The Best Clam Chowder in Cannon Beach, Oregon

The Oregon Coast is famous for its steaming bowls of fresh Clam Chowder and you can rest assured that you will not find bad chowder anywhere along this wind-whipped slip of a town. But who has the best chowder in Cannon Beach? Well, I set out on a mission to find out.

First Taste Test: Mo’s

Google clam chowder in Cannon Beach and you’re going to see Mo’s – for good reason. This is a must-stop location for any visit to Cannon Beach with its jaw-dropping views of Haystack Rock and its bread bowls overflowing with clam chowder.

Though I love Mo’s, especially for a drink at sunset, their clam chowder was my least favorite of all that I tasted. It is comparatively thin and chewy with clams so uniform in size that I wondered if they came out of a can. No vegetables are added and the spices are sparse except for the crush of salt. There are chunks of bacon which will be a good thing for some but not for me since I avoid meat that isn’t sustainably sourced and humanely raised.

What the chowder lacks in taste it makes up for in presentation. The bread bowl comes complete, meaning you get to eat even the sawed-off top of the bowl, which comes slathered in butter.

Mo's bread bowl clam chowder in Cannon Beach
Mo’s Bread-Bowl Clam Chowder

I would actually skip the chowder here and opt for their halibut, which is delicious. And, if nothing else, come for a drink and soak up that view.  

Next Up: Warren House Pub

When you order the chowder at the Warren House – named for the family that built and lived in the old home turned restaurant during the pioneering Oregon Trail days – you will be warned: “It’s the red kind,” ok?

Cannon Beach is known for its New England-style chowder, but the Warren House thwarts tradition and serves Manhattan-style chowder. All of the basic ingredients are the same with the carrots, celery, potatoes, and herbs, but the chowder is a tomato base.

Warren House Pub Manhattan-Style Clam Chowder in Cannon Beach.
Warren House Pub Manhattan-style Clam Chowder

The soup is flavorful, filling and stomach-warming on a windswept Oregon day, but if you can only have one bowl of chowder when visiting the coast, I would opt for a New England-style bowl.

Checking out the Clam Chowder at Pelican Brewing Company

A sprawling restaurant amidst the quaint mom and pops of Cannon Beach, Pelican Brewing has a different feel to it entirely. The chowder, however, didn’t stand apart from the rest. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good chowder that I would definitely eat again, but there was nothing that made it unique.

Like many of the rest, the chowder has carrots, lettuce and bacon. The potatoes here are slightly larger than in other places, which I liked, and  I was offered black pepper and Tabasco, which helped substantially to add to the flavor.

Clam chowder at Pelican Brewinig
Pelican Brewing Company Clam Chowder

Paired with a Pelican Pilsner or a local pinot noir, the cup of chowder is a tasty Cannon Beach-style evening snack.  

Bill’s Tavern and Brew House

When you ask Cannon Beach locals which eatery boasts the best clam chowder in town, most will give Bill’s an honorable mention even if the chowder at this cozy nook of a place isn’t their favorite. Located smack dab on Hemlock Street (“Main Street” for Cannon Beach), this place bustles with locals and tourists alike.

The clam chowder at Bill's Tavern and Brew House
Chowder at Bill’s Tavern and Brew House

The clam chowder here is served with a side of saltines and the addition of extra chopped celery and carrots to the thick stew adds to the texture. I found the chowder a bit too bland for my liking, so it doesn’t rank at the top of my list but, regardless, any visit to Cannon Beach is made better by a stop at Bill’s. Especially when that chowder is paired with seasonal beer brewed right upstairs in the onsite brewery.

I ordered the Autumn Session with my cup of chowder.

Morris’ Fireside Restaurant

When the clam chowder at Morris’ Fireside slipped right off of my spoon, I was a little disappointed with the thin consistency. But this was forgotten entirely when the intense flavor that greeted my tongue.

Clam Chowder at Morris' Fireside Restaurant in Cannon Beach Oregon.
Chowder at Morris’ Fireside Restaurant

With potatoes, bacon, carrots and celery, this chowder is set apart from the rest by the crunchiness of the celery that provides a delightful surprise and, of course, those spices. The cooks at Morris’ start with a New England Clam Chowder base and add paprika, pepper, and parsley. They have their spice consistency down pat.

A cup of chowder in front of the fireplace in this log-cabin restaurant is a great way to spend a rainy afternoon at the Oregon Coast.

