A must have foodie experience on the Oregon Coast is clam chowder. But with so many chowder options, it can be hard to choose where to go. Here is an insider's chowder guide to get you started.
LoveJoy's Restaurant & Tea Room
It's not everyday that a tea house wins "Best Chowder", but if you visit LoveJoy's Restaurant & Tea Room in Florence, you can immediately see (and taste) why they are the winners for Florence's 2020 Chowder Trail competition. Elegant but cozy, this special tearoom just off Bay Street offers a wide variety of fine teas, finger sandwiches, scones and pastries, salads and heart-warming, fragrant and absolutely delicious soups. Order from the formal tea menu or have a casual, cozy tea by the fire place. The gluten-free chowder is chock full of clams and plenty of flavor — but no bacon or corn — pleasing the "purist's" palates out there.
Probably the most famous of all chowders is at Mo's. In 1978 this "Oregon original" from Newport opened its fifth location on the docks in Florence. Rebuilt after a devastating fire in 1983, Mo's Florence restaurant continues to be a favorite Old Town attraction. The picnic table-style diner has sweeping views of the Siuslaw River and serves up chowder, chili and stews. Their classic chowder is a New England style made with bacon. You can order it with home baked bread, garlic cheese bread or in a sourdough bread bowl. A variation is their "Slumgullion" served with Oregon bay shrimp. Expect a wait on weekends at this family-friendly hub, but browsing the gift shop will keep the little ones entertained — there are lots of fun toys for sale. And yes, you can also buy the clam chowder base to go (just add milk and heat at home).
The Waterfront Depot
Tucked near the base of the magnificent Siuslaw River Bridge, this tiny, romantic restaurant is only open evenings. Housed in the former train depot building from Mapleton, the historic Waterfront Depot is now a great place to get really good clam chowder. Of course, you'll want to pair it with a nice bottle of wine — and the Waterfront Depot is just the place to do that. Oh yes, and enjoy stunning riverfront views.
Bridgewater Ocean Fresh Fish House
Known for their scrumptious seafood, this popular destination offers both an "Ocean Food Soup" which is a tomato-based fish soup and an "Ocean Food Chowder" which is a cream based chowder with bacon, clams and shrimp. Bridgewater is a fun stop with their zebra themed bar (do not overlook their drink menu) and prime location on Bay Street. And because of their great food, it is a popular spot with locals.
Casual American dining is perfected in this Bay Street restaurant. Along with crab melts, order their creamy clam chowder for a taste of perfect coastal dining. Mari's is rocking the Yelp reviews and it is easy to see (and taste!) why. Their chowder is pictured at the top of this page.
Their twist on clam chowder is serving it "Florentine" in keeping with their Italian cuisine. Delicious with plenty of clams, 1285 Restobar has won their share of "best of" awards over the years. And don't worry if the sidewalk seating and front room is full — there is also a wonderful covered patio in the back.
Homegrown Public House
This mom and pop shop prides itself on local fare and vegan and gluten-free options. Here enjoy their Homegrown chowder — New England style with clams, potatoes, celery and their secret recipe. Pairs perfectly with one of their six local brews on tap.
Novelli's Crab Chowder
Walk down onto the docks for a casual cup of amazing Novelli's crab chowder (longtime award winner). If you are lucky they'll be dishing up chowder (and not sold out) while you are on the docks. Pull up a seat at the outdoor counter or cozy up at a table in the small indoor crab shack. Then dig into "boat-to-bowl" crab chowder. The owners catch all their own crab, selling it live or cooked right there on the docks, and serving up crab cocktail too. Their crab chowder can also be purchased to go, so you can take it home for a delicious family meal.
Annual Chowder & Glass Float Trail
Do you want to try it all? And vote for your favorite chowder? In February when the coastal weather is colder, Florence hosts their famous chowder trail. Pick up your chowder passport at the visitor information center on Highway 101. Spot a glass float, get your passport stamped, and then enter to win one of the beautiful orbs.