*Note: Non Vegetarian Post on Seafood Restaurant Experience*
Alt. titles for this Post:
Why you should run, not walk, to Portland Oregon as Fast as your Gluten Free Legs will Carry You
OR How my diet went down the drain in two yummy stops
For a few years now, I’ve been eating my heart out because of all the wonderful gluten free restaurant options in New York City. I’ve read about all the wonderful restaurants there, especially Risotteria, and turned green with envy. I’ve also been nurturing a jealousy of celiacs in Scotland and the UK, where I hear you can get gluten free fish and chips all over the place. But very recently I realized that I had been overlooking some extraordinary gluten free dining opportunities in my own part of the US, the northwest. I made an exciting discovery a few weeks ago- a discovery that made me jump up and down, scream and do a gluten free happy dance. I was planning a road trip to Anacortes, Washington and thinking about places to stop along the way. I have a deep love for Reed College and Portland, Oregon, where I lived very happily from 1994-1998, and whenever possible I try to stop by Portland and get in touch with my inner college bohemian. (Poor thing, she’s dying a long and drawn out death here in Silicon Valley..) I sent out a call to the gluten free community at the Yahoo group SillyYaks asking for gluten free restaurant recommendations along our Northwest route through Portland, the Seattle area, and Eastern Washington. Almost immediately I got a response, telling me about this little gluten free fish and chips place in Portland. WHAT???!!! Gluten Free fish and chips in my beloved almost-hometown? They didn’t have that when I lived there! I did some research. Turns out they really didn’t have gluten free fish and chips in Portland when I lived there. I had to make do with the allergy friendly and slightly bland restaurant Old Wives Tales, for my gluten free dining. Here’s the story:
“Greg Boyce grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where Friday night fish fries are a tradition and a ritual. Since moving to Portland in 1980, he had searched the area, without success, for the kind of fish fry that taverns in the Midwest serve: freshwater fish, thinly breaded (instead of heavily battered).” (Source: restaurant’s About Us page) So, he and Dana Boyce decided to open their own fish fry restaurant. When they were initially experimenting with fish fry recipes for their new restaurant, they found that rice flour resulted in the best fish fry. A customer suggested that they take the menu gluten free, and the owners brought in experts to teach them about gluten and cross contamination. And thus, an amazing gluten free friendly fish and chips place restaurant was born! They are even certified by GFRAP. They opened the Corbett Fish House on Oct. 1, 2002 to instant acclaim and later purchased an additional site at Hawthorne, a hip Portland shopping area. (Source: Celiac Chick Kim’s great review of the place in 2004)
Hawthorne Fish House
4343 Se Hawthorne Blvd
Portland, OR 97215-3162, US
The First Meal Since usually my biggest problem is finding something on a menu I can eat, being faced with a menu where I can eat almost anything listed is overwhelming. I was completely giddy, but also paralyzed with indecision. There were tons of things I really wanted to order, but DH helped me focus. I was able to narrow down my order to the following items, comforting myself with the thought that we would return on our way back from Anacortes.
Oyster Shooters $1.25 each or 3 for $3 Their oyster shooters are a decent deal, considering you get one large or two small oysters per shooter. They use their tangy horseradish cocktail sauce underneath and above the oysters to compliment the “shot”… and slivers of lemon add additional tang. They were super tasty and perfectly satisfied my idea of what raw oyster shooters should be like. 9/10
Deep Fried Cheese Curds $6.50 for a HUGE portion These Wisconsin style fried cheese curds are made with local Tillamook curds and were squeaky, cheesy, and felt OH SO BAD, but in a good way. To be honest, with all the food we ordered, we only nibbled at them, but I was thrilled to get a chance to try such a crazy, sports bar appetizer. DH lurved them, and I thought they were good but SUPER rich. for me, 6/10, but they were fabulous with some Redbridge! They were probably an 8/10 for DH.
