Answers from Our Experts (1)
After you’ve been wooed by the local earthy pinot noirs that and beautiful views Oregon’s Willamette Valley is known for, dinner at a romantic restaurant will further sweep you off your feet. Here are five of our favorites:
1. The Joel Palmer House. Indulge in an earthy feast at this destination restaurant where fourth-generation chef Chris Czarnecki crafts fare that revolves around wild mushrooms and truffles that he gathers with family and friends. The elegant restaurant, set in the small town of Dayton, is on the state and national Historic Registers. When you go, try the Mushroom Madness Menu, a tasting menu with mushrooms integrated into nearly every course, including dessert. Yes, even the cheesecake with mushrooms is divine.
2. The Painted Lady. The scene is set for romance at this restaurant housed in a restored Victorian home in downtown Newberg. The intimate space is decorated with elegant white crystal chandeliers and antique mirrors. Illuminated by candlelight and the glow of a fire, and the restaurant keeps a noise level that never breaks a whisper. Chef Allen Routt, who worked at the acclaimed Inn at Little Washington, revels in the bounty from local farmers, fisherman and foragers. The five- and seven-course prix fixe menus spotlight simple, local ingredients and plates are planned around the seasons.
3. Thistle Restaurant. If you’re a locavore, you’ll want to visit this tiny restaurant in downtown McMinnville. A chalkboard menu spotlights the farm-inspired dishes for the day like pork terrine with pickled vegetables and spicy mustards or pillowy gnocchi with black trumpet mushrooms, leeks and sheep cheese. The eclectic decor is made up of vintage finds like deer antlers, funky chandeliers and nostalgic typewriters: It’s rustic and romantic. If you want to watch chef-owner Eric Bechard in action, grab a stool at the edge of the very intimate kitchen — you’ll see each dish prepped, cooked and plated to perfection.
4. Nick’s Italian Café. If you want to eat where the locals (and winemakers) go, head to this venerable institution in downtown McMinnville. Feast on authentic Italian dishes made with the fresh Pacific Northwest ingredients like the ravioli filled with local Briar Rose Creamery goat cheese and served with fire-roasted caponata or lasagna layered with Oregon Dungeness crab and wild mushrooms. The wood-fired pizzas served on old wine barrel heads always hit the spot. After dinner, linger in The Back Room at Nick’s for a game of pool and Oregon wine stories.
5. Bistro Maison. This warm and woodsy French spot is one of the favorite restaurants in McMinnville, as you’ll soon discover. French native Jean-Jacques Chatelard runs the kitchen; his partner is his wife Deborah, who dreamed of moving to Oregon’s wine country. Here he carefully recreates classic dishes like moules marinière, coq au vin and pot-au-feu with marrow bones. The wine list offers the best of Europe and Oregon. Consider stopping in for lunch, as the bustling bistro gets busy at dinnertime.