When you think of the tastes of the coast, fish and chips, chowder and hardy meals might come to mind. But there are also a bounty of flavors from cultures across the globe. You’ll find a sea of cuisines from places like Japan, Bosnia, Italy, India, Vietnam, Thailand, Mexico and China. Our Coast rounded up some of the region’s best restaurants to satisfy and surprise your pallet’s tastes.
175 14th St. Suite 100, Astoria • 503-298-0838 • nekstevent.com
After closing down Baked Alaska at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Chris and Jennifer Holen opened Nekst in September. The couple offered a menu of globally-inspired breakfast and brunch dishes. Chris cooked while Jennifer and their daughter, Ana, served plates of tacos, Loco Moco and Chinese-style udon noodles.
In November, Chris made a special of Vietnamese pho. It was an immediate hit with locals.
“I made enough for like 10,” Chris said. “We put it on Instagram and it was gone in 45 minutes.”
Pho is now the main meal at Nekst. Customers can come for a hot bowl of noodles and flavorful broth with beef, chicken or tofu. Each dish is topped with sprouts, greens and chili pastes for those who enjoy the extra heat. Nekst makes it ready to order and eat straight away, or customers can take a to-go pho kit to build at home to eat fresh later.
They also serve the popular Vietnamese sandwich: the bánh mì. They come filled with beef, chicken or tofu and pickled carrots, radishes, cucumbers, green chiles and cilantro on a short baguette fresh-baked by Chris.
In the future, Chris plans to continue with his Chef Outta Water project, where he goes to new countries to learn about their food. He hopes to host pop-up specials in Nekst to serve the community the food he learned to make abroad.
“This is not just our business or way to make money,” Chris said. “This is our new lifestyle.”
— Hailey Hoffman
El Catrin Mexican Cuisine
19 N. U.S. Highway 101, Warrenton • 503-861-0369 • elcatrinmexicanrestaurant.com
Owner Librado Perez opened El Catrin Mexican Cuisine in Warrenton in 2017. The restaurant is family-owned and operated, with Perez’s daughter, wife and other family members regularly working.
Located just off the New Youngs Bay Bridge, at first glance, the restaurant seems like a typical business located inside a quiet strip mall. But once inside, it’s clear there’s more than meets the eye.
The restaurant is spacious, offering customers a variety of seating options including couches, dining tables and a bar. The space’s design is a mix of modern and Americana styles, creating a trendy yet welcoming atmosphere for customers to enjoy. And best of all, the smell of freshly made meals wafts throughout the space.
Perez and his staff pride themselves on making health-conscious meals and drinks, all of which can easily be adapted for customers’ dietary needs. The restaurant’s menu features a multitude of traditional house-made Mexican dishes, including tacos, burritos, tamales, quesadillas, nachos, empanadas, enchiladas, pollo a la crema and huevos rancheros.
The menu isn’t limited to those dishes, however, and features about a dozen more meal options, including the restaurant’s popular soups, which are a favorite for many locals during the fall and winter. The restaurant also features a full drink menu, including margaritas.
— Alyssa Evans
275 11th St., Astoria • instagram.com/busu_astoria
Būsu has been serving up Japanese street food from a walk-up window in downtown Astoria since 2018. Using locally-sourced ingredients, Būsu’s menu often rotates depending on the day. Customers can check out the day’s offerings at busu_astoria on Instagram.
Two dishes on the menu are yakisoba and okonomiyaki. The yakisoba features stir-fried noodles with onions, cabbage, carrots, a flavorful sauce and a choice of shrimp, pork belly or tofu. The okonomiyaki, advertised as a Japanese pancake, is soft and fluffy. It’s served with a variety of vegetables, a rich sauce that is at the same time sweet and savory and a choice of protein as well.
Both dishes are topped with a Japanese seasoning called furikake, green onions and bonito flakes, which are made of dried fish. These large servings seem to be at least enough for two meals per dish, and leftovers reheat well the next day.
