Seaside, Oregon, may be a small town, but it’s perfect for big appetites. Indeed, this beautiful beach community in the northwestern part of the state has long been known for two things: exciting family destinations and tantalizing seafood restaurants.
In Seaside, there are many ways to build up an appetite. Tillamook Head National Recreation Trail is idyllic for hiking and swimming. The Necanicum River is popular with kayakers and eagle watchers. And, if you’re up for a long walk, jog, or run, the Historic Seaside Promenade offers unsurpassable views of the mighty Pacific.
But, once you start feeling hungry, which restaurants in this resort town reign supreme? Well, it was a hard — yet mouthwatering — decision to make, but these five spots represent the very best in Seaside seafood.
1. Dooger's Seafood
Dooger’s Seafood & Grill has delighted diners since it opened on February 18, 1983. The restaurant is named after its cofounder Doug Wiese — a man known to one and all as Dooger.
Mary Wiese, Dooger’s beloved mother, was the other cofounder. (She retired in 1994.) And, in this grill’s early days, Mary prepared all the ingredients while Dooger handled all the cooking.
Since then, Dooger’s has become a true American success story. After all, it opened with just 44 seats. However, it was soon a big hit with tourists and locals alike. It certainly helped that, in May 1983, a glowing review in The Oregonian boosted business.
Then, in 1987, the Wieses were able to expand their restaurant. They built on an adjacent vacant lot, creating capacity for approximately three dozen extra people. And, in 1988, Dooger’s proved to be a pioneering establishment: It was among the first wave of eateries in the U.S. to forbid indoor smoking.
The popularity of Dooger’s Seafood & Grill continues unabated; its reputation for excellent cuisine keeps on growing. Among its specialties are clam chowder, pan-fried razor clams, crab cakes with hollandaise sauce, and crab legs. (You can also purchase a chowder kit to make your own Dooger’s chowder at home!) Not to mention, this restaurant serves scrumptious non-seafood fare like pasta and hamburgers.
Carnegie Wiese, Dooger’s son, became a co-owner of this business in 2022. The family connections and the nostalgia of the place drew him back. And, these days, a special menu item is named after Carnegie: It’s the Carnwich, a grilled cheese sandwich with chicken strips.
2. Norma's Seafood
Even older than Dooger’s Seafood & Grill is Norma’s Seafood & Steak. It opened in downtown Seaside way back in 1976, inside a majestic blue and white lighthouse. And it’s long been a favorite of casual diners and sophisticated food critics alike. In fact, over the decades, it’s been celebrated in media outlets such as NPR, Bon Appetit, and Oregon Coast Magazine.
Norma’s kitchen overflows with ingredients that are locally made, grown, or foraged. And its menu includes award-winning soups, creamy clam chowder, microbrews, wines from vineyards in Oregon and Washington, and natural Angus beef. Plus, the staff prepares its own sauces, makes its own desserts, and bakes its own bread!
On top of all that, each day, Norma’s posts a “fresh board.” This sign tells customers which seafood items are local on that particular day. In addition, the Captain’s Platter here is great for sharing: It comes with calamari, salmon, oyster, prawns, halibut, and more.
Norma’s Seafood & Steak serves lunch and dinner seven days a week. It caters to families, and it has a children’s menu. And, on weekends in the summertime, there can be quite a wait for Norma’s special brand of deliciousness.
3. Finn's Fish House
Another downtown Seaside favorite, Finn’s Fish House offers every diner an affordable, casual, and fun experience. Each day, it serves breakfast — the Eggs Benedict is outstanding, by the way — lunch, and dinner. There’s also a happy hour and, during the week, a breakfast happy hour.
Among the homemade dishes at Finn’s are locally-sourced oysters, smoked salmon clam chowder, and an array of pasta and steak options. Vegetarian meals are available here, too.
Two spaces within Finn’s are especially inviting. First, there’s the cocktail lounge, with its highly desirable local wines and specialty drinks. Second, there’s the circular fireplace, a cozy space for warming up and hanging out. Plus, since 2019, a spacious outdoor patio has beckoned diners in warm weather, while the tasteful indoor dining room is enjoyable throughout the year.
Here’s an interesting note: Finn’s owners founded this establishment on sisu, a mystical concept from Finland. The word “sisu” can’t be translated exactly, but it refers to an abiding courage and determination over adversity. It’s a unique guiding philosophy for a seafood restaurant. But, then again, Finn’s Fish House is a unique place.
4. Bell Buoy of Seaside
The average lifespan of a restaurant is somewhere between eight and 10 years. So it’s astounding to think that Bell Buoy of Seaside has been in business for almost eight decades (The seafood market anyway).
Bell Buoy is actually a cannery and seafood marketplace with a restaurant attached. In fact, it’s one of the few remaining canneries in Oregon that sells food directly to consumers. And 80 percent of Bell Buoy’s offerings are sourced within a 50-mile radius.
Today, Trent Hartill owns and manages Bell Buoy; his sister is its communications director, and his cousin is the operations manager.
Trent’s father and uncle bought Bell Buoy in 2002, and they helped grow its popularity to new heights. In 2021, Trent’s dad Terry retired after 55 years in the restaurant business.
Trent is an Oregon State graduate who lived in Alaska for more than 10 years. There, he worked for the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife.
However, the allure of Bell Buoy eventually called Trent home. And he’s already stamped his imprint on the restaurant — sharing his favorite recipes on its website, for example.
Of course, when an establishment has been open since 1946, certain traditions must be upheld. Fortunately for Bell Buoy’s longtime patrons, the albacore tuna, razor clams, Dungeness crab, chowder, salmon, and smoked fish are still fresh and flavorful — the way they’ve always been.
5. Grizzly Tuna
Up and down America’s coastlines, the seafood shack is a familiar and welcome sight. And Seaside’s bright red Grizzly Tuna shack exemplifies the charm and hospitality of these cherished fast food eateries.
Grizzly Tuna opened in the mid-2010s, taking over what was once a coffee hut. Then, in a relatively short period of time, it established a strong reputation for high-quality food at comparatively low prices.
To be sure, Grizzly Tuna’s menu is limited. Actually, that’s an understatement. When you go there, you could get a large order of tuna fish and chips, a small order of tuna fish and chips, or fish tacos. Bottled beverages and side orders of French fries are also available. And that’s about it.
The bill of fare may be lacking in variety, but Grizzly Tuna makes up for it in taste. Many of Oregon’s fish and chips aficionados feel that this shack prepares its entrees to perfection. The fried tuna filets here are crunchy and boast a delectable breadcrumb crust — they’re never soft, moist, or greasy. For their part, the fries are always crispy and golden. And each order includes tartar sauce and ketchup; lemons are available upon request as well.
In short, the entire Grizzly Tuna experience is gratifying. Just head over to the window, and a warm and friendly server will take your order. Then, as you eagerly await your meal, you can savor the aromas of tuna all around you. Finally, you can take your food home with you, or — if you just can’t wait to dive in — you could grab a seat at an outdoor picnic table and start your feast right away!
In the end, for such a small community, Seaside boasts a surprisingly diverse array of dining options. There are pizzerias and pubs, delis and bakeries, wine rooms and ice cream parlors, and lots more besides. Yes, you could find all kinds of ethnic and cultural treats here.
Even so, there’s something extra special about Seaside’s seafood scene. The local fishing community is proud and vibrant. And many regional restaurants love serving the briny delicacies that those fishers haul in.
So, the next time you find yourself in stunning Seaside, you might visit one of the restaurants described above. Or maybe you could hit all five of them for some truly succulent gorging!