Cannon Beach - With Haystack Rock just outside the window, an ocean view in Cannon Beach is spectacular on its own. Top that with food prepared by Will Leroux, one of the coast's top chefs, and you are dining at The Wayfayer Restaurant in Cannon Beach.
As an avid fisherman, wild game hunter, clammer and forager of wild berries and mushrooms, Chef Leroux thoroughly understands the connection between nature and the food he presents. Like a painter who dreams in colors, Leroux says he "dreams in flavors." Highlighting ingredients with color, texture, seasonings and special cooking techniques, he showcases Northwest cuisine in what he describes as "simple elegance."
Leroux attended The New England Culinary Institute in Vermont, where he earned his associate degree through the Culinary Arts Advanced Placement program. A six-month internship at L'Auberge De Sedona in Arizona was followed by five years as a chef for the four-star Los Abrigados Resort, also in Arizona. While working at Los Abrigados, Leroux was honored to study with Madeleine Kamman at The School for American Chefs at Beringer Vineyards.
Lured by the Pacific Northwest, Leroux landed a job at the prestigious Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, Wash., where he worked for nine years before accepting the position of Executive Sous Chef for The Stephanie Inn. After working for six months at the Stephanie Inn, alongside former Chef John Newman, he was promoted to the position of Executive Chef for the company's Wayfarer Restaurant, where he has worked from April 2002 to the present. "I was born with cooking in my blood," says Leroux, who, when he is not out in the local forests or waters hunting, fishing and gathering, is dreaming up new ways to showcase Pacific Coast cuisine.
With an ocean view and great food, the Wayfarer is a spot I recommend to anyone for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The bar is also welcoming and, weather permitting, outdoor dining is available. For breakfast, I love eggs Benedict, and the Wayfarer offers two versions. One features fresh Dungeness crab cakes atop an English muffin, but my favorite is the traditional eggs Benedict with Canadian bacon and Hollandaise sauce. Cottage potatoes on the side are golden and flavorful. Breakfast specialties include "famous cinnamon roll French toast," made from house-made cinnamon rolls, buttermilk pancakes, and a selection of omelets, including a wild mushroom and blue cheese omelet.
For lunch, halibut fish 'n' chips dipped in beer batter and fried golden brown is a winner. On recent visits, specialty sandwiches have included the ham stack sandwich, layered with Tillamook cheddar cheese, shaved ham and chipotle mustard, and a grilled chicken sandwich topped with bacon and Swiss cheese. Burgers, topped with "the works," are juicy and packed with flavor. Clam chowder is thick and creamy, the perfect antidote to a cool fall day.
Dinner entrees include the ever-popular Halibut Steverino, made with fresh halibut baked with lemon, onions and a creamy dill sauce. This dish was a favorite of the late Steve Martin, who owned the Wayfarer Restaurant and other local businesses. The varied menu also features crab-crusted wild salmon topped with cucumber-dill sauce, wild mushroom chicken (made with sautéed wild mushrooms and a red wine demi-glace), and whole steamed Dungeness crab.
A recent dinner started with fried Pacific calamari served with red-pepper aioli. Lightly battered and perfectly crisp, the calamari came with a side of fresh greens and baby tomatoes. Caesar salad, made with chopped romaine lettuce, topped with freshly toasted croutons, shaved Asiago cheese and a zesty dressing mildly flavored with anchovy and garlic, was delicious. Organic arugula salad topped with crumbled Rogue River blue cheese, toasted hazelnuts and a clover-honey-raspberry vinaigrette was equally good. Both salads are available in half or full portions - a nice touch. A basket of warm, crusty French bread (with butter balls) was a welcome touch.
Northwest seafood stew, cooked with fresh garlic, leeks and herbs in a roasted tomato broth, is packed with fresh, flavorful seafood, including clams, mussels, cod and salmon. Although it is listed under "soups/salads," this is a definitely a full meal (it comes with a side of garlic bread). Our friendly, informative waiter recommended the artichoke Pacific snapper. Perfectly cooked and fresh, the snapper was served with artichoke hearts, local shrimp, nutty-flavored wild-rice pilaf, and freshly cooked vegetables, including candied sweet potatoes, green beans and carrots.
The dessert tray features an array of freshly baked pastries. Fortunately, former pastry chef Lisa Grillone's award-winning "A Little Bit of Heaven" is still on the menu. Layered with chocolate-buttermilk cake, chocolate-espresso ganache with butternut brittle and milk chocolate-mascarpone mousse, it is - not to sound macabre - "to die for."