We were not hungry. We had both just eaten grilled cheese sandwiches and ice cream desserts at the Tillamook Cheese Factory. We were ready to get back on the road, but something beckoned to me across the highway. It was these words, printed in bold red on yellow: "BEST CLAM CHOWDER ON THE COAST". I wasn't even in the mood for clam chowder having just eaten a basket full of bread and cheese. But this wasn't about food. It was a challenge. A mission. A journey. Not just to chow on their chowder, and take their chowderheaded word for it. But to shell out the clams as we cruise down the coast to try every damn boastful clam chowder restaurant we can find! After a short, spontaneous shareholders meeting about undertaking such a daunting expedition, Logan and I both voted yes. So, I frogger'd across the highway to the "Old Oregon Smokehouse".
Smoke "Shack" may have been a more accurate title... But, I wasn't here to take an architectural tour of Oregon's great mobile homes, or to location scout for Rob Zombie's next movie (Rob, if you're reading this, you should shoot your next movie at the Old Oregon Smokehouse). No, I was here to start my super soup sleuthing and find out if the Old Oregon Smokehouse could live up to its bold proclamation. I sauntered through the old western swinging saloon doors with a chip on my shoulder bigger than an oyster cracker. I slammed my silver dollar on the counter, and said to the panic stricken sheriff of seafood soup, "One bowl...of the BEST CLAM CHOWDER ON THE COAST". Bounty in hand I raced back to the safety and seclusion of Heidi, our VW bus hideout. The moment of truth had arrived. The aroma of cream' n 'clams intoxicated my senses. Notes of butter, salt, and sea bombarded my tastebuds and then the subtle heat of pepper awoke my sinuses to a new clarity. They say that transcendental meditation is achieved only through practice and intense concentration, but I now know such spiritual heights can be attained simply through the unbridled ecstasy of the best clam chowder on the coast. I asked Logan for her eloquent critique of the chowder in question. "It's really good!" she said. Yes, it IS really good. A perfectly stated understatement, simple yet effective, much like the chowder's humble presentation in its classic styrofoam vessel.
Yes, we tried many more clam chowders that trip. Four more in all. But in the wise words of Thumper's mother, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything about the other clam chowders you tried at the following list of restaurants".
Klamath Clam Hut, Klamath Falls Oregon: Ok, light on the clams for being the "Clam hut".
Chum Bucket, Coos Bay Oregon: Too salty, too much garlic, but the extra chum was good!
Little Ma'am's, Big Sur CA: Mostly butter, so I guess it was great!
Smell 'O' the Sea, Monterey CA: Fishy.
Yes, Old Oregon Smokehouse, it appears to us you truly do have...the BEST CLAM CHOWDER ON THE COAST!