eggs, deep-fried potatoes, grilled onions and tender bacon. It’s a hearty way to start the day.
Once satiated, the final stop on your way out the door should be at the fudge counter. Many a Portland native will recall fond memories of the delicious fudge found up and down the Oregon Coast. The dark chocolate fudge with walnuts is just as rich and decadent as fudge should be, leaving you licking its sugary goodness off of your teeth.
Future Plans While The Chowder House has filled a need, serving as both its own standalone establishment and an amenity to the hotel, there’s big plans to make it so much more. Not content to let it be a regular counter restaurant and banquet space, Pranger wants to transform the banquet area into a full-on family dining and entertainment experience.
As he describes it, couples or small families would sit at a table for eight, communal style, and be treated to five exquisite courses, each representing different culinary treasures from the coast.
“For example,” Pranger begins, “We might do fresh-caught Salmon or fresh caught Tuna. We would focus on local, organic farms, organic fruits and produce of that nature. We would also showcase local wines from the Oregon Coast.”
Finally, there would be a small entertainment portion of the evening, perhaps a video playing on the large television mounted to the wall. The focus won’t be solely on the entertainment, however. With the communal seating, Pranger hopes for a “more social experience.”
Fortunately, this ambitious project doesn’t signal the death of the restaurant. Breakfast, lunch and dinner would still be available until 7:00pm, at which point the dinner and entertainment service would begin.
Having just opened a first-of-its-kind outdoor amphitheater, Pranger’s plans for The Chowder House may get a quick boost. Although he originally wanted to open up his banquet area to the dining experience this year, he may wait until next year to allow for his business to absorb the increased traffic.
With the Southern Oregon Coast being one of the most ruggedly beautiful stretches of coastline in the world, it’s no wonder adventurous Portlanders find often find themselves vacationing on the coast. From world-class golf to whale watching, there’s just so much to offer.
Knowing this, Pranger has bet his business strategy on three simple travel rules in saying, “people remember what they ate, they remember what they saw, and they remember who they visited with.”
The next time you’re on the Southern Oregon Coast, make those memories at the Chowder House and Pacific Reef Hotel. The Chowder House restaurant is located at 29374 Ellensburg Avenue in Gold Beach, Oregon. They are open daily from 11:30am to 10:00pm. For menu information click or tap here, otherwise they can be reached at 541.425.5201
William Bessette – PortlandMetroLive.com Contributor
William Bessette is longtime journalist and blogger with over twelve years of professional writing experience. After a long career as an entertainment and political columnist, William now spends his time expounding on Portland restaurants, Portland plays and Android smartphone apps. When he isn’t writing or eating, then writing about eating, expect him to be outside enjoying the natural splendors of his home in the great Pacific Northwest.