Eugene Register-Guard (2006)

From Lane Co Oregon

[edit] August

[edit] Friday, August 18, 2006

BEST RIVERSIDE DECK Where to dine that's down by the river

FINN ROCK - This ain't Kansas, Bucko. Or Texas. Or anywhere else where any old moron can buy a piece of riverbank, cut down the trees, slap up a big sign and have a burger joint with a river view. Thank goodness.

Our land use laws make it a somewhat rare treat for Oregonians to pull up a riverside seat for dinner and drinks on a lovely summer's eve. Naturally, Team Best of ... feels compelled to split the fine hairs of this fine experience.

By definition, you can't go wrong with the handful of local contenders. Each has its strong points, distinct character and that beautiful view.

McMenamins North Bank, just downstream from Ferry Street Bridge, is probably the most popular. After all, it's close to downtown, has great microbrews, shade trees along with umbrellas, responsive staff and good people-watching along the nearby bike path.

The vehicle noise detracts a bit. The parking lot is small. The line can be long. Almost all the tables seat only four and are bolted down so you can't push 'em together, which divides and conquers the Team's enthusiasm.

A little farther downstream at the Valley River Inn, the wait staff wears white. The entire deck is covered. Intimately small tables are jammed in there. It's nice. Very civilized.

It is, frankly, our parents' deck. The Team couldn't really loosen up there. But it is the best foul weather choice.

The best river view without leaving the city is at Roaring Rapids Pizza Company in Glenwood. Exposed rock makes for excellent river views and whitewater at all water levels. A covered portion of deck affords shelter when needed. A large covered area can be reserved for big parties - perfect for the Team and our hangers-on.

With ample parking and good seating, it's hard to believe the Team didn't name it No. 1. The vote was so close, a recount was ordered.

But the honor goes to Finn Rock Grill, a funky former post office and general store built in 1929 to serve a once-thriving logging community 30 or so miles east of Springfield.

Current owner Jeff Chapek spent nine months getting the permits needed to repair and rebuild the place six years ago. The effort paid off. The staff is helpful without getting under foot. The food is decent and they have seven micros on tap.

The deck seats about 30 people at a variety of tables. It has that wide-open feel. A stately cedar tree grows right up through the center of it, and nearby firs as large as seven feet in diameter, one of them holding an osprey nest, provide that uniquely Oregon feel.

It's a tourist magnet, but locals are a growing clientele. It's been a favorite for rafters, kayakers and anglers. Team Best of ... really goes for that Oregon thing. This ain't Kansas, Bucko.

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