Other menu items include udon noodles, a teriyaki bowl and miso soup, along with a side pickle mix of kimchi and turmeric cauliflower. Customers can pick up their takeout containers from Būsu’s 11th Street window and enjoy them at home or have a picnic at a nearby bench overlooking the Columbia River on a sunny day.
— Emily Lindblom
915 Commercial St., Astoria • 503-338-2912 • drinadaisy.com
Named for the Drina River in Bosnia, Drina Daisy is the place to go for Bosnian cuisine on the North Coast. Originally from Sarajevo, Bosnia, chef Fordinka Kanlic co-owns the restaurant with her husband, Ken Bendickson.
Vegetarians and carnivores alike will find an array of dishes to choose from. One is called the sarma, a dish made with cabbage leaves stuffed with risotto, beef and a mix of spices, which is also available in a vegetarian version as the sarma sa povrcem loaded with vegetables.
Drina Daisy’s savory pitas, which translates to “pies,” are made with layers of filo dough folded and baked with different ingredients. The zeljanica pita is a vegetarian option with spinach, farm cheese, mozzarella and eggs, while the jagnjetina na rostilju is made with a rotisserie roasted lamb with Mediterranean spices.
Entrees come with bread, salads, pickled or cooked vegetables and a mix of fresh fruit. All entrees are gluten-free except for the pitas.
As the menu states, presentation of the dishes may vary depending on availability and mood, but the Mediterranean and Eastern European tastes and textures are consistent.
— Emily Lindblom
Fulio’s Italian & Mediterranean Cuisine
1149 Commercial St., Astoria • 503-325-9001 • facebook.com/Fulios
Fulio’s Italian & Mediterranean Cuisine is one of the region’s most popular Italian restaurants. It offers visitors an intimate and welcoming dining experience, appropriate for small groups and couples. The restaurant is located in the heart of downtown Astoria off Commercial Street.
Fulio’s primarily features appetizers, soups, salads, pasta entrees, meat entrees, desserts and cocktails. Most dishes are made vegetarian but include options to add meatballs, sausage, chicken or shrimp.
All entrees come with a complimentary side of bread and oil to dip. Entree portions are well-sized and are generally large enough to leave customers with leftovers for the next day.
Featured dishes include many classic Italian favorites like spaghetti, fettuccine alfredo and ravioli. The restaurant also features special coastal favorites, including crab pesto linguine, salmon alfredo and Mediterranean fish tacos, among others.
The restaurant’s appetizers include options like grilled vegetables and antipasta. A rotating soup of the day is offered, as well as a handful of salads.
Fulio’s dessert menu includes delicious treats like tiramisu, chocolate torte, lemon cheesecake, bread pudding and spumoni sundaes.
— Alyssa Evans
Nisa’s Thai Kitchen
575 E. Harbor Drive, Warrenton • 503-861-5645 • facebook.com/nisasthaifood
Drive through downtown Warrenton and you’re likely to see a small white building with a parking lot full of patrons carrying take-out bags to their cars. Inside the building, a small, friendly staff bustles to complete orders.
Nisa’s Thai Kitchen is located just outside of downtown Warrenton and the Warrenton Marina. It’s one of the city’s most popular restaurants and has been the winner of Coast Weekend’s “Best Thai Food” award for several years.
Nisa’s features a large menu, full of tasty appetizers and entrees to enjoy either inside the restaurant or at home.
Featured appetizers include dumplings, wontons, spring rolls, potstickers and Thai coconut shrimp, among a handful of other options. Soups and salads are also available.
Entrees include curry, pad thai, stir fry and yakisoba. Many dishes can be made vegetarian or vegan.
The flavorful dishes range in spice. A few are especially spicy, like crispy basil lamb, eggplant stir fry and pineapple curry.
Most dishes include options to add vegetables or proteins including tofu, chicken, beef, pork or seafood. Portions are made large enough to share with someone else or to have leftovers for the following day.
