It’s all about coming home for Chantelle Hylton and Patrick Rock.
In early 2018, the owners of the Salmonberry Saloon in Wheeler quit their work in Portland’s art and music world and relocated to the Coast, where Rock grew up and still has family. They bought the old Tsunami Grill in Wheeler — the tiny fishing village on the banks of Nehalem Bay, between Manzanita and Rockaway Beach — and transformed it into a handcrafted restaurant with stunning waterfront views and a scratch-made menu that spotlights Oregon’s coastal seasons and regions.
“Being here, it’s so much about the place and community, the flora and fauna,” Hylton says. “We’re totally dedicated to doing it in a way that feels like we’re doing good work — highlighting what’s happening here, who’s growing it, harvesting it, catching the fish.”
Since their March 2018 opening, they’ve seen summer visitors come and go, and autumn’s chinook salmon come to its end. Now the restaurant is preparing its winter menu — think lots of braised meats, chowder and other hearty comfort foods that diners can enjoy over the two wood fires, in the restaurant and the bar.
They source most of their produce from nearby Moon River Farm, their beef from Nehalem River Ranch, shellfish from Nevor Shellfish Farm and JAndy Oyster Company, cheese from Nestucca Bay Creamery and small-batch wines from nearby Oregon wineries. In January and February, it’ll be prime time for fresh crab in Oregon, and the restaurant will work with local crabbers to bring it to the menu.
The restaurant, by the way, is one of a few in Oregon that are certified as “ocean-friendly” by the Surfrider Foundation, an advocacy group that leads initiatives such as the “Ditch the straw” campaign. “The beaches are so full of plastic; there’s so much waste,” Hylton says. The restaurant avoids plastic straws and bags (customers can request a paper straw or bag if needed), and they use linen napkins. “I feel like it’s nice to have this vessel to not do more damage to the environment and our community,” Hylton says.
When you go: Stay in comfy digs at lodging in town such as Wheeler on the Bay or the Old Wheeler Hotel, or camp year-round at Nehalem Bay State Park, which offers cozy yurts and tent sites. Enjoy the challenging hike along the 8-mile Neahkahnie Mountain Loop, or go fishing or crabbing on the north fork of the Nehalem River — one of the only places left where fishers are permitted to catch the endangered coho salmon. It’s also home to a rare summer run of summer chinook. Rent fishing gear as well as a boat, kayak and stand-up paddle boards from the friendly people at Wheeler Marina.
— Jen Anderson
Photo by Robbie McClaran