LONG BEACH PENINSULA, Wash. - Serene beaches, undulating dunes, rhododendron gardens, caches of wild mushrooms, cranberry bogs, roiling surf and a heap of history. Can anybody doubt this blissful slice of grandeur is not far behind the south side of the Columbia River estuary in attracting visitors to the Lewis and Clark bicentennial?
Already renowned for its unmatched concentration of fine eateries, the Long Beach Peninsula appears infected with the same type of entrepreneurship that's fueling Astoria's restaurant renaissance (where "more is not enough" seems to be the rallying cry). Here's a look at a couple of Long Beach Peninsula establishments you may have missed.
The Great Discovery
201 E. Bolstad Ave., Long Beach, Wash.,
8 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day
A decade or more ago, when the Long Beach Peninsula was hurting for quality noon-time take-out, The Great Discovery would have been a real find. Nowadays, what with Surfer Sands, MiniCook Takeout, Kelly's Deli and other nearby midday haunts, it's just one of many locales to score a quick lunch.
A cute 'n cozy wooden hut that's only slightly larger than a drive-through espresso stand (there's one alongside), the year-old establishment occupies a gravel lot across from the Long Beach Post Office, a block east of the main drag. An array of sandwiches, soups such as broccoli-cheese and a nourishing vegetable, salads (Caesar, chef's and Oriental chicken) and white-chicken chili are menu mainstays, along with fresh-baked cookies (one day, crunchy peanut butter).
Prodigious potato chunks distinguish Great Discovery's salty, milk-free clam chowder, a blend that sports a briny base more brothlike than creamy (a plus in my book). A recent sandwich du jour was honey ham. I ordered mine on what turned out to be unremarkable potato bread - multigrain, honey-wheat and something called a Dutch Crunch roll can be substituted. Two slices of ham rolled into cylinders and layered amid lettuce, tomato, red onion and Swiss cheese rescued my meal from mediocrity.
Other sandwich choices include roast beef and provolone, roasted turkey paired with cranberry cream cheese and perhaps the best of the bunch, a veggie bonanza stacked with cukes, bell peppers, grated carrots, mushrooms, zucchini and more, then spread with guacamole, sprinkled with sunflower seeds and freshened with a raspberry vinaigrette. Service is quick, and prices are reasonable - my half-sandwich honey-ham and cup-of-chowder combo cost $4.50.
Bubba's Homespun Pizza
3100 Pacific Way, Seaview, Wash.,
4 to 10 p.m. Thursday through Sunday
True enough, most pizzas are round, but they come in sizes and styles ranging from brick-oven-baked Tuscan-inspired pies fashioned with a handful of simple ingredients to the ubiquitous Americanized extravaganzas topped with everything the cook can get his hands on.
In between are the pizzas I grew up with: the goopy, oily, saucy, thin-crusted, foldable and oh-so-fine pies still prevalent in the New York metropolitan area. A few Columbia-Pacific region purveyors have made a stab at producing such pizzas with varying results. Ex-New Yorker Bubba Kuhn has come the closest.
The restaurant business is in Kuhn's blood, and the former Long Island resident (he hails from Rocky Point, about 90 miles east of Manhattan) has been around the block, literally and figuratively. A decade ago he opened Ilwaco Waterfront Pizza (later called "Bubba's") at Ilwaco's port, well before the harbor was much more than a salty stop for commercial and sport fishermen. Many Peninsula pizza lovers immediately swore off prefab crust, bland sauce and fast-food franchise pies. Later, Kuhn moved Bubba's to downtown Long Beach; along with pizzas, he served salads, sub sandwiches and a killer antipasto plate. He subsequently lost his lease and went out of business.
Now he's back in Seaview, plying the trade he first learned 34 years ago. Formerly, some customers complained Bubba's Long Beach pizzas weren't top-drawer when Kuhn wasn't doing the shaping, tossing and baking. There's no such problem in Seaview; Kuhn lovingly fashions all his pies, which begin with a ball of dough and exit the oven as aromatic medium-thin beauts spread with a zesty sauce and ringed with a golden crust. Making quality pizza is chemistry, and a person has to love it to succeed, says Kuhn, who has been known to entertain waiting customers with his enthusiasm and wit (he may even hand you a "New Customer Intake Form," listing tongue-in-cheek questions such as: "When voting in national elections, do you write in the name of your pizza maker?").
Bubba's Homespun pizzas are stouter and cheesier than traditional New York-style pies, but they look and taste mighty fine. Our Bronx pie came chock-a-block with quality fixings, including red, green and yellow julienned peppers, sliced onions, Italian sausage and, in my opinion, too much cheese - most pizza lovers would, no doubt, disagree. None of that quality provolone will slide off, however, like it might from an East Coast pie, because Kuhn goes easy on the olive oil.
Other toppings range from pepperoni, pepperoncini, jalapenos and pineapple to meatballs, wine-cured salami and smoked oysters; there are 24 choices. In a nod to his East Coast roots, Kuhn even offers anchovies. A small cheese pizza costs $6.50, while $27.50 will fetch you a large Combo Supreme piled high with 10 toppings. A quartet of hearty sandwiches (try the baked meatball Parmesan) and a few calzones also can be had ($7.95 to $9.95).
Contact the Mouth at The Daily Astorian, P.O. Box 210, Astoria, OR 97103 or phone (503) 325-3211 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org