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Washington's Long Beach Peninsula: A surprising foodie find

The Depot Restaurant (Seaview/Long Beach)
The Depot Restaurant (Seaview/Long Beach)
Elizabeth R. Rose

Years ago, a trip to the Long Beach Peninsula brought up nostalgic images of ice cream cones and taffy from the candy shop. While you'll still find traditional beach food and have a great time in the sand with your family, there is another side to the Long Beach Peninsula.. one which you may not have heard about. The area is fast becoming a destination for discriminating foodies.

The Depot Restaurant's Clam Chowder
Elizabeth R. Rose

The surrounding area is rich with foods like fish, oysters, cranberries, seasonal mushrooms, berries and fresh greens. People crave locally sourced meals and are willing to travel to enjoy them. The Long Beach Peninsula has become the place to go.

Ilwaco, on the Long Beach Peninsula, has long been a fishing town. You'll find that the Port of Ilwaco, while still a haven for fishing vessels with an active fish processing plant, is also attracting chefs from surrounding towns who carefully choose from the morning's catch and then return to their kitchens and develop a menu for the evening's diners. Salmon, halibut, crab, oysters, clams and small shrimp are available seasonally.

Long Beach area restaurants such as The Depot Restaurant and The Shelburne Inn Restaurant rely on the local catch for their seafood entrees and small plates. While enjoying a three-day stay at the beach, I sampled The Depot Restaurant's excellent Clamshell Railroad Clam Chowder. This top notch chowder was made to order and featured whole wild Willapa Bay steamers and chopped ocean razor clams, along with finely diced potatoes, in a delightful light, creamy broth. The catch of the day featured an amazing halibut dish caught, of course, by an Ilwaco fisherman. It was topped with freshly foraged Chanterelle mushrooms (my all time favorite). Chef and owner, Michael Lalewicz is one of those classically trained chefs that brings his expertise to the Long Beach Peninsula. Considered the best restaurant on the Peninsula, The Depot Restaurant is one of those places where you might need to call for a reservation a couple of days in advance.

And then there is the historic, antique-filled Shelburne Inn Restaurant. Long-known as a special-occasion type of place, The Shelburne Inn is another one of those restaurants that features creatively cooked, locally sourced foods. The evening I was there, the chef brought in hand made ravioli, created by a chef-friend. This amazing pasta plus the perfectly cooked Columbia King Salmon with lemon caper buerre blanc sauce over fettuccini, made for a memorable dinner experience. On the menu, also, were dishes featuring local Chanterelle mushrooms, foraged by the chef-owner of The Shelburne. Chanterelle season had arrived early on the peninsula and I enjoyed the results.

This readily available bounty from land and sea is drawing these classically trained chefs to the area, chefs that may have chosen to settle in places like Seattle and Portland in the past. As the seasons change, so do the menus. So there is good reason to make multiple treks to the Washington Coast. You might look to visit in April for clamming season, December through
 March for Oysters, summer for berries and fall for cranberries. Look, also, for farmer's markets and festivals. October is Cranberrian Festival time. At this celebration of the local cranberry harvest you'll find cranberry foods, crafters, and more. There's even a Cranberry Museum. And, you can bet that cranberry-laden foods will be on the menu at places like The Depot Restaurant and the Shelburne Inn.

You can spend a week on the Long Beach Peninsula and discover a new restaurant each day. On the beach, with a view to die for, is the hip Pickled Fish. Over in Seaview, you can have a scrumptious breakfast at the 42nd Street Cafe. (Don't leave without purchasing some of the locally made specialty foods.) Drive out to Oysterville and stop by Willabay Foods for a terrific bay view and more locally made specialties from the shop adjacent to the historic oyster packing plant. You can't get any closer to the source than that!

With all this wonderful food, you'll be grateful for the recreation opportunities on the Long Beach Peninsula. Walk or bike the beautiful Lewis and Clark Discovery Trail and make sure to fly a kite on the beach when the winds come up. There is much to do, experience and eat on the Long Beach Peninsula.

More Information
Long Beach Washington Visitors Bureau Site