Hood River’s status as the premier windsurfing town in North America has brought sophisticated tastes to the Gorge with a resulting spike in restaurant quality. No other small town in the Columbia River Gorge (or in the Pacific Northwest, for that matter) can boast such a roster of fine restaurants, not to mention gourmet coffee and options for vegetarians.
A cluster of informal but good deli, lunch, and coffee places is located along Oak Street in the downtown area.
The Sixth Street Bistro (6th St. and Cascade Ave., 541/386-5737, 11:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m. Sun.–Thurs., 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m. Fri.–Sat., $8–16) has a good selection of microbrews on tap and an eclectic menu featuring fresh locally grown organic ingredients.
For great views of the Gorge, climb the steps up to 3 Rivers Grill (601 Oak St., 541/386-8883, www.3riversgrill.com, 11 a.m.–10 p.m. daily, $12–24) with expansive decks overlooking downtown and the Columbia. The selection of Northwest seafood and steaks is large and well prepared.
On “The Heights” (the plateau forming the start of the lower Hood River Valley, a few hundred feet above downtown) you’ll find The Mesquitery (1219 12th St., 541/386-2002, lunch Wed.–Fri., dinner nightly, main courses $8–19), where wood-smoke and barbecue flavors issue a wake-up call to your taste buds. You’ll find the best ribs in town, not to mention steaks, fish, and many other dishes.
East of downtown, in the Best Western Hood River Inn, is the Riverside Grill (1108 E. Marina Way, 541/386-2200, 6 a.m.–9 p.m. daily, main courses $8–19), with the best riverfront views in town. The menu features fresh seafood and steaks.
Andrew’s Pizza and Bakery (104 Oak St., 541/386-1448, 9 a.m.–9 p.m. Mon.–Thurs., 9 a.m.–10 p.m. Fri.–Sat., 10 a.m.–9 p.m. Sun., large pizzas $14 and up) easily wins our vote for best pizza in the Gorge. East Coast transplants will especially appreciate the thin-crusted slices, so reminiscent of the Big Apple’s. Lots of extravagant toppings are available, as well as microbrews and great coffee.
North Oak Brasserie (113 3rd St., 541/387-2310, 5–9 p.m. daily, $8–22) is downtown’s top Italian fine-dining choice. Besides a solid repertoire of regional Italian entrées, the Brasserie features delectable pasta dishes such as house-made gnocchi with pancetta and fontina cream sauce. The roasted garlic and brie soup is the house specialty, and serious oenophiles will be drawn here to sample the wine collection.
Although the name makes it sound like a brewpub, Brian’s Pourhouse (606 Oak St., 541/387-4344, www.brianspourhouse.com, 5–11 p.m. daily, main courses $15–22) is in fact a notable restaurant for locally sourced seasonal cuisine. Few places in town can match the Pourhouse for sheer culinary creativity, and Brian’s has become a local hangout for the under-40 outdoor-sports-oriented crowd. The chef offers inventive dishes that combine the best of traditional Asian, European, and nouvelle elements, always with a fresh flair. Chili-crusted calamari is served with lemon aioli, and bison osso buco comes with crispy Niçoise olive polenta.
Another great addition to the Hood River dining scene is Celilo Restaurant and Bar (16 Oak St., 541/386-5710, www.celilorestaurant.com, 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. and 5–9 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 9 a.m.–3 p.m. and 5–9 p.m. Sun., $14–24), with a daily changing menu and an updated lodge look that features hefty wood beams and splashes of soothing color. The food is very well executed, with up-to-the-minute preparations such as seared scallops with truffle oil and fresh porcini mushroom salad.
Cornerstone Cuisine (Hood River Hotel, 102 Oak St., 541/386-1900 or 800/386-1859, 8 a.m.–9 p.m. daily, $9–19) offers a mix of sandwiches, light entrées, seafood, and Northwest cuisine, with some outdoor seating. This is a fun and always bustling place to eat, and it has a lovely historic dining room and bar. You’ll enjoy such eclectic dishes as pomegranate-glazed salmon with parsnip fries and grilled pear.
The Columbia Gorge Hotel Dining Room (4000 Westcliff Dr., 541/386-5566 or 800/345-1921, www.columbiagorgehotel.com, Mon.–Fri. 7 a.m.–2 p.m. and 5:30–9 p.m., Sat. 7:30 a.m.–2 p.m. and 5:30–9 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m.–2 p.m. and 5:30–8 p.m., main courses $18–39) looks east at the Columbia River rolling toward the hotel from out of the mountains and west toward sunset alpenglow. Local mushrooms, fruit, and wild game as well as Columbia River salmon and sturgeon are featured prominently.
For a special occasion, try Stonehedge Garden (3405 W. Cascade Ave., 541/386-3940, 5–9 p.m. daily, $18–25), located in a historic house in a romantic wooded setting on the west end of town. Stonehedge specializes in classic renditions of aged beef and fresh seafood, served with fine wines.
Hood River and environs have spawned its own mini-microbrew scene, with several establishments brewing and selling their own suds. The most famous is the Full Sail Brewery (506 Columbia St., 541/386-2247, 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m. daily), offering beautiful river views with its renowned ales. The Big Horse Brew Pub (115 State St., 541/386-4411), in addition to selling its delicious ales (the India Pale Ale is recommended) also serves up a full menu of lunch and dinner items at pub prices; grab a seat by the window for good views.
Double Mountain Brewery (8 4th St., 541/387-0042, 4–11 p.m. Tues.–Thurs., 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m. Fri.–Mon.) offers excellent beers and a low-key hipster scene in a taproom with thrift-store-chic decor. Food choices are simple—mostly grilled sausages and wood-fired pizza—but very worthy.
Tucked away in the upper valley, in the heart of tiny Parkdale, is the charming Elliot Glacier Public House (4945 Baseline Rd., Parkdale, 541/352-1022). They make great beers, such as a Scottish ale and ample-bodied porter, and also serve some dinner items, with nightly specials. It’s the perfect place to stare at the awesome view of nearby Mount Hood while you wet your whistle.
by Judy Jewell and W. C. McRae from Moon Oregon, 8th Edition, © Elizabeth & Mark Morris and Avalon Travel