Dinner at Territory, locally sourced ingredients with glorious views of the Willamette River!
This post is written by our fierce, adventuring blogger, Lucy Brush. Lover of cheese, northwest brews, Oregon wines, berry picking, and anything that tastes good, she is a trustworthy guide for this journey.
Lucy: In my opinion, there isn’t much better than getting to know a community through it’s food, so when The Independence Hotel asked me to review The Great Oaks Food Trail, it was an obvious yes from me.
Your blogger and northwest foodie enthusiast!
The Great Oaks Food Trail is part of Oregon’s Food Trail system to highlight local farmers and artisans.
Where to start? How about, “What is the Great Oaks Food Trail?” In order to share its famous PNW cuisine with travelers, Polk County, Oregon put together a series of self-guided culinary routes extending between various cities in the area. Each leg of the tour has an adorable nickname, giving a nice sense of the day before you embark on your adventures. This FREE map lists all possibilities, from the “Scenic Sips & Local Bounty” tour, to the “Rooted in Tradition route,” and “Paddle, Parks, and Pints” adventure. For the purpose of this review, I decided to check out the “Paddle Parks & Pints” option. After all, I want to soak up the summer weather while I still can!
Iced Coffee from Karma Coffee
How about lavender macaroons with your morning latte? One of many unique treats at Karma Coffee
The “Paddle, Parks, and Pints” tour extends from Dallas, Oregon to Independence. The tagline reads, “Relish in river views and small towns with big flavors.” (Um… yes please!) Stops cover an array of local stores and shops, spanning a vast taste bud spectrum. The itinerary is well set up when it comes to minimizing driving time, taking advantage of the quickest route from place A to B to C. I started at Karma Coffee, which has its own parking lot (as well as a drive-thru if you’re in a hurry) and an adorable outside seating area. They have all your coffee staple favorites along with a long list of fun specials combining sweet chocolates and bitter citruses. Their spicy iced chai is also particularly good. In addition, Karma Coffee sells freshly baked muffins, cookies, and scones, but for this trip I stuck with coffee, as I knew I had a full day of eating ahead. Fully caffeinated, I stopped at Roger Jordan Community Park for a stroll in the sun (great for kids) before heading to Monmouth for lunch.
Roger Jordan Community Park in Dallas, great walking trails even on a rainy day (a little rain doesn’t deter us!)
Local favorite, Yeasty Beasty in Monmouth serves up daily specials…who doesn’t love a good pizza?
My next stop was the local Monmouth favorite: Yeasty Beasty. A beloved spot amongst college students, Yeasty Beasty sells a variety of pizza types, including slices and full pies, as well as a build your own mini-pizza. This local staple provides an impressive tap list of craft beers, (I’d recommend the Tangerine Wheat from Lost Brewery) plus, let’s be honest, “Yeasty Beasty” is just really fun to say. While I wouldn’t call it the top example of PNW cuisine, Yeasty Beasty does use only organic, stone-ground flours, and pizzas are made fresh daily. It’s also perfect for those with young kids, as all ages are welcome, and the build your pizza works well for young (or old) picky eaters. With Chef’s Specials everyday (see below), there are always fun new options to choose from.
Bacon me Crazy Beasty
Chris’ Kickin’ Chicken Beasty
Poppin’ Pesto Beasty
After Pizz’o’clock, I continued on to Independence: a favorite Oregonian stopping point for me. I picked up some delicious chocolate covered salted caramels from Melting Pot Candy, and scoped out the Independent Ice Cream Shop (unfortunately too full to partake this time). Based on that though, I’d highly recommend both. Melting Pot Candy demonstrates a real elegance and mastery of chocolate work far beyond interesting flavors, and Independent Ice Cream let’s you walk down memory lane for banana splits, milkshakes, and fun flavors like Huckleberry Heaven and Strawberry Cheesecake.
Handmade truffles at The Melting Pot on Main Street, blocks from the hotel. With seasonal and specialty flavors, there is always something new and delicious to try.
The Independence Ice Cream Shop, blocks from the hotel, serves of tasty scoops!
