Long before Oregon Pinot Noir had achieved minor cult status, vintners would routinely meet around the wooden tables at Nick's Italian Cafe in McMinnville to quaff wine, sup garlicky minestrone, and swap news.
These days there's a choice of watering holes in what's become the liveliest burg in the western Willamette Valley. Taste away in the historic downtown, then venture to the small town's fringe to see the world's biggest wooden airplane.
McMinnville is about 36 miles southwest of Portland. From I-5, take exit 289 and follow Tualatin- Sherwood Rd., then turn south on State 99W; drive about 25 miles, then turn east on N.E. Third St. to get downtown.
Bistro Maison Cassoulet to croque monsieur, served in a cozy vintage home. INFO: $$$; closed Mon-Tue; 729 N.E. Third St.; 503/474-1888.
Nick's Italian Cafe Prix-fixe dinners served on mismatched plates and paired with an extensive wine list. INFO: $$$; closed Mon; 521 N.E. Third St.; 503/434-4471.
Red Fox Bakery Choose from the always-changing chalkboard menu. Come early for artisanal breads, pastries, and pizzas, plus eggs Benedict in the a.m., then return for Spanish tuna salad on multigrain bread for lunch. INFO: $; closed Mon; 328 E. Evans St.; 503/434-5098.