The Chowder Bowl
Chowder Bowl, you were the reason I wanted to go to Newport as a child. There was something magical about a grilled cheese sandwich after pushing through the cold wind along the surf . Yes, a grilled cheese sandwich on the coast. For those of us Oregonians who were finicky eaters as children, we always had grilled cheese at the coast. Seafood was still a little scary. But, that grilled cheese paired perfectly with the mineral and salt left in my mouth after too long on the beach.
Armed with a more adventurous palate, I returned to The Chowder Bowl for the first time in nearly 15 years and discovered that it is even more magical than I remembered.
Stormy Tuesday nights in mid-December are not a particularly popular time to hang out in Newport, so I was among very few patrons seated at the wood tables with embedded sea scenes. The tables are the same ones that enchanted me as a child: whales and porpoises in a lighter wood swim through the dark cross-grain under moons.
The menu is more extensive than I recalled, which is probably more a result of my only seeing grilled sandwiches on it previously. I almost went for the fish and chips with a cup of chowder, all hallmark dishes, but decided to go with my gut instinct: fried oysters. (What can I say, I like oysters.)
RIP Nye Beach Chowder Bowl
“Good choice!” My server noted then added, “I love those. They are the freshest thing on the menu. They come from our bay and were just shucked this morning.” She motioned out the window to the Newport Bay, which is just over a hill through the darkness. Pleased, I sat in anticipation of my meal and read the brief notes about the history of The Chowder Bowl on the wall.
Apparently, The Chowder Bowl closed down for a short time after my last visit only to be re-established within a few months. It was hard for me to imagine Newport without The Chowder Bowl, and I gave a rather curious thanks for not having ever traveled here when it was closed.
My oysters came out in short order, along with this ridiculously heavenly garlic bread that is light and fluffy on the inside toasted just so on the outside. But, make no mistake, the oysters are the main show here.
They taste fresh and are free of any sand grains (something that seems to inexplicably plague many fried oyster dishes along the coast). The breading suits them well: not too heavy or greasy and with a pleasing blend of spices. Eating those oysters, I stopped caring about what people think of a lone woman in a restaurant gorging herself on fried food. While I wasn’t exactly eating with haste – I had to savor each one – I also wasn’t stopping or slowing down. The server checked on me, and we had a friendly chat about how supremely awesome the dish was, then I just kept eating. At the end, there were still one or two oysters left over. My inability to cram those orphan oysters down disappointed me. I wished I could teletransport them to Michael so he could also enjoy them.
All in all, The Chowder Bowl will remain one of the main attractions in Newport for me. One day, I might even try the grilled cheese again. But, for now, I will go for the oysters. Those perfect, succulent, dream-haunting oysters.
Fried Oysters with Chips and Garlic Bread
Tags: newport, oregonian, oysters