Where to Eat in the Willamette Valley Wine Country
Here’s where to eat well while in the land of pinot noir.
written by Julie Lee | featured photo by Jim Fischer
A collection of five Oregon wineries in 1970 has blossomed to over 700 statewide wineries today, with the Willamette Valley at the heart of the movement. Coinciding with the explosion of wine options has been an uprising in foodie hot spots to soak up the grape. Here are some faves in this famed region.
Wine country is community-defined, where neighbors not only know and help each other but gather together often. Community Plate is the heartbeat of McMinnville, a central assembly hangout where locals gather as the sun rises for their habitual morning cup of joe and a delicious breakfast, including one of the best quiches you’ll ever experience. This is, in the words of owners Courtney and Scott Cunningham, “fine dining prep at fast food speed” service. 315 NE 3rd St., McMinnville | communityplate.com
La Rambla Restaurant & Bar
With Spanish-influenced tapas and plates and an intimate ambience, La Rambla Restaurant & Bar is the idyllic landing spot after some solid day-drinking. Walk through the door and you’ll know you’ve entered a party you’re glad you were invited to. With a great bar set-up and servers bustling scrumptious treats like lamb nachos, braised beef empanadas and crispy pork belly from table to table, this is a not-to-miss hot spot with a buoyant vibe and culinary finesse. 238 NE 3rd St., McMinnville | laramblaonthird.com
Tucked away from the fray in the Willamette Valley is a little Italian gem that is, in one word, special. This family-owned-and-operated treasure serves lunch and dinner specials that change often, dependent upon which authentic ingredients recently arrived from Italy and the chef’s daily wit and whimsy. The setting embodies charm—small yet inviting with pre-set tables awaiting guests and artful walls. When available, ordering the Penne Alla Bolognese is strongly encouraged, as it’s one of the best dishes I’ve had yet this year. 10280 NE Oak Springs Farm Rd., Carlton | agrivinocarlton.com
Jesse Kincheloe, owner of Valley Commissary, is one of those people you want to get to know. He’s a fascinating success story, a constant re-inventor and one of the drivers of the culinary uprising in the Valley. Valley Commissary is a sweet spot for a delicious breakfast or weekend brunch to commence a day of wine tasting, as well as a perfect way to unwind mid-day with a hearty, upscale lunch of some crazy good sandwiches and burgers. Our favorites are the burger with homemade peanut butter, grilled onions and jack aioli (yes, just try it!), the fried chicken sandwich with kale slaw and the pork belly sandwich with house-made kimchi and avocado. Order any of those with some mac & cheese, then fold into a culinary coma. Valley Commissary caters too, so next time you throw a party in the Valley, call Jesse. 920 NE 8th St., McMinnville | valleycommissary.com
The Horse Radish
As tasting rooms, breweries and restaurants continually pop up like tulips in spring on Main Street Carlton, a sure-fire constant that has remained a local favorite is The Horse Radish. Serving delish sandwiches, salads and soups for lunch and mouthwatering dinner specials on weekend nights like lamb shepherd’s pie with Gorgonzola mashed potatoes or smoked salmon with pickled beets, this is where you want to be on a Friday or Saturday night in the Valley, with live music to boot. 211 W. Main St., Carlton | thehorseradish.com Thirsty after your hearty meal? Take a peak at some of the best wines in Oregon.