We know a bit of the history of the ‘Dock of the Bay’ restaraunt and tavern in Bay Center. For decades it was known as ‘The Blue Heron’ under ownership of Beverly Smith. She sold it a couple of years ago, and the new owners, from out of the area, Yelm, WA, tried to make a go of it but it didn’t go. Last year a local couple bought it and seem to making a go of it. So we’ve eaten there and even had a few beers under three different owners. We will ‘treat’ ourselves every once in a while to a meal there when we are permitting ourselves to eat meat. Our efforts at being sort of vegetarians go along well enough, allowing for occasional white meat as chicken, but every once in a while we just have to lapse and have a good old fashioned heavy duty burger and we know two places to get them – ‘Dock of the Bay’ and Clarks Restaraunt in Artic, WA.
So it was pleasing to see a write up that included and referenced the Willapa Whopper burger on the menu of Dock of the Bay in Bay Center. My husband, Arthur (Sweetie), had one of those Willapa Whopper burgers at one of our outings, and the amount of meat on the burger is close to obscene! He dared me to have one at another of our outings, and I can’t believe I took him up on his dare, but I did and sure enough, there are so many ingredients of that burger, it gives the Clark’s Restaraunt menu item of a hot doggity burger a real run for the money.
Pacific County, Wash. – On a clear day, following the Pallix River from U.S. Highway 101 west to Bay Center, then returning along the Willapa Bay shoreline (on Bay Center Road), is as pretty a drive as you’ll experience anywhere in the Northwest.
Oysters are king here, and the Willapa bivalves are grilled to perfection at Dock of the Bay, the only restaurant between Naselle and South Bend.
Savvy diners may remember this place as the Blue Heron Inn. Not much has changed since the change in name and ownership, save for the cosmetic improvements to the rough ‘n’ tumble lounge. You still might see a patron kicking back an oyster shooter and a beer at, say, 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Unless you want to belly up to the bar or play a game of pool, the small adjacent dining room, where slanted windows look out toward the harbor, is a better bet to enjoy a meal.
Our favorite time to mingle among the locals is morning, though fishermen and loggers ofttimes occupy the three tables during noontime and dinner, too. The half-pound Willapa Whopper burger draped with ham, bacon and an egg is popular, as are the deep-fried or sautéed prawns and the fish baskets. But we come for oysters, especially the hangtown fry omelet or oysters and eggs. The latter breakfast, available any time, showcases a quartet of medium-sized Willapa Bay beauties, oysters so fresh they taste of morning sunlight sparkling on saltwater. Accompanying hash browns, and lots of them, are the real deal: grated taters heated on the same grill as the ‘sters. A heartier breakfast you won’t find, but don’t come here expecting espresso (coffee’s from a pot), tea other than Lipton or anything fussy or fancy.
Other meals featuring oysters include a six-ounce steak and ‘sters, oyster burgers, oyster club sandwiches and a seven-piece oyster dinner sided with a flavorful oyster stuffing that’s unlike anything you’ve ever tasted from inside a turkey.
Dock of the Bay, Bay Center Road and Second Street, Bay Center, Wash., (360) 875-5130, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays (open every day in summer); breakfast and lunch entrees less than $10, dinner $9 to $20; must be 21 or older to dine here.