The riverfront stretch of downtown is home to several good restaurants. Big River Restaurant and Bar (101 N. Jackson St., 541/757-0694, 11 a.m.–2 p.m. and 5–9:30 p.m. Mon.–Thurs., 11 a.m.–2 p.m. and 5–11:30 p.m. Fri.–Sat., $15–28) is a lively hip restaurant with good food, much of it from local producers. Seafood is a good bet.
Also along the river is Aqua Seafood Restaurant (151 NW Monroe Ave., 541/752-0262, 4:30–closing Tues.–Sat., $20–30), which features Pacific Rim Hawaiian cuisine, including coriander salmon “popsicles.” The Hawaiian chef comes from Roy’s, one of that state’s top restaurants.
In the heart of downtown, Aomatsu’s Grill (122 NW 3rd St., 541/752-1410, 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m. and 5–10 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 5–10 p.m. Sat., lunch $8–9, dinner $10–22) is an unpretentious restaurant with good sushi as well as teriyaki and bento.
Near the university, Bombs Away Cafe (2527 Monroe St., 541/757-7221, 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 5–10 p.m. Sat., $7–17) is an always-filled-to-capacity 65-seat restaurant with colorful murals on the walls, frequent live music, and lines of waiting-list hopefuls anxious to sample finger food made with the freshest ingredients and organic produce.
Perhaps the best place to provision a picnic is the deli at First Alternative Co-op (1007 SE 3rd St., 541/753-3115), which you’ll encounter as you come into town via Route 99W from the south.
Another spot that’s wholesome and hippie-ish is Nearly Normal’s (109 NW 15th St., 541/753-0791, 8 a.m.–9 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 9 a.m.–9 p.m. Sat., $6–10), whose jungle of greenery and mismatched artsy-kitschy decor does justice to its name (inspired by a character in a Tom Robbins novel). The vegetarian “gonzo cuisine” (no meat here) is tasty—try the tempeh enchiladas or cheesy spinach lasagna—and the ambiance is relaxed and friendly.
It doesn’t get much fresher or more local than lunch at Gathering Together Farm (25159 Grange Hall Rd., 541/929-4270, 11 a.m.–2 p.m. Tues.–Wed., 11 a.m.–2 p.m. and 6–9 p.m. Thurs.–Fri., 9 a.m.–2 p.m. Sat., lunch about $10). Lunches are the mainstay of this farm kitchen; during the winter, when produce is harder to come by, it might include a house-made sausage with sauerkraut, potatoes, and carrots. Three-course dinners cost $23 and can start with a beet and salted-honey soup followed by a duck breast with blackberry sauce, carrot puree, and chard with chocolate cake to finish.
Corvallis also has a farmers market that takes place 9 a.m.–1 p.m. Saturday late May–late October in the City Hall parking lot (6th St. and Monroe Ave.). There is also a market held 8 a.m.–1 p.m. Wednesday at the Benton County Fairgrounds (110 SW 53rd St.). Look for excellent Alsea Acre Alpine’s goat cheese and the Co-op’s calzones along with other regional staples.
by Judy Jewell and W. C. McRae from Moon Oregon, 8th Edition, © Elizabeth & Mark Morris and Avalon Travel