For a small town, we are lucky to have so many great local restaurants. Maybe it's the wine industry that gets them started. But we don't have that many tourists to keep them afloat year round (do we??). Anytime we go out to dinner, we are likely to run into friends, acquaintances, or Linfield students we know. It's one of the things I love about small town restaurants.
So, where else do we go on a regular basis?
Brew Pub/Variety Menu: Golden Valley. It's the Cheers of McMinnville. It's where everybody knows your name. Well, at least the folks at one of the pieced together long tables around 5:00 on Fridays. The service isn't always the best, but once you get over that, you'll probably come back. First off, the beer. My husband is a home-brewer and a chemist, so he really likes a good beer. If you wanted a beer on a Friday night, this is where he'd take you, so I suppose it has pretty good beer. They do brew their own on-site. That's all I can say, since I don't care for beer at all. They do have a great strawberry-lemonade. One of these days I'll ask for a shot of vodka in it. Then it would be even better... The food: Actually the food is quite good. They do have standard pub food, but the menu goes beyond that. They are probably the best place in town for a steak (they locally raise their own beef for the restaurant). My favorites are the Tuscan Chicken sandwich (though I love pesto, it really was a better sandwich before they added the pesto to it...I suppose they'd make it the "old" way if I asked) and the Cajun Chicken Sandwich (just the right balance of spiciness/flavor to it).
Comfort Foods: Orchards Bistro has been in business for a few years. It seems like it got a slow start, as there were many open tables for the first year or so. While all the other 3rd Street restaurants were hopping, I kept wondering why people were overlooking this one. Thankfully, business seems to have picked up, and I hope they will be around for quite some time. It's a small restaurant, sharing space with Honest Chocolates. Until recently it was just the owners preparing food and waiting tables. I noticed a new waiter recently, and hope that is a sign they're doing well! Anyway...back to the food...hands-down the best macaroni and cheese ever. I know that sounds simple, but this baked bowl of blended cheeses and macaroni will win you over. It is simply scrumptious. Also highly recommended are the Chicken Pot Pie and the Chicken Italian Delight.
BBQ: Tucked away behind the Crescent Cafe off of 2nd Street your nose will easily find Haagenson's Catering & Barbeque aka The Ribslayer. (This is the same guy who brings his smoker out to the Farmer's Market each summer.) It's an easy place for the eye to miss (his front entrance is next to the back entrance of most businesses) but you can't miss the smoky BBQ aroma. My favorites: his holiday platter with smoked turkey and scalloped potatoes. We ordered this for our Christmas dinner. I figured we'd get some turkey slices and a small container of potatoes. What I didn't expect was a whole turkey (local from Carlton Farms), smoked, professionally sliced (every bit of meat off the bone...well, except for the wings & drumsticks!) and sooooo good! I took the potatoes from their container to heat them, and they filled an entire 9" x 13" baking dish. Nothing skimpy at all. A little cranberry sauce, some gravy, and a good amount of stuffing came with the meal as well. I wasn't crazy about the stuffing, but that's such a personal thing...everyone seems to have their favorite. His was sweet and savory, while I prefer a strictly savory stuffing.* Anyway, it really made Christmas dinner easy and we will definitely be back for more holiday dinners!
*Upon checking out his website, I see he now offers a few stuffing choices.