History tells us that in mid-November 1805, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark—having led an arduous expedition over plains, prairies, and peaks from Missouri to the Pacific—staggered to a stop at the mouth of the Columbia River. They spent three rain-soaked months there, mapping their surroundings while subsisting on a diet of boiled salted elk.
But let the record also show that on a recent morning, I endured not a single hardship on a sun-dappled trek from my hotel in Astoria, Oregon, to the site of their encampment. I arrived well rested and freshly fortified by a breakfast of hot coffee and house-cured salmon hash.
I was wrapping up a glorious drive up the northern Oregon Coast on Highway 101 from Tillamook to Astoria. The 65-mile journey can be made in a single day, but I'd opted to enjoy it in a leisurely three. It is the classic Northwest road trip, unspooling as a highlight reel of awesome views, strollable beaches, and historic sites—iconic territory that I'd never had the good fortune to travel before.
Comparing my own notes with those of Lewis and Clark, I can confirm that the scenery in this part of the world has lost little of its rugged beauty since the explorers first saw the fir-covered mountains spilling toward stark bluffs and unspoiled beaches. The food, however, has improved dramatically.
My starting point, Tillamook, is a 73-mile shot straight west from Portland. Best known for its cheese, the village offers an ever-expanding range of delicious options. In recent years, big-city dining trends have arrived in the form of food trucks. Clusters of them park along Highway 101 just north of downtown—a roadside culinary United Nations that ranges from Mexican beef tongue tacos to Thai yellow curry over rice and Korean short ribs.
In a parking lot near the banks of the Trask River, I saw a sign reading LET THEM EAT SOUP. Curious, I found that it pointed to Antonette's Kitchen, a to-go lunch spot serving up sophisticated takes on the usual soup-and-sandwich fare. It's run by Antonette Lamers, who grew up in town, left to work in several noted Portland kitchens (including Sanborn's and Papa Haydn), then came home to do her own thing. "Nothing wrong with Portland," Lamers says. "But it's quieter here, a better place for me to raise a family, and the food scene has gotten really good."
She bolstered that claim with her own Reuben soup, a delicious medley of pastrami and sauerkraut in a beefy broth, garnished with rye croutons that are spread with Thousand Island dressing—all the flavors of the eponymous sandwich in spoon-ready form.