— Alyssa Evans
599 Bond St., Astoria • 503-325-6260 • bit.ly/3oeMOYM
In small towns and big cities, it’s easy to find a delicious local Chinese restaurant to quench cravings of kung pao chicken or sweet and sour pork. In Astoria, if you’re craving Northern Cantonese American cuisine, specifically, your best spot to stop is Golden Star off of Bond Street in Astoria.
Customers can find Chinese restaurant staples, like spring rolls, General Tso’s chicken and Mongolian beef. Golden Star also has a special, the Star Special Chow Yuk, which features fresh shrimp, chicken, ham, mushrooms, pea pods and other fresh vegetables with a bowl of steamed rice.
From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., customers can snag a plate of lo mein, packed with a variety of vegetables and topped with chicken and beef.
For dinner, customers can order combination platters, such as moo goo gai pan, with sweet and sour chicken, barbecued pork and pork fried rice with egg flower or hot and sour soup on the side. Golden Star also has options for families and groups, like the gold dinner, which comes with barbecue pork, egg rolls, shrimp and other food options for larger groups.
— Hailey Hoffman
1197 Commercial St., Astoria and 619 Broadway St., Seaside • torasushi.com
In the 50 years since sushi first became popular in the United States, it’s become a staple for date nights and fancy dinners across the country. The North Coast is not alone, with three locations for the popular sushi spot, Tora Sushi, in Astoria, Seaside and Tillamook.
Long-time chef and restaurateur Wilfrano Melo began training with a sushi chef at a Japanese restaurant in California in the early 1990s. After several years running Japanese, Chinese and Mexican restaurants in California and Mexico, he made the move to the Oregon Coast and opened Tora Sushi in Seaside in 2012. The other two locations quickly followed.
At Tora, you can get the oh-so popular Lion King Roll and feast on spicy crab, avocado, shrimp and cream cheese rolled in rice and seaweed. It’s topped with salmon, more avocado, spicy tuna and drizzled with a sweet sauce. You can also try Melo’s favorite roll, the Heaven Roll, which is filled with tempura, asparagus and avocado with thin slices of albacore on top and covered in a homemade garlic sauce. Besides those, there are dozens of rolls to choose from, whether you’re in the mood for crab, eel or tempura-fried vegetables.
Other than sushi rolls, Tora offers a range of appetizers and sides like fried calamari, salads, udon noodles and tempura fried ice cream. Customers can order combination platters and also order from the full bar, which offers sake, a traditional Japanese alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice, and Japanese beers like Kirin Ichiban and Echigo. You can also get a local brew or a classic cocktail, like a tequila sunrise. Melo attributes the success of his three restaurants to producing high-quality foods and keeping the businesses consistent. Customers know what to expect, and it’s good.
— Hailey Hoffman
Himani Indian Cuisine
1044 Marine Drive, Astoria • 503-325-817 • facebook.com/himaniindian
If you’re looking for chicken tikka masala, fresh naan or kheer for dessert, Himani Indian Cuisine is the spot to stop at. The family-owned restaurant, run by the Nakka family, has been an Astoria staple for the past decade and has an almost endless menu of delicious curries and other South Indian staples.
Start your meal with potato and pea masala filled samosas or onion and spinach pakoras. Or, even better, get both, plus potato bajjis, masala vada and Mysore bondas by ordering their appetizer platter assortment.
For the main event, vegetarians and vegans, rejoice! There are over a dozen vegetarian specific curries with a handful of completely vegan options. Try the Hyderabadi bagara baingan, a curry dish of eggplant and fresh tomatoes simmered in peanut, coconut, and sesame seed paste. For the meat eaters, Himani’s provides seafood specials and biryani and curries filled with lamb and chicken. The chicken vindaloo is another popular curry dish of chicken marinated in a paste of Indian spices, chilies, garlic, ginger and vinegar. For those who can’t handle a lot of heat, beware!
Don’t forget to order a side of butter garlic naan or a bowl of sambar (a vegetable soup). Finish your meal with a gulab jamun — deep fried milk dumplings — or their mango mousse.
— Hailey Hoffman