Submitted by Maggie Yu, M.D.
Let me start by saying, I’m a functional medicine doctor that specializes in dealing with autoimmune disease. So I work with people with food allergies and intolerances. And I happen to LOVE the Oregon coast. I also am an avid cook and foodie and feel strongly that people absolutely can travel while eating with food restrictions with ease anywhere. With that being said, I’m going to confess, I love to eat in Astoria because it is the EASIEST place along to coast to eat with my own food intolerances. That being said, I am absolutely open to anyone challenging me as I take it as a personal mission to eat my way through the Oregon coast, and mountains and everywhere in between. So challenge me if you may and I am happy to oblige with a visit and food quest to yet another town. I have made many. This is how I travel. I travel for food quests. I basically live carrying a sign that says, will travel for food.
I love Astoria and it is the best coastal town that I have experienced for those trying to avoid certain foods especially gluten or dairy. So I am going to proclaim this and prove it in ten ways. I just recently got back from yet another trip to this beloved seaside town.
As a foodie, the restaurant choices in Astoria is huge. So many great restaurants, and so many that pulls out the red carpet to be helpful to those with food issues. Here’s the list.
1. Buoy Beer – the menu declares, any asterisked item is or can be made gluten free. That means, their awesome pan fried breaded oysters can be made gluten free, so can their deep fried items, fries, and they have a gluten free bun for burgers and sandwiches. They also go out of the way with the wait staff to make sure they accommodate requests for dairy free or vegetarian. And honestly, their food is just great. Many of their items are naturally gluten free. My favorite dish there is the halibut collars grilled on a cast iron block. I LOVE fish collars on a menu as the collars are inexpensive, full of healthy omega rich fish skin and fat, and meaty as heck. At buoy beer’s the rub on it is full of flavor, it comes out sizzling on the cast iron block. So many of us are low in iron when you have stomach issues. The virtues of cooking in a cast iron pan to get a highly absorbable form of iron cooked right into your food can’t be underestimated. I myself don’t even take iron anymore just by cooking in an iron skillet daily. Their collars come sizzling on this iron block which gives the fish a hefty amount of natural iron. Lovely, effective, and tasty way to cook and present fish collars. I also love their naturally gluten free deviled habanero eggs with smoked oysters in it. I’m a sucker for deviled eggs, but throw your coastal smoked oysters in it and baby, I’m home. I’ve eaten here four times over two trips here in the past few months, and the size of this menu and the accommodations they make are incredible.
2. Fort George – Well, yes they have amazing beer, which is great for my gluten eating companions. So it’s a must stop. However, they’ve got gluten free ciders and a gluten free from Groundbreaker available. I like that. The GF “shrimp n’ grits” is delicious. It includes large shrimp, bacon, Tillamook cheese, Bob’s Red Mill grits, wild mushrooms & shallots. The GF “fall out hash” was a delightful medley of vegetables, smoked organic potatoes, fire roasted brussel sprouts, butternut squash, sweet potato and more. For a protein packed breakfast, you can order it with a fried egg on top. Definitely check out their online menu (Public House menu for downstairs and Pizza + menu upstairs). There are many GF options available, including a great GF hamburger bun! Visit www.fortgeorgebrewery.com for a look at their menus and more details.
3. Northwest Wild Products – yes this is a hole in the wall selling fresh local seafood. But it’s a hidden gem of the best clam chowder on the coast and I cannot believe that it is gluten free. Yes it really is! I profess a deep love for clam chowder and missing it because it’s filled with gluten has been a huge loss for me. However more and more places along the coast is making it gluten free by using gluten free flour for the roux.
This little hole in the wall market makes the best clam chowder period. It’s got bacon, it’s rich, it’s got layers of flavor, and tons of clams. The fact that it’s gluten free is honestly just icing on the cake. Plus they sell beer and ciders at the market to consume there and there’s a gluten free beer in the case. So another plus. I’ll take the clam chowder AND a gluten free beer. What a find! Plus, these guys are the real deal, it’s a small family run market and I saw them hand cleaning crabs to get the meat for their tubs of dungeness crab meat. They really are local and they catch and clean some of their own stuff. I picked up some smoked salmon, oysters, and fresh fish to boot.
4. Columbia Cafe – yeah, the chef doesn’t say or interact much. Yes this place has got it’s old world run down charm being part of the theater building. Consistently over the past years, they churn out original fresh local fair that’s also highly accommodating to those of us with food issues. I love going there and ordering the Chef’s choice. You say you want meat, seafood or vegetarian, you tell them what you can’t eat. Then he just goes to town making you the best breakfast imaginable. My companion couldn’t eat dairy, so the seafood chef’s whim was a dungeness crab omelette done thin almost crepe like filled with tons of crab. You’d think all crab omelettes need cheese, nope not here. To my delight, he did it with a fresh basal raw tomato topping and a balsamic vinegar glaze. It was perfect without any dairy in it. Plus these portions are huge, do share a meal here. And for those that can eat gluten, that toasted bread with their homemade jalapeno jam or olive butter jam is to die for. This is an homage and a must every time I come to Astoria.
5. Astoria Coop Grocer – is a GREAT addition. Being able to shop in a market FILLED to the brim with options is a delight. It was walking through a candy store. First off, tons of gluten free products at reasonable prices. I found gluten free pasta, ramen, snacks, so many I stopped counting. And unlike whole paycheck, the prices here are reasonable. Also if you are cow dairy intolerant, I love their large selection of goat and sheep’s cheese and even a sheep’s yogurt. The signs on the cheeses are labeled clearly to show cow/goat/sheep. I love the attention to local producers and growers. The meat, chicken, fish and smoked salmon selection is sizable. And tons of alcohol options and coffee selections from our local bounty. If you want a gluten free cider or beer, head in there for a selection of ten. Astoria Coop, you are a dream come true for those of us traveling with food intolerances. If we have a kitchen or want to grab anything for a picnic or a meal, you are a go to. Just wow!
6. Pig n Pancake, this one is a cheat I know because they’re not just in Astoria. However, I’m so glad they are in Astoria too Over the years I’ve eaten here probably ten times. I’m always amazed that for a chain restaurant how incredibly consistent their food and service really is. But I love their gluten free pancakes. They’re light, thin, delicious.
And they offer gluten free toast and bread. The menu is huge and there’s something for everyone. So I found myself here eating their dungeness crab omelette which is loaded with crab, a side of their thick crisp bacon which is a must have, and gluten free pancakes. You just can’t beat how easy it is to find a seat there, how they’re good for groups and kids, and how good their food actually is. The fact that they offer tons of gluten free options just makes me happy. It’s not many places I can eat a delicious pancake again and I can here so they’re on my list of must eat breakfasts when you just want a darn pancake and some pig.
Maggie Yu, M.D. is an integrative physician that focuses her practice on autoimmune diseases such as low thyroid, ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. She is the director and owner of the online program www.HealingAutoimmuneDiseaseNaturally.com