It had been one of those weeks at work. So as soon as I left work, I went home, got the dog, and headed for the beach. Time to listen to the waves, get my feet wet, feel the wind in my hair, and look for some rocks and driftwood. I figured we might have to settle for fast food when it came to dinner, it would be late when we got off the beach. But there it was, just blocks from the intersection of Highways 20 and 101, shining in all its neon glory and proclaiming its 24 hours a day, the Newport Café. I knew where I’d be stopping for dinner.
I freely admit that I have a love of roadside kitsch. There is more than one picture out there of me posing with a large concrete representation of an animal, preferably in some loud color (the animal, not me). Diner’s and dives tend to fall into this category for me. The décor inside and/or out usually has something of the absurd about it. What else can you say about a large neon crab sitting on a plate of eggs holding a claw full of fries? Plus, it was open 24 hours. It’s one thing for something quite like a Denny’s or Shari’s to be open 24 hours, but a roadside dive? Hello, I had to stop.
Pretty standard, fish nets draped around the edges of the room with driftwood and fake fish tucked in here and there and buoys with their logo on them. Do you think there’s a company that makes these buoys or do these restaurants buy buoys and put there logo on them? Just about every dive or dive wannabe seafood place seems to have them. The space is small, 10-12 tables of varying sizes and design and a counter with 6 stools. T-Shirts, vests, and jackets with their logo line the walls. Not in any kind of display, they’re stock seems to be actually hanging in the dining area. The décor was completed by a large UMMA (MMA is mixed martial arts. I can only assume the U is for Ultimate) belt hanging over the register with a variety of event pictures.
Do yourself a favor and don’t pay much attention to the carpet. Why anyone would put carpet in such a small space when it’s open 24 hours is beyond me. There is no way that you’re going to be able to keep it clean.
You have to squeeze between the counter and register to get to the bathroom; it’s located on one end of the kitchen. The kitchen was incredibly small, only room for two people really and they better figure out how to work with each other in a hurry. For a busy Friday night, the kitchen was clean. The bathroom had the best paint I’ve ever seen in a dive bathroom. Many bars could take a cue from this place. The walls were brushed with multiple colors so that it was really hard to tell what might be on them. It was an interesting mix. The bathroom’s about the size of a closet but it was clean and tidy and well decorated.
It seemed very much a guy place, at least that time of day. The parking lot was full of pick-up trucks and there were several tables full of guys in jeans and flannel or Carhart hoodies, complete with stubble. There was a “just off work and drinking beers till our food gets here” air about the place. To complete the manliness, all three employees were male. I’m sure clientele varies as to the time of day but there was a definite whiff of testosterone on that evening.
There was no sign so I sat myself. Things started out well, my water and coffee arrived promptly, and my order was taken quickly. These weren’t cheery waitresses, but the gruffness seemed to be part of his demeanor. But then I waited and waited some more. This may be because of what I ordered, it can take some time, but it took longer than people’s that came in after I had ordered. When it finally arrived, it was dropped off and the server left without asking if I needed anything, which I did. I was out of coffee and that many fries needed ranch. I had to wave the server down and then he only brought me my ranch and I had to call, literally call as in raise my voice, to ask for coffee again. However, the bill arrived promptly; although, neither of the servers were around when it was time to pay. They both seemed to be on break.
Still, I couldn’t help but like the guys. Watching them interact with each other and the customers was like dinner and a show. They were constantly joking with each other or in general having a good time and their attitudes seemed to fit the place. They were fun. So, I give service a mixed review. It was busy and they were fun, but there is room for improvement.
The menu is huge, three 11X17 pages font and back (it’s available on their website). They also have daily specials, Friday is prime rib, fried chicken another night. There was also a sign for stuffed salmon. Most prices hover around $10. I had a hard time deciding. Breakfast is served all day and they have crab cakes as a breakfast option. The thought of eggs and crab cakes sets my mouth watering but I wasn’t in the mood for eggs. I had fries on my mind and they offer three kinds, crinkle cut, hand cut, and sweet potato. While there are entrees that are not fried (at least two), this is no place to be looking for health food. Burgers, steaks, and fried seafood figure prominently on the non-breakfast portion of the menu. There are local options with the seafood and quite a few of the menu items are “homemade.”
When I go to the coast, I want to eat seafood. Since I was having a hard time trying to decide, I ordered the Captain’s Platter: 2 cod, 2 salmon, 2 prawns, 2 oysters with clam strips and fries. Check out the picture. I couldn’t fit the whole plate in the frame without standing up. It’s an impressive amount of fries.
These guys know how to fry. The seafood was crisp on the outside, tender on the inside, and not greasy at all. I don’t remember having deep fried salmon before, if I have it wasn’t memorable. This was awesome. Salmon is easy to dry out and this was the juiciest salmon I’ve had. The fries were a disappointment. The server and I had a whole conversation about their fries and which type were the crispiest. Supposedly the crinkle cut fries were the crispiest, but these were not. They were perfectly cooked, not greasy, but they were not crispy fries at all. If you’re not a crispy fry person, you would have loved them.
Drink options include soda, fountain and canned, as well as bottled beer and Mike’s Hard Lemonades.
I can’t say this was my best dining experience, but it was fun and the food was good. Seafood restaurants, even in a working fishing town, tend to the pretentious. That’s not really something I’m looking for when I roll off the beach covered in sand. Most of the time I’m looking for a low key place, with good food, at prices I can afford, Newport Café covers all those. The fun was a bonus. Definitely someplace I’ll be going back to, especially for those breakfast crab cakes…
534 N Coast Hwy, Newport, OR, 97365
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