New England Clam Chowder cup $3.75 Who can resist a delicious, delicious bowl of perfect clam chowder? When I first discovered New England Clam Chowder in college, I made it every three days for weeks until my boyfriend protested. After that I just made it once a week or every other week or so.. but man, do I love clam chowder. It was one of the few foods I missed as a strict vegetarian. This is the ideal clam chowder- as one review said, somehow they manage to keep the clams tender and not chewy, and the flavor and cream sauce is absolutely perfect. We ordered it here and at Corbett Fish house later- DH just can’t resist a tasty bowl of chowder! 9.5/10
Soup of the Day: Crab Pepper Cheese When I asked the server for recommendations he said that the soup of the day was one of his favorite things on the menu. Apparently in the kitchen they call it “Crack Soup” because they love it soooo much. Those crazy boys. Anyway, this is some seriously rich, rich soup… I think in my college days I would have flipped over this spicy cheesy soup. It was really good even now, but I think my palate has changed and I don’t usually indulge in such creamy, cheesy dishes. It was a little too rich for me. DH also commented that the flavor slightly overwhelmed the taste of the crab. Still, very tasty. I could just hear my arteries committing suicide. 7/10
Fish and Chips: Tugboat Combo $14 2 pieces each of walleye, halibut, oysters, Chile-fried catfish. Let’s face it, appealing appetizers and soups aside- I was really here for one reason, and one reason only: the chance to have gluten free fried fish in a restaurant. Deciding what to get was difficult, but luckily they have a small sampler that you can order with four of their most popular items. They were all good, but I especially liked the small, delicate oysters and chile-fried catfish. However, I think more field research and tasting is necessary to truly pick a definitive favorite. Ah, the trials, the trials of having a food blog. It was all awesome, and the fries beneath the fish were PERFECT- crispy, light, and still with delicious skin on some of the fries. YUM YUM YUM. We had three sauces- jalapeno tartar, tartar, and their horseradish rich cocktail sauce. Each one was DELISH, and I established a favorite sauce for each different fish. Of course I can’t remember now which went with which…. clearly this calls for another expedition and more field research. DH’s only comment, besides the sound of happy chewing, was that he did wish cod came with the sampler. We satisfied his craving later… 9/10
Thank goodness for Redbridge Beer! $4 I guess that before Redbridge came along the Fish House just offered GF cider. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE hard cider, but somehow fish and chips begs-cries- SCREAMS for beer. I never enjoyed a beer so much as I did that day with all that delicious, crispy, fried goodness. I’m still a baby sipper though- I think I only drank (at most) a fourth of the beer, but lunch is a bit early for me to start tippling, anyway.
After a brisk walk up and down Hawthorne, we went back for Dessert: Chocolate Cheesecake. I was in the mood for cheesecake, but probably my big mistake was ordering a non traditional chocolate rather than the berry cheesecake that I really wanted. I just couldn’t resist chocolate… The crust was made of nuts, I think, and was the only thing I had at the restaurant that actually tasted “gluten free”- and it seems to me that chocolate doesn’t really compliment cream cheese all that well, at least in this execution. I’m a savory girl anyway, and while I was thrilled at the opportunity to enjoy dessert to top off a perfect meal, I don’t think I would order that particular dessert again. Ah well. Serious kudos to them for even offering a gluten free dessert menu at a “mainstream” restaurant. So cool! 5/10
*Note: this is rarely the case, but after eating here, I didn’t experience as much as a twinge from gluten ingestion- it was just as if I’d eaten something made in my own kitchen. Yay! Now THAT is the mark of a great gluten free restaurant.- NOTE: Sandwiches are not GF, read menu for GF mark*
The best thing about the Hawthorne Street location of this restaurant is… the location. Hawthorne Street is a shopping paradise for fans of funky, local, artsy stuff. I happen to be one of those fans, if it wasn’t clear already. Oh yeah, and did you know there is no sales tax in Oregon? I have REALLY missed that. Can you imagine, just paying the price on the TAG of what you’re buying? Yeah. It’s pretty fantastic. I only went a little crazy in the neighborhood, shopping for birthday presents at the Fred Meyer chain store (similar to Target or Kohls, if you’re not familiar with this Northwest retail giant) and then shopping for me at all the funky local shops.
