Ecola Seafood Is the Canlis of Cannon Beach

Gentlemen are more comfortable in flip-flops and a belly full of halibut.

For as long as I can remember, Canlis has served as my reference point for "fine dining." A visit there the other night reconfirmed why. There's the doting service, surprise appetizers, and muscular drinks, yes, but then there's the real key: medium-rare filet mignon that melts in your mouth. This is only a slight exaggeration—I hardly had to chew in order for my senses to be assaulted by carnivorous bliss that I'm convinced would have simply disintegrated into a flavorful puddle on my tongue were I not so motivated to swallow it whole. I've eaten at a ton of great restaurants in this town—as well as even more charmingly crappy ones—and nobody's ever come close to approaching what I'll call Canlis' "molten standard." But then, on a tip from a friend, I swung by an unassuming fish shack a couple of blocks from the ocean while vacationing with my family at Cannon Beach. That establishment was Ecola Seafood. Canlis, make way: There's a new kid in melt-town—or at least 200 miles down the coast. At first, Ecola's induction into the fine-dining club might seem strangely incongruous. At Canlis, all cars are valet parked and "gentleman are more comfortable" in a suit or sport coat. At Ecola, the most popular mode of transportation and attire is a pair of flip-flops. At Canlis, the service is so comprehensive that about the only thing the enormous waitstaff doesn't do is follow you into the bathroom and give you a hand job after dessert. At Ecola, there's a woman working the register, another calling out orders, and a couple of fry-men battering up the fish 'n' chips. Want an extra dollop of cocktail sauce? Get it yourself, and please don't throw your tray in the garbage bin along with the fish wrap on your way out. But here's something: At both Canlis and Ecola, our servers were named Keiko. If they were each named Kathy, ho hum; but Keiko—that's cosmic. And, of course, there had to be something at Ecola that met the molten standard, and that something was the halibut. The fact that virtually the entire daily offering at Ecola comes straight out of local fishermen's nets the morning of lunch service is doubtless the reason why their halibut blows any other fried fish known to man out of the water. The only low note during my back-to-back lunch visits was the chowder, with the cod making a surprise run at the molten standard, not to be outdone by his more expensive brother of the sea.

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