by Jennifer Nice | Photo © Kathleen Nyberg | McMenamins
Is it time for a girls’ getaway weekend? Maybe you have an established tradition with the important women in your life, or you simply need a respite. Either way, the time is now to seek out McMinnville, Oregon, to focus on the basics: eat, drink and shop. Most importantly, take time to press the reset button.
Charming Third Street in downtown McMinnville beckons. You’ll find everything you need on Oregon’s “favorite main street.”
Exceptional restaurants? Check.
Boutique shopping and convenient accommodations? Check and check.
It’s no wonder Parade magazine readers voted McMinnville the “Best Main Street West of the Mississippi” in 2015.
For accommodations, choose Third Street Flats. Modeled after European-style apartments, the flats are uniquely renovated units on upper levels of two historical buildings, the Old Bank and the Odd Fellows Lodge. Besides luxurious bedding and colorful, stylish decor, each flat boasts a fully equipped kitchen. The bottle of wine and hand-dipped chocolates awaiting guests when they enter the flat is a welcoming touch. Though it’s tempting to lounge the night away in your home away from home, there is much to be discovered on Third Street, so get to it.
Downtown McMinnville showcases more than 20 restaurants on Third Street, and even more if you dip into the Granary District, about four blocks from the downtown core. Don’t miss The 411 Eatery & Lounge, just one block from the Odd Fellows flats. Exposed brick and visceral black and white photos set a sophisticated stage. And the attentive service caps the experience. Their Velvet Blackberry cocktail swirls rich and boozy. Their Bloody Mary is also famous, and the wine list extensive. (McMinnville is, arguably, the epicenter of Oregon wine country.) Inventive steak and seafood dishes dominate The 411’s menu, like coffee spiced tenderloin medallions and pecan encrusted salmon, as well as hearty salads.
If it’s a balmy evening, head to the rooftop bar at McMenamins Hotel Oregon for a nightcap. Watch the sun slip behind the Coast Range mountains and soak in the bird’s eye view of town as twilight unfolds. Relaxation and libations are so much better with a view, especially when you’re with your favorite ladies.
You’ll lounge peacefully in The Flats, as they offer all the comforts of home and more, like the diminutive library, provided by Third Street Books. As you linger over the in-house coffee in the morning, ground and packaged locally by Ihilani Coffee Company, peruse the Flat’s photo book, and you’ll learn the coffee and the books are not the only locally sourced items. The soaps are crafted by Bumblebee Hill Farms, the pinot noir produced by Cultavin Cellars, and the sea salt caramels handmade downstairs by Honest Chocolates. Even the narrative of how the Flats came to be is a fairy tale of community efforts.
Pondering all the evidence of this collaborative and supportive local economy, I strolled a half block to Red Fox, an artisan bakery, and returned with berry scones and hand-rolled croissants for my gang for breakfast.
Before we hit the streets for exploring the shops, we checked out the public art—the McMinnville Downtown Association offers a self-guided tour. Grab a map and see if you can spy a handful of the 19 sculptures. The most famous is probably the life-sized Ben Franklin, lazing on a bench at the US Bank Plaza, a natural gathering place. The one that spoke to me was Silent Words, a tall and slender bust, reaching for the sky. Crafted of Texas limestone and bronze, the plaque at the base reads “Silent words spoken to the night sky, reflected by the stars, and heard in the hearts of those with silent minds,” a fitting reminder to unplug and unwind.
A major player in the charm of McMinnville’s 3rd Street are the trees. Planted in the 1970’s, these lush deciduous trees bathe the sidewalks in dappled shade by day and sparkle at night with twinkly lights. The trees lord over you as you meander up and down the avenue to duck into shops. Whether you’re browsing or buying, shopkeepers are friendly and responsive. La Bella Casa, housed in the historic 1893 Wright Building, showcases unique gifts and treasures for the home. The original fir floors creak warmly, and the aroma of fresh baked bread wafts down from The Sage, a lunch eatery on the mezzanine level.
Next door to La Bella Casa you’ll find modern and outdoor-centric clothing, jackets, and shoes at Yamhill Valley Dry Goods. You and your gal pals can take turns rotating through the dressing rooms, while the others rest on the compact couch, chatting it up with the salesperson or leafing through the latest magazines.
At lunchtime make your way to Pura Vida, a Peruvian and Latin-fusion restaurant just one block west. The hand-made corn tortillas are a bonus for any gluten-free diners in your group, but you’ll quickly discover unforgettable locally sourced fare at this authentic Latin American cafe. Tacos galore—veggie, fish, barbacoa or pork belly. Try the empanadas, the ceviche and the soup. The menu is fresh, imaginative, and unlike any Tex Mex joint commonly found on the west coast.
Sufficiently recharged, it’s time to resume shopping. Notable boutiques like Mes Amies and Accessory Appeal draw you in for chic clothes, jazzy jewelry, mod handbags and upscale shoes. After you cross the shopping finish line, it’s time for wine tasting.
R Stuart & Co. Wine Bar, is one of six tasting rooms on 3rd Street. There are many others nearby in the developing Gateway District. R Stuart is just right, with crisp Big Fire Pinot Gris at $5.00/glass and flights for $10.00.
Wine is the perfect warm up for dinner, but it doesn’t alleviate the challenge of choosing where to land downtown. McMinnville’s newest building, KAOS, completed in 2015, houses 1882 Grille upstairs and The Barberry on main level, both compelling additions to Third Street’s dynamic dining scene. If you’re feeling celebratory, opt for The Barberry, a splurge-worthy destination. With cooperative weather, dine outside on the spacious patio, near the commanding river rock fireplace. The Barberry hits it out of the park—ambience, impeccable service and memorable meals. Highlights for us included a buttery, flaked salmon, a decadent ribeye and fried Brussels sprouts.
Alas, all good things must come to an end, but the weekend may be the beginning of future getaways with the girls. Now that you’ve tasted and seen the goodness of downtown McMinnville, it’s time to plan your return trip.
A Wine Country Stay
You’re in the middle of wine country. Don’t you and your favorite gal pals owe it to yourselves to unwind for at least one night at a luxurious country inn in the middle of the vineyards? Youngberg Hill has the whole package—winery, tasting room, luxurious guest rooms overlooking the vineyards and surrounding hills, and even a gourmet breakfast (and their own cookbook). A short few miles from McMinnville, this inn is close to in-town and wine-trail attractions. To book your rooms, go online at youngberghill.com.