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Mar 26, 2004 10:22 AM

Eating in the Oregon Wine Country

  • t

I'll be spending a night in McMinnville, OR, next week. Any recommendations for eating while I'm there? And what is the most highly regarded vineyard in the area that I should be sure to visit and stockpile some bottles from? Thanks.

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  1. I've had several very good meals at Tina's.

    1. Joel Palmer House -- good, small, regional place in old historic home. I've found their food uneven but others really enjoy's in Dayton, a short hop from McMinnville. Also take a look at the writeup about Nick's Italian Cafe in McMinnville in the latest issue of Saveur. I've never been but it sounds great.

      1. My husbank and I had a very enjoyable and tasty meal at Bistro Maison in McMinnville in December. They have a changing menu with local products. Great bread. Excellant service. In an old house.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Iona

          I went there back in April. Here's my review:

          It’s the last house on McMinnville’s 3rd Street downtown—as authentic an American main street as you will find anywhere, movie house and all. But just before you reach the railroad tracks, there’s a tiny piece of France, Bistro Maison. Owners Chef Jean-Jacques and Hostess/Manager/Bartender Deborah Chatelard are ex-pat New Yorkers (and indeed, Jean-Jacques is an ex-pat of France) having recently followed their dream to Oregon’s wine country. The place is small and often fills up quickly, a combination of locals (“some come two, three times a week,” according to Jean-Jacques), tourists, and increasingly as word gets around, Portlanders who drive 30 minutes to get in on the secret. The atmosphere is bistro; that is, bustling, chairs-scraping-floors casual, with both quiet corners and loud tables. In the summer there is outdoor dining on the patio, alongside the whistle-stop train station. The menu is truly authentic French bistro cuisine, and everything on it is made on the premises, often with local ingredients; ask Jean-Jacques the story about his local mushrooming friends. The baguette is literally right out of the oven; even the butter is special. “He says, ‘It is a bistro, I have to make it all here,’” Deborah explains of her husband. As each new appetizer comes out, and each component is described, one wonders how he has the time (to make, for example, the two kinds of saucisson, pate, mousse, and dijon mustard on just one plate). This is all before the bubbling white truffle three-cheese fondue, the bisques and salads, and then, the main course. Entrée servings are ample and exquisite, so save room for them. Pommes frites in a little metal bucket on the side, so perfectly fried. The desserts remind you once more the care and effort that is going into every one of these dishes, the moment before they reach the table. Local wines (with the knowledge to recommend them) dominate. The service is better described as hospitality, and if you can understand his accent, you can always speak directly to the chef. After all the food is gone and the wine bottles empty, out come the (local) grappa and wooden bowls of hazelnuts with nutcrackers for everyone. One can feast for $35 – 40 a person, wine included. Perhaps it’s the unlikely location of Bistro Maison that has guests tending toward hyperbole when describing the experience. Still, if this bistro were located in New York—or France—it would still be one of the best.

        2. Between McMinnville and Sheridan is the Fresh Palate Cafe. It just off the highway between the two towns at the Lawrence Gallery I think. There's also an excellent tasting room there. My girlfriend and I stop there every time we visit the area, about once a year.

          1. Nick's in McMinville is excellent and should not be missed if you're staying in town. I was also impressed by Tina's last time I was down that way.

            Admittedly I've only been there once, but wild horses wouldn't get me back to the Joel Palmer House.