The sun was out and a warm breeze gave a sense of renewal to the day as I stopped by Riverside Park, a place I will never get sick of. Right next to the river, you can watch the water flow by from a comfortable seat in the grass or on a picnic bench, get in for a swim, float in an inner tube, or dip your toes in the water and keep your eyes high for some Osprey watching. My travel companion brought an inflatable Stand Up Paddle, so after finishing our chocolates, we took a trip upriver taking in the sites (which included several osprey, plus two blue heron) until it was time for dinner. Luckily for us, we were dining at The Independence Hotel’s riverfront restaurant, Territory: a mere stone’s throw away from our paddling access point.
The view from Territory reminds diners of the beautiful, bountiful region we live in.
Lucy and a crew enjoy fantastic, locally sourced food with river views at Territory.
With the river right there, it’s easy to get in some paddling before dinner.
Dinner at Territory was the perfect way to end the day. The experience was unrushed, relaxing, and obviously delicious. I ordered the Territory Sprouts, (the staff favorite) and let me tell you, there’s a reason their Brussels sprouts are in such high demand! I highly recommend the cheese plate, with the sugar toasted brie being a particular favorite, as well as the Farmer’s Market Heirloom Beets, and Watermelon Poke. (Is there anything better than watermelon in the summer?). Of course, no dinner in the Willamette Valley would be complete without wine! The Airlie “Marchél Foch” and Van Duzer “Cabernet Sauvignon” are two of my favorites, but you can’t go wrong in such a wine-centered community, so I say try something new!
Farmer’s Market Heirloom Beet Salad
Territory Cheese Plate
Territory serves up weekly specials inspired by seasonal produce and locally sourced ingredients.
Territory is known for their Brussels Sprouts, perfectly prepared Salmon, and Halibut, but you really can’t go wrong!
At the end of the day, I would very much recommend checking out the Great Oaks Food Trail, there is so much more to explore! I learned some things along the way, so I’m sharing 5 insider tips:
- Check to see if you need reservations.
This wasn’t necessary for the portion of the Great Oaks Food Trail I picked, but a lot of the itineraries involve wine tastings and dining at restaurants that require booking in advance. Spread those reservations out though, so you don’t feel rushed.
- Check ahead to see which places are open.
This is two-fold.
*First off, make sure the places you want to see haven’t closed since the pandemic started.
*Secondly, make sure they are open on the days/times you’re planning to visit. I came on a Tuesday, and there were a few establishments on my list that were closed for the day.
- Don’t be afraid to mix things up.
The special aspect of this tour is that it’s SELF-guided. If you discover that a place you were planning to visit is closed, explore the town instead! There are so many great places to see. And even if everything is open, leave yourself lots of time to stop at places that catch your eye or that you’ve never heard of. I personally love the coffee shop in Monmouth called “The Sippery.” And later when I was at Melting Pot Candy store, the owner told me about a Pat Benatar concert happening THAT NIGHT at the fair. So don’t be shy when it comes to asking the people you meet where else you should go.
- Give yourself lots of time.
I’d even suggest breaking some of these stretches up into two days. Even if all of the stops are doable in one, you risk getting too full (like me with the ice cream shop) to try everything. Make a weekend or mid-week getaway out of it! (Perhaps staying at The Independence Hotel)
- Be aware of the weather
I happened to go on a beautiful sunny day, perfect for outdoor seating and paddle boarding, but check ahead of time and pick the trail that works best for the time of year you’ll be visiting. (For ex. if you’re traveling in the winter, make sure to wear closed toe shoes and a rain jacket.) Don’t worry though, there are tons of activities and treats to try year round!
Most importantly, just show up hungry and ready to have a good time. There are options for everyone, and world-class food and wine are waiting!
More Fantastic Options Near The Independence
Brooks Winery, incredible wine, incredible views!
Crush Wine Bar, downtown Monmouth
Left Coast Cellars, wood-fired pizza in a beautiful setting
Picking peaches – note there are many u-pick farms on the trail with fruits, veggies, and flowers depending on the season.
Who can pass up the opportunity to pet a pig?