On the curve of the banks of the teeming Willapa River sits the charming city of South Bend, Washington. It is famously the Pacific County seat and Oyster Capital of the World. But to those in the know, it is a delicious destination where you can indulge your tastebuds in family-run restaurants along the river shore. South Bend is not a town of big box food chains. It is a generational village where locals create magical moments from fresh ingredients and the love of their community. So, bring your appetite and experience some of our favorite family flavors of South Bend.
Let’s start with a few places to wet your whistle while you fill your belly.
If you have ever walked into Elixir Coffee, you feel like you’re stepping into your family’s kitchen. The rich smell of coffee and baked goods is in the air, and a friendly smile is always waiting to greet you.
The household vibe makes perfect sense. The owners, Hannah and Brandon, have been married for over 27 years. It is not unusual to find one of their eight children working behind the counter during the day. As a couple, they shared a dream of creating a community hub with great coffee, tasty food, and friendly conversation. That commitment is the heartbeat of Elixir and what fills the dining room – and their hearts – every day. And it is their top-notch menu that makes them one of the favorite family flavors of South Bend.
To keep their ties to the Pacific Northwest, they proudly serve Olympia’s Dancing Goats Coffee, which is also the name of their signature blend. It is a dark, nutty, deliciously smooth experience with hints of cherry and caramel. Their robust drink menu includes espresso, chai, Cubana mocha, tea, Italian sodas, smoothies, and more.
Be sure to pair your beverage with their famous Avocado Toast. Organic bread is covered with creamy avocado and flecked with spices and bee pollen. Or dive into their Green Goblin with turkey and house-made pesto cream. They offer a full selection of tasty treats to accompany your drinks.
The dining room features an eclectic mix of mismatched chairs and weathered wooden tables. Wicker baskets and charming signs decorate the walls. Or sit outside on the patio and take in the fresh air. Both the deck and dining room overlook the water. And you can stock up on your gift shopping while you sip. A rotating line-up of local candles, honey, soaps, and home goods fill their shelves.
Willapa Brewing Co.
Every town needs a local watering hole, and it doesn’t get much more local than the Willapa Brewing Co. This neighborhood tavern has its roots deep in the McMurry family tree. Kevin McMurry first started brewing at his home more than 25 years ago. He passed his passion on to the rest of his brood. And now, the business includes his wife, children, son-in-law, and several brewing apprentices.
Their slogan is “Hearty ales for the logger in all of us,” which pays to the logging history of the rural town. With axe door handles and brew names like Lumberjack Imperial Blonde, the theme is evident the minute you walk in.
Their brews pack a punch and a craftsmanship touch. Flavor profiles are sophisticated without being fussy; robust without being overbearing. They brew their pints with local ingredients, infusing each sip with the region’s flavor. Each glass pays homage to their hometown. They steep their Springboard Spruce Tip Sour Ale with spruce tips collected from their property. Their Loaded Stagecoach Red IPA pays tribute to the Northwest Carriage Museum. And their seasonal Slash Burn Chili Ale is a blend of lime, habanero, citrus, and cucumber that leaves you feeling refreshed and fiery. All their barley and hops are grown in Washington and devotedly alchemized into some of the best brews in town.
If you come for the beer, you must stay for the pizza. The 12” artisan pies start with a perfectly charred and delightfully chewy crust. The Margherita bundles fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil with a sweet drizzle of balsamic glaze. And their Logger is a meat lover’s paradise. They also serve some of the freshest Goose Point oyster shooters. And their sweet tooth menu includes adult floats and dessert pizza.
The Cove Coffee Co.
The newest coffee spot on the 101 is there for you when you’re on the go! Longtime Barista, Brooke, helms The Cove Coffee Co., a drive-thru espresso joint off 101. The coastal and bay vibes of the region inspire the Cove. And the wooden shingled building features a delicious menu of beverages and treats.
Their signature Pacific Northwest Cold Brew is an addictive vanilla cold brew topped with pistachio cold foam. Their Bayside Cooler infuses refreshing hibiscus tea with lavender, coconut, and white peach. And their Willapa White Mocha marries white chocolate with cardamom mocha and turns it into a hug for your mouth.
Their menu includes a variety of snacks and sweets. House-made popsicles hit perfectly on a summer day. And the muffin tops, cake pops, soft pretzels, and biscuits are a perfect duet with any of their drinks.
A hometown girl, Brooke, was born in nearby Raymond. She brews her love for the community into everything she does. It is easy to see why her newest endeavor is on the list of our favorite family flavors of South Bend. And do not be surprised when you see her name again a little further down on this list.
Speaking of names, let us introduce you to a few flavorful namesakes in town.
Tienda Mexicana Betzy’s
If you have ever pulled into the parking lot of Robert Bush Memorial Park, you’re sure to have noticed a lingering crowd around the faded yellow building at the entrance to the lot. A constant flow of people travels through the wooden doors. The simple yellow sign on the roof proclaims your arrival at “Betzy’s.”
Betzy’s has been a restaurant staple for more than nine years. Sergio Merino Medina moved his family to South Bend from Mexico and missed the authentic Mexican dishes his family used to make. He opened the restaurant, named it after his youngest daughter, and brought the delicious South-of-the-Border flavors to the side of the Willapa River.
