It's going to be a spring to remember, in addition to already-reported new restaurants (Coast Weekend, April 27).
100 39th St., Pier 39 complex, Astoria
7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day
Rogue Ales Public House and the battleship-gray, World War ll-vintage navy LCI (Landing Craft Infantry) moored nearby capture the attention of most visitors to the Pier 39 complex, the development in progress that occupies the old Hanthorn Cannery on Astoria's east side. The new Cannery Lofts condos being constructed on the south side of the Riverwalk are drawing lots of gawkers, too.
Every bit as enticing, however, is Coffee Girl, located at the north end of Pier 39 in the former cannery's break-from-work room. Some say the coffee drinks here, created by owner-operator Zetty McKay with Caffe d'Arte beans, are the tastiest around; surely there's no more engaging venue to sip a latte, a double mocha, chai tea or a bottle of juice. Grab a riverfront table or cozy up on the couch with your beverage of choice. Either way, you're in full view of passing tankers, freighters, tugs, barges and fishing vessels, along with the occasional sea lion. Cool sounds from the CD player add to the just-right ambiance.
Which might make you hungry. Breakfast bagels enclose an egg, a slice of ham and melted Tillamook cheddar ($4), while sandwiches come layered with thick-cut meats and cheeses ($4.50 to $5.50). Lemon-currant, mango-coconut and apricot-lemon scones ($2.25), especially right out of the oven as they often are in the mornings, draw oohs and aahs for their aroma, raves for their texture and flavor. Ditto for the espresso brownies ($1.50). Snacks and sandwiches are served on china instead of paper plates. Set up a few chairs and tables and the outside cement deck will afford a magnificent setting for the kind of conversations fresh-brewed java seems to inspire. Oh, and bring your laptop; this is Wi-Fi territory.
It's tough to depart Coffee Girl. During a two-hour-long foray when I was fortunate enough to score a riverfront table, I counted four or five passing fishing boats, a humongous, boxy car carrier and a couple tugs pulling barges while I nursed a 20-ounce chai. Later, one of McKay's delicately crafted decafs made me reconsider my avoidance of coffee. Presently, this place is Astoria's coolest hangout and on the leading edge of what's happening in the Columbia-Pacific region's coffee world. Whether you're a java freak or an occasional imbiber, you owe yourself a visit.
Employees from the Pier 39 offices come in regularly, mixing it up with the townies and the occasional off-the-beaten-path tourists who ofttimes look incredulous at discovering a treasure in such an unlikely location. McKay, who calls her drinks latte art, hints that longer hours are on tap for the summer, highlighted perhaps by, say, iced espresso drinks served in martini glasses.
And if you worked here when the structure still housed a fish-processing plant, you may recognize the counter as the same one used by the Bumblebee coffee girl who tended to cannery workers up until about eight years ago. McKay knows; she worked as one of the servers.
1446 Commercial St., Astoria
7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Astoria's newest restaurant is Andes Cuisine, which took charge of the former Brockhoff's Coffee House space on the east end of downtown. OK, we know that the Andes Mountains form the backbone of South America, and Andes food probably has a lot to do with what folks dine on in Peru. Which is what, exactly?
Turns out Peruvian cuisine is heavily influenced by indigenous foods, that is, what the natives were eating before European contact in the late 15th century, although the Spanish left their mark. According to Eve Zibart, Muriel Stevens and Terrell Vermont, authors of "Ethnic Cuisine & Dining in America," Andean village food could be considered the only "authentic" South American cooking.
A four-paragraph explanation on the back of the Andes Cuisine menu provides additional info: "The culinary history of Peruvian food dates to the Incas and pre-Incas, with its maize, potatoes and spices that was later influenced by the arrival of the Spanish." Subsequent immigrants from China, Africa, Japan and other parts of Europe brought their own favored foods.
We've dined at Andes Cuisine just once, and the offerings appear geared toward U.S. palates, what with bacon and eggs, crab frittatas, a slew of sandwiches, even spaghetti and meat sauce. The sides are decidedly different, however; breakfast arrives with bananas and whipped cream, lunch with a mix of sweet corn and feta. Seviche (or ceviche) - raw fish marinated and "cooked" in lime juice - is a mainstay. So are soups bolstered by beef, chicken and seafood. A seafood soup blended with steamed rice that's called parihuela sounds particularly appealing. We can vouch that the apple-strudel muffins certainly are. Everything's inexpensive; nothing on the menu tops $8.95.
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