Ecola (named for the nearby state park), is a modern, no-frills seafood market and restaurant in the oceanside hamlet of Cannon Beach. For us out-of-towners it is a treat simply to browse the cases of Dungeness crab, oysters, scallops, and flat fish that we seldom see back east. Whatever else we are going to eat, we must start with crab cocktail, which is nothing more than a bowl full of cool, sweet meat along with cocktail sauce. As much as we like grilled salmon (they catch their own), we are suckers for fish and chips. The only problem is deciding which fish. It can be anything from oysters or clams to halibut or tuna. Each is available as a lunch or dinner (bigger portion), and you can get the cod, halibut, salmon, or oysters fried up and put into a toasted, buttered bun with lettuce, tomato, and a couple of lemon wedges.
Ecola is totally casual. Place your order at the counter and, when it’s busy, pick it up yourself and tote it to a table. (Otherwise the staff will bring it to you.) Cocktail sauce, tartar sauce, and other such amenities are available at a sidebar. When you’re finished, it’s customary to pick up empty plates and bus the table yourself.
There’s no shortage of seafood restaurants along coastal Oregon, but for a stripped-down-to-the-basics experience, we recommend Ecola Seafoods. In the town of Cannon Beach, Seaside’s relatively upscale neighbor to the south, Ecola is a seafood market with indoors and outside seating. The dining room is decorated with photographs showing the owners fishing for, catching, and displaying various local sea creatures. Apparently, much of what they sell is caught on their boat, and it shows. In fact, we’d say Ecola is worth a visit even if you don’t plan to eat; just gaze upon the cases filled with cooked Dungeness crabs and radiant, almost electric, wild salmon. You may not enter hungry, but you’ll probably find yourself yearning for at least a taste of something.
Freshly cooked and picked shellfish are sold as cocktails in various configurations. The unimpeachable baby shrimp and crab combo we sampled was a clear, clean taste of the Pacific. We also had a smoked salmon sandwich, which unexpectedly turned out to be a smoked salmon salad sandwich; still very good. It was served on soft white bread, like the tuna sandwiches you enjoyed as a kid, but the innocuous bread allowed the flavor of the salmon to shine brightly.
If you happen to be in the area, perhaps doing some shopping, Ecola is an ideal place for a quick, sparkling seafood lunch.