Ecola Seafood Market & Restaurant: In the Running for the Best Clam Chowder in Cannon Beach

Order at the counter at the Ecola Seafood Market and choose from a cup of chowder, a bowl of chowder, a 14-quart bucket of chowder or, my favorite, a bread-bowl of chowder. Bonus points for the offering of a side of garlic bread for dunking.

The chowder here is thick without being chewy and so fresh it is scrape-the-sand-out-of-your-teeth tasty. With huge chunks of celery and carrots to go with the mammoth clams, this is the kind of chowder experience I was looking for.

There is so much texture and so much flavor going on with this chowder that I seriously forgot to add the oyster crackers!

Chowder and a side of lobster mac-and-cheese bites in Cannon Beach, Oregon.
Clam chowder with a side of lobster mac-and-cheese bites at Ecola Seafood Market

I cannot give the market top marks, though, because of the single-use paper plates, plastic silverware, and plastic condiment containers that abound.

In fact, I was forced to use the first plastic spoon since I vowed to go plastic-free (or as close as possible) nearly a year before I swooned for the clam chowder at the Ecola Seafood Market and Restaurant. (Next time I will bring my own silverware!)

Local Grill & Scoop

The clam chowder here comes in a cup, bowl or a sourdough bread bowl – and it is a no-joke meal, even if you get the cup.

By far the most filling and robust of all the clam chowder recipes that I tasted in Cannon Beach, the Scoop was the near winner for me. It’s definitely a homemade recipe and the owner, David, would not divulge much about the secret recipe.

Chowder at the Local Grill & Scoop in Cannon Beach, Oregon.
The chowder was so good at the Local Grill & Scoop that I nearly forgot to take a picture!

He would tell me that there are potatoes, carrots, bacon, and local bay shrimp – the second fish makes all the difference. As for the spices, there was something about their herb blend that stuck out to me. I know there is parsley and paprika, but he wouldn’t tell me the rest – no matter how hard I pressed!

This is a chowder with serious substance that looked just as good as it tasted. It may have been the winner, but I try to stay away from meat so, for me, the bacon is an unnecessary addition.

And the WINNER for the BEST Clam Chowder in Cannon Beach is…

The Driftwood

Besides making me feel completely at home, the Driftwood serves a homemade clam chowder recipe that is a simple, 40-year-old recipe that tastes like home.

No bells and whistles here, just a simple clam chowder with onions, carrots and potatoes, and topped with a parsley, paprika mix with a splash of butter.

Clam chowder at the Driftwood in Cannon Beach, Oregon.
Clam chowder at the Driftwood

No whistles needed. Its simplicity with a side of welcoming local flavor is perfection. It is the only clam chowder in Cannon Beach in which I came back for seconds. And that says something when you are on a very filling (and fulfilling) chowder tour!

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4 Comments on “The Best Clam Chowder in Cannon Beach, Oregon”

  1. This woman may write at an acceptably intelligent high middle school low highschool level but its obvious her tree hugging, out of touch perception and bias with “sustainably sourced and humanely raised” preference skews in part her underdeveloped pallette. Leave the reviews to people who know what good food tastes like and maybe just stick to reviewing things u probably know about, like recycled highest quality bathroom tissue make or “sustainably sourced humanely raised” purses and makeup, injenuine Jenjen. thank you.:)

    • I’m almost honored to receive my first comment from an Internet troll. I’ve always had a deep fear of sharing my words widely because criticism hurts. And your comment, James, does hurt. But I will leave it here as a tribute to the first of what will be many callous remarks written by people like you who forget there are actual humans on the other side of your insensitive words, working hard to provide you good information for free.

      I want to take the complete high road here, but, in making the decision to leave your comment on this blog – my blog and my Internet space, then I must point out that this blog is written by a feminist who seeks to empower other women, and this comment can be used as a tool to do just that. I hope all who read this comment will note that James may as well write “stupid woman” or “dumb girl” as he ends his insulting tirade with his helpful suggestion that I stick to purses and makeup. This is an extremely familiar tactic used by men against women all of the time. James would likely insist that he is not sexist, but he is absolutely contributing to the sexist narrative in his Internet trolling. By dismissing me.

      Finally, James, for your trolling future, please make use of the compound adjective. It will make your comments easier to read on the page (though certainly not easier to read in the heart). I learned that while earning my master’s degree in journalism from the best j-school in the country. That’s not bragging mind you; that’s just one of those statements that men work freely into conversations while women feel like we shouldn’t say it for fear that pointing out our accomplishments may sound like bragging. I fear this even when I am being ridiculed for my low-level writing ability by someone who would actually use “u” instead of “you” in a comment deriding my ability to write.

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