Highlights: Common Grounds Coffee Shop, Bagdad Theater & Pub for cheap art movies in red velvet theater surroundings, with (non GF) pizza and beer served, Powells Books and Powells Books for Home and Garden, and a variety of fabulous little shops with locally made furniture, jewelry and decorative items. Also some great inexpensive clothes and shoes with funky Portland college students in mind. Also, stop by the Daily Grinds Health Food Store down the street from the Fish House- some gluten free cookies (Quinoa etc.) and some goods by local companies like Angeline’s Bakery- their Vegan Java Crunch bars may be about a billion calories but they are AWESOME.
*update: it appears that the Daily Grind has closed its doors for good. -Dec. 2007
Vacationing in Portland? Here’s a site describing the various shopping districts in Portland
Corbett Fish House
5901 Sw Corbett Ave
Portland, OR 97239-3709
On our way home from Anacortes, we stopped at the first fish and chips place opened by Dana and Greg Boyce, Corbett Fish House. It was a bit tricky getting to the place from the interstate, due to some confusing streets and convoluted roads that aren’t very well marked. However, eventually we made it to the restaurant, and we were so glad that we did. It has the same menu as the Hawthorne Fish House, but with better natural lighting. There were fewer customers, so we got a prime window seat and settled in to enjoy some tasty fish. The best part though, was the gluten free coffeeshop bakery next door… Post to follow. But what did we order this time around?
Calamari $8 This was my absolute favorite appetizer that we enjoyed at the restaurant. They had squid rings and tentacles, making this not a dish for the weak of heart, but one with great variance in texture. The calamari was coated in cornmeal and quickly flash fried, leaving the squid tender but cooked. Then it was sprinkled with Parmesan, fresh parsley, and (possibly) garlic… whatever was on there, it was super yummy and I’m dying to have this dish again. DH thought it was very yum as well. 10/10
Sweet Potato Fries
$6.50 I have a huge weakness for sweet potato fries but they are usually off limits due to shared fryers and cc concern. Happily, there’s no such concern at the Corbett Fish House (or Hawthorne, where they have the same menu) and so we ordered a basket of these yummy, yummy thing. Unfortunately our eyes were bigger than our stomachs (thank goodness) so we ended up packing the fries up to go- and had a few later and reheated them at home when we returned. Good stuff! But actually, I think the regular fries with their yummy skins were my favorite. 7.5/10
Personalized order of Fish and Chips: Half Oysters, Half Pacific Cod You can actually customize your fish and chips order, which I realized when I read a review of the restaurant. DH had mentioned how he wanted to try cod, and I, like Kim of Celiac Chicks, loved the oysters in the tugboat sampler, so we ordered half of each. The cod was great, although you should keep in mind that pieces are small- not a problem for me, but some reviews were critical of this fact. The oysters… well, actually I was a little disappointed, because they were much larger than the ones I enjoyed at the Hawthorne Fish House, and somehow the larger ones were less appetizing and made me start to think about the gray, spongy texture of the oyster more than I actually wanted to. I think I’ll stick with the sampler- or ask for small oysters, if possible. 6.5 or 7/10
We couldn’t resist having another order of clam chowder and oyster shooters, ’cause they were just so good! *drool*
Here’s a comprehensive guide to gluten free dining in Portland.
A news article on the Corbett Fish House
Old Wives Tales in Portland is a healthy, gluten-free and veggie-friendly (with non-veg protein options) restaurant that was started by two alumni from my old school. :) Itâ€™s a good spot for breakfast. Recent reviews indicate it’s great for gluten free soups and sandwiches!
WHILE YOU’RE IN OREGON, stop at
You know, Portland, Oregon (and Oregon in general) has become a great gluten free destination. I always loved the city, but now there are even more reasons to love it- so the next time you’re considering travel to the Northwest, I hope you’ll stop at these places and give them your business. If only they’d expand into California, sniff…