Cascade Inn: One of Several Small Local Hangouts
You will find a number of online reviews of this establishment. Some of them are OK, while others of them are rather grumpy. To understand the Cascade Inn you must understand that it must survive the winter months here. In the off-season this means the restaurant portion of the establishment closes up around 8 at night, and usually that means kitchen food isn't available after that time. If there is a sporting event on television, you will find some locals watching it at the bar, but usually there is no reason to stay open late at all in Cascade Locks, at least on weekdays in the off season.
The bar has a pool table that is reasonably popular, as it is one of the few in the community.
You will find an assortment of the usual bar fare (burgers and the like), and they might make you a cold sandwich if the kitchen is closed up and you need food. They have the typical drinks you would expect at a small, nondescript bar in a small community: nothing expensive as that won't sell here, at least in the off season.
Char-Burger: Self-Service Arrangements under Bridge
This institution at the far west end of town, and almost under the Bridge of the Gods, has been around for decades.
They describe themselves as a "cafeteria" arrangement, but that is only part of the story. You do have to order from a range of items on the menu. Sometimes they will bring it out to you, if there are enough people to serve that way, but if it is busy they will just call your number and you will come get the food that has been cooked. It is not like a regular cafeteria where you take things out of a case where they sit ready to grab (except the pie and a few other things are set up that way).
The restaurant features an enclosed large window room facing the Columbia River. Though it faces northwest, that is the direction the sun sets in high summer (June and July) and so the light coming in here in summer is quite amazing in summer sunsets.
The decorations can at best be described as modern ecclectic. There are wooden models of locomotives along a wall, and one caboose (atop the salad bar). There is a model of a steam boat, and a number of items relating to the local Native American culture. There are also an impressive number of guns, old farm equipment, old gasoline station pumps, and an assortment of other items all scattered about.
From the outside this sort of looks like a little more formal restaurant, but in fact this is simply not the case. The tourist traffic and other local traffic is fairly substantial, and shorts and t-shorts are reasonably common here.
Favorite Dish: Clam Strips and Potato or Fries with Salad Bar for $12.50 is a reasonably good deal, and I love what they have done with the Clam Strips in that White Sause. To me it is wonderful.
The salad bar is small and has all the vitals, but don't expect some huge 50 foot long thing. The salad bar is only about 6 feet long, and features the bare necessities of a salad bar: some greens, tomatos, grated cheese, etc., and a selection of some pasta salads. The range of the dressings, which is really quite impressive for such a small salad bar, far outstrips the options available to put on the salad.
The pie here has earned rave reviews for decades, but I haven't heard the raves for a few years now. I'm wondering if their efforts have just been lost in the noise, or if people have forgotten about them, or if they have decreased their quality to keep prices down, or what.
I can tell you that when I have visited, the pie display case was only down to one or two pies left!
If the gift shop is open, you can also buy some wonderful looking fudge in a wide assortment of types.
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East Wind Drive-In: Great Big Globs of Ice Cream Treats
For as long as anyone I know can remember, and as long as I can remember (going all the way back to my first trip to the Columbia River Gorge around 1981) East Wind has always been the place to go for ice cream.
The value for quantity of ice cream for the price paid is one of the best deals in Oregon, even now, after all these years.
The biggest problem here are the long lines that usually you will have to wait for in order to get what you wanted - usually a problem during warm Saturdays.
While seating in the restaurant is minimal, there is a fairly nice area to the east of the restaurant and towards the river that makes a nice picnic location.
Favorite Dish: Anything involving ice cream, but particularly any soft serve ice cream, shakes of various flavors (butterscotch used to be my favorite as it used to be the only place anywhere near Portland you could get anything with any eccentric flavors in a milkshake), and of course sundaes of various types.
The rest of the food, such as the burgers, are failry typical for a small town roadside drive-in. This is not to say they are bad, but they have nothing like the excellent reputation of their ice cream service.
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