March 18th, 2022

Blue Moon Lounge: McMinnville’s Iconic Bar for 100 Years

Justin Dillingham stands smiling in front of the bar.  Three prepared bloody marys are in the background along with a full bar of spirits.
“This is where people come together and have a good time,” says Justin Dillingham of McMinnville’s Blue Moon Lounge.
Photo by Dan Shryock.

A McMinnville institution celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. It rarely if ever appears in trendy travel magazines highlighting the wonders of Oregon Wine Country. But for anyone wanting to get to know McMinnville, it’s a landmark.

The Blue Moon Lounge, with its dominant Third Street signage and iconic marquee, has been serving locals for a century. Not much has changed over the years and not much will, co-owner Justin Dillingham says.

Dillingham, with wife Amanda and Michael Griffiths, bought the Blue Moon in 2018. They kept the business alive through COVID lockdowns and it continues to be a popular spot no matter the hour.

“You can set your watch by who is sitting at the bar,” Justin says during a mid-morning conversation. “It can be 1:30 a.m. and it can be packed. This is typically the last place open, so we get a lot of (restaurant) industry people here. The bartenders and servers at other restaurants come here after work to unwind.”

The place is busy this Friday morning, serving breakfast to what appears to be a near-capacity crowd. One might see winery employees gathering after work or a 30-something crowd in the evening. “The Blue Moon is an establishment where there is no division of class,” Justin says. “You see all walks of life here. This is where people come together and have a good time.”

The owners actually manage two iconic downtown dining establishments. They also bought the wildly popular WildWood Café a few months after their Blue Moon acquisition, a move Justin says they could not pass up.

“After buying the Blue Moon, we learned that WildWood was for sale,” he says. “We asked ourselves if we would look back a year from now and say, ‘I wish we would have done that.’ The answer was hands down, yeah. So, we did it.”

Longtime customers may not even know both restaurants changed ownership. The WildWood remains as it has for decades. Early and mid-20th century signs promote older coffee brands, soft drinks, and more. The hearty breakfast menu remains the same, too. And, yes, the restaurant’s famous French toast is still available.

Any changes inside the Blue Moon were subtle maintenance improvements, Justin says. “I think there was a lot of skepticism. Some of our regulars were afraid we were going to change things. There was a rumor we were going to turn it into a wine bar. I think people over time were pleasantly surprised. We said from the beginning we weren’t going to change anything and there’s a lot of stuff that’s still here.”

When people return to town for a high school reunion, they meet at the Blue Moon Lounge. When the annual Cruising McMinnville classic car event takes place each summer, the watering hole of choice is the Blue Moon. It’s a place people rely on.

“There’s a group of retired Linfield guys who I would guess are mostly in their 70s,” Justin says. “They get together here every year. It’s pretty cool. It’s their meeting place.”

Dan Shryock

Dan Shryock regularly writes about McMinnville, travel, and cycle tourism.  See his work at