I have fond memories of Cannon Beach, Oregon. As a boy, my parents would occasionally rent a room along the beach and we would spend a week playing in the sand, flying kites, and feeding spare bread to sea gulls. The star attaction was Haystack Rock, a massive, two hundred foot tall basalt monolith that stood just off the coast. At low tide, the rocks sprinkled around its base would bare, and one could search among the tide pools for hermit crabs, sea anemones, and star fish. For a child, if the town wasn't heaven, it was located right near the entrance.
But times change. Children grow older; rustic, sea side towns change their character. Somewhere along the line, the good burghers of Cannon Beach realized that they could move upscale and milk the tourist traffic coming from Portland. Cannon Beach became pretentious and twee. In the local grocery store, one can now buy a bottle of wine for $195. Why you would pay this price for a grocery store bottle―improperly stored, sitting upright with its cork slowly drying out—is a question for another day. When the hep cats motor out from Portland, they will want an expensively priced bottle of wine. It is important to be ready to exploit that opportunity.
Even Haystack rock, once a playground for scientfically-minded children has been secured. Today, at each low tide, "volunteers" cordon off the area with signs and placards, warning visitors to stay off the rocks and keep to the designated areas.
All of which brings us to Bill's Tavern and Brewhouse. Would it be possible to find an honest oyster burger in such a setting?
First impressions are favorable. Upon entering, one finds a sign advising customers to seat themselves. The room has a rustic quality: blonde wood booths and a wood stove with a fire chortling away on the grate. The staff is quick and non-pretentious. I am a little dismayed to see that the price advertised on Bill's web-site needs updating. According to the menu, the oyster burger retails for $9.25―$7.25 is the online price. The oyster burger is accompanied by potato chips―french fries are a $2.00 upcharge.
I suppose it is the price one pays for an oyster burger in Cannon Beach.
The burger arrives quickly. According to the menu, Bill's uses Willapa Bay oysters, from my home state of Washington. There is no doubt that these are some of the finest oysters in the world; they don't let the home team down. The oyster burger is a tribute to conventionality: a sesame seed bun that has been buttered and toasted on the grill for a minute; mayonnaise; three moderately-sized, breaded oysters; a selection of vegetable matter: pickles, tomatoes, white onion slices, and a sheet of lettuce on the side. Once assembled, the oyster burger is lovely, although not life-changing.
Nor are the french fries, which, since they only serve as filler anyway, do not justify their $2.00 additional cost.
The Verdict: 7/10. Bill's oyster burgers are recommended, but trending toward the average. The complete meal comes in at the higher end of the oyster burger scale ($11.25). The quest for the Perfect Oyster Burger does not end in Cannon Beach.