Local Ocean is a loud and lively place staffed by a crew who are fully aware that they are operating the cutting-edge seafood place on Bay Boulevard. The attitude is more one of confidence than arrogance, so we won’t hold it against them; nor will we be bothered by high prices. The fact is that you get your money’s worth: some of the finest seafood meals in a region replete with really fine seafood meals.
Dungeness crab soup glows warm with roasted garlic; crab cakes come with crunchy fennel slaw; a handsome crab po boy is dressed with green chile avocado puree and is sandwiched in a loaf crusted with Parmesan cheese. Fish tacos, which include a wild pickley hot salsa, are made with the catch of the day; it was ling cod when I first stopped in: white, smooth, and flakey. Salads may be enriched by house-smoked salmon and toasted Oregon hazelnuts; or you might want a halibut panzanella salad made with crisp-grilled ciabatta bread and including roasted vegetables. Dessert is nothing short of sensational: lemon shortcake smothered with local berries and whipped cream.
Local Ocean also is a seafood market, each kind of raw fish in the case marked with a placard that tells which vessel caught it, using what fishing technique.
If you plan to spend time in Newport, Oregon, you plan to eat seafood. Local Ocean Seafoods is the best seafood restaurant in Newport. Ergo…
Your first challenge will be to secure yourself and your dining companions a table. This is not a large restaurant, word is out, and they take no reservations. Our first visit, on a Saturday evening, would have required a one hour and twenty minute wait. We passed on the opportunity and returned during the week, when waiting times were much more reasonable. So plan your approach: dine early or during the week, if you can. If not, you can pass the time strolling along the waterfront, inspecting the fishing boats berthed for the evening.
The menu is divided between small plates, sandwiches, and big plates, and this is one restaurant where you would do just as well to order a series of dishes that catch your interest, until you are satisfied, rather than follow the traditional appetizer/entree approach. Yaquina Bay is across the street. Let that be a clue: order some meltingly tender pan-fried oysters, either a small or large order. These are not the crunch-crusted deep-fried oysters you’ll encounter in a New Orleans po’ boy, but they are just as delicious in their own way.
If you like smoked fish, get the smoked salmon salad, which is a mammoth green salad so well-laced with chunks of the hot-smoked fish that every bite seems infused with smoky savor. As if that’s not enough, the salad is topped with toasted local hazelnuts. Excellent fish tacos made with local rockfish can serve as a starter or an entire meal. Steamed local clams will keep you happily occupied for a while, even when the clams are gone, as you dip the accompanying garlic bread in the garlicky clam broth.
As you enter the restaurant you’ll pass by the raw fish case (Local Ocean is also a fresh seafood shop). Notice how each sparkling-fresh layout is fronted by a card that not only tells you where the fish was caught, but how it was caught (hook & line, longline, etc.), and even the name of the fishing vessel from which this particular batch was procured. You can enjoy some of that provender on big plates that feature seared king salmon, grilled halibut, a whole Dungeness crab, or anything else that was hauled from the sea the day you arrived. Whatever you order, if you are a fan of thin and wispy onion rings, you must place an order for Frizzled Onions.
Our only quibble with Local Ocean is this: they would do better to exercise a little more restraint in the conception of the dishes. Sometimes, they do so much, garnishing the plate to a fare-thee-well, that the luxuriously fresh seafood can get lost in the amalgam. With seafood this gorgeous, less is more.
Dessert? There’s only one, and it’s a good one: a shortbread parfait featuring crumbled cookies and local berries.