Oregon City’s Old Guard Restaurants
There are few independent restaurants that stand the test of time. Some are traditional, some are not. They have survived the pandemic, the financial crash of 2008, and the peculiarities that Oregon City diners exhibit. I’m going out of my way to highlight eateries that have been around a long time, but the important point about these businesses is that they each offer food cooked by few other kitchens in our area. It’s unnecessary to drive into Portland for an outrageously good meal, there are plenty of options just minutes from campus. If you like to support locally owned businesses, support these. They are the champions.
Mi Famiglia – 701 Main Street
Nestled downtown near the old bridge, Mi Famiglia is Oregon City’s most unique and only wood oven pizzeria. The family-owned restaurant opened in 2007 and has been turning out incredible pies in a charming setting ever since. You won’t find combinations like these anywhere else in town: The P.B.O.W. is topped with pork belly, caramelized, onions, walnuts, swiss, and mozzarella cheese, on a garlic oil base. The Fig and Prosciutto perfectly balances salty and sweet. All the pizzas and calzone have just the right amount of char on the edge, and the toppings are exceptional. Try them for your next pizza night.
Tony’s Smokehouse and Fish Market – 1316 Washington Street
Opened in 1936 by the Petrich Family, Tony’s is one of Oregon City’s oldest businesses, and should be a mainstay for searching out a seafood lunch. The menu is limited, but perfectly prepared. It’s the only place in town to grab a proper bagel and lox, one of their several seafood melts or one of their many baskets, all prepared with fresh ingredients from the seafood counter. They’re often overlooked as a place to grab a bite, but Tony’s is in one of OC’s best neighborhoods to eat, as it sits across from both Oregon City Brewing (with their award-winning beers) and Corner 14 Spirits and Brew, home to a wide selection of food carts. If you need seafood in this town, it’s the only place to go.
High Rocks Steak and Chops – 915 E Arlington St, Gladstone
While not technically in Oregon City, an exception had to be made on this list, and it was made for High Rocks. When you need a steak, you need one treated with respect. Not over seasoned and never overcooked, that’s what you get here; steaks, chops, burgers, and sandwiches, with some very good classic salads thrown in. The burgers ordered by the next table looked and smelled amazing, but that wasn’t my reason for showing up: I was after a 16oz ribeye (served rare) and a green salad. It was exactly what was needed and came to the table precisely as I’d ordered. During the meal, two orders of the house pork chops were carried by, looking thick and juicy, the grill marks picture-perfect. If you haven’t tried High Rocks before, give them a shot before heading into Portland for a steak. They’ve been doing it long enough – since 1978 – to earn our business.
Perched atop the bluffs at the south end of town, our last two entries. It’s entirely coincidental that these restaurants sit on opposite sides of the same intersection, overlooking our own industrial yet majestic, Willamette Falls.
The Highland Stillhouse – 201 S Second St
The Highland Stillhouse is an anomaly in the area, serving traditional Scottish fare with their own twists. The Scotch Eggs (hard-cooked eggs, wrapped in sausage, breaded and fried) are my favorite way to start here, though you may need to split the order to save room for the main courses. If you’re there for lunch, the pasties (meat and vegetables wrapped in pastry) are worth noshing on, I recommend the one containing corned beef. For a dinner course, the gristed cod or salmon – the technical term for the ground grain they use – is another unique offering. The fish is seasoned with a crust of smoked barley meal, providing a savory crunch to the outside of the fillet. It’s hard to go wrong with anything, so my recommendations aside, roll the dice and try anything – just make sure to pair it with a local or imported ale. I’ve never been disappointed by any meal here.
The Falls View Tavern – 100 S. McLoughlin Blvd
A tavern probably seems odd for my final choice on this list, but I assure you, there is an excellent reason for its inclusion: Old-fashioned broasted chicken. It’s fried chicken, the best that Oregon City has to offer, bar none. It’s something that before the advent of the Colonel, you’d see everywhere. Breaded chicken, flash fried in a pressure cooker guarantees a juicy bird, with crackling hot skin. A half chicken with jojos and garlic bread for $12.50 is both insanely delicious and a good value. The rest of the menu is solid: sausages on poppy seed buns, killer burgers and sandwiches, great chili and a laid back atmosphere. It’s extra fun on a Wednesday for trivia night!