Eastern Oregon's Farm-to-Table Lostine Tavern

Why did locavore crusader Lynne Curry open a standout eatery in a one-horse town on the way to the Wallowa Mountains?

By Benjamin Tepler September 2, 2014 Published in the September 2014 issue of Portland Monthly

Image: Thomas Cobb

Hunched over a thick bar of reclaimed wood at the newly reopened Lostine Tavern, Lynne Curry, Eastern Oregon’s vivacious local-food impresario, sits deep in conversation. Her companions: the owners of 6 Ranch, a grass-fed-beef operation eight miles away whose cows sometimes play a starring role on Curry’s menus. 

It’s a familiar scene at Eastern Oregon’s first farm-to-table restaurant, where Curry hopes to bring the region’s farmers, ranchers, and food artisans together under one roof.

Lostine, population 203, is a one-horse pit stop on the way to Oregon’s magnificent Wallowa Mountains, 15 minutes from Enterprise, the largest nearby town. It seems an unlikely spot for a Portland-chic dining nexus. But Curry, author of the grass-fed bible Pure Beef and founder of Eastern Oregon’s Slow Food chapter, is determined to fix farm country’s great paradox: its celebrated exports (beef and wheat, for example) are shipped and sold far away on the commodity market, making local fare hard to wrangle.

Restored with its historic 1902 stone façade intact, the tavern feels familiar to a Portlander, with its big chalkboard menus and exposed air ducts. But the food (and the company) is largely local. Families from nearby Joseph belly up to the tavern’s pastrami Reuben, made with cured, smoked, and sous-vide Carman Ranch beef topped with tangy house sauerkraut between slices of Grand Central Bakery bread. The source for the “Rancher’s Choice” burger rotates among nearby cattle purveyors, and taps dispense suds from Enterprise’s Terminal Gravity. 

In the winter, when tourism plummets, Curry plans to transform the tavern into a local grocery and production facility for things like beef jerky, pickles, and hot sauce. “There are tons of great farms out here, but good luck getting even a single bale of hay locally. That’s the big irony of the rural West ... it’s something we hope to change.” 

For more adventures in Oregon food, check out our showcase of videos from Travel Oregon, including delicious expeditions to Eastern and Central Oregon, the Willamette Valley, and the South Coast, and find more local foods and drinks to swoon over in our A to Z Food Lover's Guide to Oregon.

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