Stories & photos by Gretchen Ammerman

For the TODAY

Since taking over The Bay House 10 years ago, it has been as much a journey as a job for owner Steve Wilson, who has made changes based a little bit on instinct and a lot on optimism.

Fortunately, things have been coming together in a way he could have only hoped for, as evidenced by the longevity of the restaurant, the repeat business they enjoy, and last year, the award of a four-diamond rating from AAA, making them one of only two restaurants in the state to receive the honor.

Steve’s first gamble was the decision to shrink the dining room and add a lounge where smaller, more affordable dinner options would be offered. The lounge has helped transform The Bay House into a place where people are as likely to come to celebrate the end of a workday as they are to mark an anniversary. Although presentation is more casual for lounge dishes, the standard of ingredients and flavor matches that of the meals served in the dining room. Choices include Maine sea scallops on Pappardelle pasta with white wine butter sauce and fried capers, and the popular Bay House sliders, made with Oregon Wagyu beef, bleu cheese, spiced heirloom tomato jam and fresh potato chips. A house favorite dessert, sold in both the lounge and the dining room, is the bread pudding with toffee and house-made vanilla ice cream.

The lounge also features a great deal geared toward local residents — the Neighbors to Neighbors menu, which includes a soup or salad, entrée and dessert for $25. Entrées currently include Carlton Farms double-cut pork chop with braised greens, mashed red potatoes, Brussels sprouts and salted caramel apple butter; and a vegetarian option of Israeli couscous with butternut squash, zucchini and broccoli with Tangine spices.

Steve also took a chance by not continuing to hire established names when looking for an executive chef and instead decided to grown his own. Soon after coming on board, he recognised the talent of local Kevin Ryan, who started at the restaurant as a high school intern 11 years ago and worked his way through the ranks to lead the kitchen team.

“I tried the famous chef thing, but that really ignores the fact that that’s not what makes a restaurant work,” Steve said. “The fact that I have a guy who’s pretty shy rather than wanting a bunch of attention is great, actually. Sometimes it takes a crowbar to get him out of the kitchen when a customer wants to give him praise, but he grew up in this kitchen and has turned into a fabulous chef who I am really proud of.”

To take full advantage of Chef Ryan’s talent, as well as leaving the guesswork out of ordering, try the chef’s tasting menu, which begins with an amuse-bouche followed by a mesclun salad, then three smaller portions of dishes that are also offered on the regular menu as a single entrée. Although menus items change, current offerings are Maine sea scallop with saffron risotto with sugar snap peas, red bell pepper, brown butter capers and chive oil; Muscovey duck breast with black beans, roasted squash, parsnips, frisee and carrot cardamom puree; and Piedmontese beef tenderloin with rosti potatoes, broccoli, smoked cherry tomato, caramelized onion puree and sauce hollandaise. The meal is completed with a stunning dessert trio of eggnog cheesecake, flourless chocolate torte and house-made sorbet.

Recommended wine pairings are available, which are picked from The Bay House’s extensive and ever-growing wine selection.

Some of the newest wine offerings are the result of Steve’s recent short vacation, which included a trading trip to the Napa Valley.

“We brought down some Oregon Pinots,” he said, “and traded them for some really good Napa wines that we will be serving in the restaurant.”

The vacation also included a trip to the Oregon’s only other four-diamond restaurant: the Painted Lady in Newberg.

“Because the AAA rating is a new recognition for the work the team has been doing I thought it would be fun to treat the kitchen staff to dinner there,” Steve said, adding: “We had a great time and it was a nice way to get them excited for a new year.”

The Bay House is located at 5911 SW Hwy. 101 in Lincoln City, overlooking the Siletz Bay. They are open Wednesday through Sunday from 5 pm, with dinner service in the dining room beginning at 5:30 pm. For more information, call 541-996-3222 or go to www.thebayhouse.org.

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