You’re winding south down the spectacular Highway 101 near Lincoln City feeling glamorous; industrial chowder at the Sea Hag just won’t do. You want to taste the ocean, smell the silty earth. You want a seven-course meal served over a Hitchcockian coastline. You’re going to Restaurant Beck.
For seven years, Beck has been the in-house restaurant at the exceptionally tony Whale Cove Inn (think luxe Jacuzzi balconies). Chef Justin Wills has been called out in Food & Wine magazine, Best Chefs America, and nominated—twice—for a James Beard Award. For all that, Restaurant Beck still feels unfound—a quiet, white linen dining hall, generally half-empty, with wall-to-wall windows that frame sweeping views of ocean shoreline. In the encircling forest live a pair of bald eagles; below, in the roiling namesake cove, there’s a family of harbor seals; beyond, potentially, pods of gray whales.
Wills—a veteran of dining scenes from Portland (Oba) to Mendocino and Colorado—crafts a menu to match the scenery. Here are three things to know before you go:
1. Come with an open mind (and an empty stomach). Lobster mushrooms. Kombu (an edible kelp). Green almond husk. Coveted Oregon wasabi. Wills is fanatically devoted to coastal foraging and hyper-seasonal produce. That means now is the time you’ll see wild Chinook and steelhead on the menu. Come July, Beck will be a completely different experience. Forget your seafood hang-ups and embrace the changing sights, smells, and tastes of the coast.
2. No matter what, get the pork belly. Rumor has it that Wills’ wife, Stormee, won’t let him take this dish off the menu. For this (and the well-curated wine program), we owe her a debt of gratitude. The fatty, salty, slow-cooked wedge is married with a well-turned quenelle of rotating ice cream—varieties have included coriander, mustard, even miso—and lightly pickled sea beans (think edamame-meets-asparagus, in miniature) harvested just up shore in the Siletz Bay estuary.
3. Coming from Portland? Stay the night. Beck is only open for dinner, and this is a meal over which you should linger. The drive back to town is a good two-to-three hours. And anyway, who wants to shift from chardonnay sunsets and artfully composed plates to headlights and horns? Stay in Newport, Lincoln City, or right in Depoe Bay—the Channel House, Inn at Arch Rock, and Harbor Lights are all nearby, and offer less shocking rates than the Whale Cove Inn.
2345 South Highway 101, Depoe Bay
5 p.m.–close Tuesday–Sunday