You will taste the family flavors of South Bend and Mexico in any of their dishes. Their beef barbacoa is deliciously tender and sweet, cooked slow and low in a rich, red broth. Their fish tacos are crispy and fresh, served with a simple slaw and a lime wedge. The cheese pull from their famous “quezadillas” is creamy and smooth. And don’t snooze on stocking up when they offer their tamale special.
Linda’s Fish and Chips
If you’ve driven through town, you’ve spied that small, white food trailer next to the Willapa Bay proudly boasting Linda’s Fish & Chips. Linda and her husband Larry have run the truck for ten years, and it is a casual fare staple for people who love tasty food on the go. Their clam strips, shrimp, and Willapa Bay oysters are served hot with fresh fries and coleslaw. Dive into her rich, thick chowder, loaded with tender clams. But it’s her famous fish that keeps the crowds coming. Meaty, flaky Pacific cod is battered in a secret recipe of light cornmeal and fried to golden perfection. One bite paired with Linda’s tangy tartar sauce, and they’ll be one of your favorite family flavors of South Bend too.
Linda’s sits in a grassy field near the water, surrounded by picnic tables and ample parking. Enjoy your food with a view while your kids or dogs scamper beside you. It is a seasonal food truck, so catch it when it’s open. You’ll find Linda serving her seafood delicacies with a smile from the small window from April through September.
Chester’s Club and Oyster Bar
One of the oldest spots in town has a tantalizing history. The nationally known Chester’s Club and Oyster Bar are in an unassuming building along the Willapa River. A mainstay in South Bend since 1897, this tavern has been called “the cleanest, little dive bar you can’t wait to stumble into.”
As the story goes, the original owner and town sheriff, Oscar Chester, kept his boots on both sides of the law. He’d allegedly bust the moonshiners while owning his own still. Chester’s is now in the hands of Tim Sedgwick, who has been at the helm for over 40 years.
The no-frills neighborhood spot welcomes friends and strangers seven days a week. They feature a full bar and regional beers on tap. But their menu with family recipes keeps the people on their barstools.
Their burgers are some of the best in town. Taco night is every Tuesday and Friday. And their fresh and fried oysters are more legendary than their lore. Tim’s recipe draws people back year after year.
Chester’s Club is a local staple of many generations. They keep it simple. It’s cash only; the closest thing to social media is an unofficial Facebook page. So, be sure to bring your dollars and an appetite.
Our final stops on the Family Flavors of South Bend culinary tour differ from your traditional brick-and-mortar restaurants. But you cannot ignore their lip-smacking contributions to the regional menu.
South Bend Products Retail
The newest member of the family flavors of South Bend has roots dating back to 1912. South Bend Products Retail is a subsidiary of Northern Fish Products, a five generations family-owned company. In June of 2023, they opened their retail storefront, and tastebuds in town could not be happier.
An early goal of the store was to offer local food for the local community, sold at a fair price. They believe in a boat-to-table philosophy, so the store carries fresh fish, most of which come from local fleets. Their offerings change based on the season. Wild-caught Bornstein shrimp, king salmon, halibut, rockfish, and more fill their ice-packed cases. And their local commitment does not end at seafood. In addition to treasures from the sea, they collaborate with local farmers to bring fresh, seasonal fruits and veggies to the market.
And their prepared food is flying off the shelf. Jalapeno, cilantro, and lime perfume their spicy smoked salmon dip. They toss their deliciously divine seaweed salad in a light sesame dressing for the adventurous palate. And their fresh crab or octopus ceviche is being snatched up as fast as they can make it. All recipes are house-created, meaning there is a little extra love in each container. And if you’re on the fence about any options, they will gladly provide samples to help you decide.
With plans to continue to expand its options, South Bend Products Retail is quickly cementing its niche in the culinary marketplace.
The Beach Bus Shave Ice
What do traditional shave ice, a father-daughter duo, and an authentic Volkswagen van have in common? They happen to be one of the coolest family flavors of South Bend.
Before Brooke launched The Cove Coffee Co., she and her dad created the mobile Beach Bus Shave Ice. And for five summers, it’s been grooving through the city.
The backdrop of the operation is a well-loved, red-patinaed VW bus that roams into various retail outlets and local festivals during the summer months. Their “storefront” is a tin-roofed, thatched pop-up stand, and surfboards function as their countertop and menu. It is an island vibe on wheels, immediately giving you the aloha spirit.
Their shave ice is the real deal. A Japanese-made, hand-cranked ice shaver creates the pillowy soft ice bed. They drizzle the frozen flakes with your favorite sweet, gourmet Monin syrups flavors. People line up for their Triple Coconut, a frosty mix of coconut shave ice snowcapped with coconut cream and toasted coconut flakes. Their refreshing Huckleberry and Lavender is a combo of fresh flavors that will delight your tongue. And if you’re feeling frisky, top your tundra treat with Chamoy or Tajin and make your tastebuds tingle.
This coastal snack is seasonal, so follow their social pages to ensure you know where they’ll be rolling next. And be sure to call it shave ice (not shaved ice), like a true island local!
The town of South Bend doesn’t put on any airs, but it knows how to set the table. It is a region of authenticity that you can taste in every bite. Sample the family flavors of South Bend for yourself and become one of the family. Don’t forget to tag your meal and follow our blog for more tasty adventures.
By: Danelle Dodds
Danelle is an international traveler, road tripper, writer, and artist. She firmly believes in testing the limits of word count, mileage, and AYCE sushi.