August 4th, 2020

Tiny Travels: Dine (Out)Side is the best pan(damn)ic thing to happen to McMinnville

If you’ve never been to Third Street in McMinnville, you might not know that walking it has always been like floating through a love gauntlet. It’s a gustatory amble. A walk of food-filled ardor. A passion-fed promenade where you can let everything else fall away and be right here, now.

You can feel it coming at you from all sides: The particular pleasures of slow, wine country living, and the gentle affection of people making food in a place Bon Appetit once called 2nd Foodiest Small Town in America

Now McMinnville is engaged in a battle testing whether this town, or any town conceived and dedicated to the proposition that food equals love, can long endure. Forgive me, Abraham Lincoln, but if you love McMinnville as the Tiny Travelers do, it’s impossible not to understand that the very heart of this place is at stake right now.

These family-run restaurants and shops are in a fight for their survival, and they are rising strong by adapting as best they can. Perhaps none of them has done so as quickly as Pizza Capo, a wood-brick-fired pizza joint owned by locals Scott and Courtney Cunningham.

Pizza Capo has saved the Tiny Travelers’ evenings at least half a dozen times during the pandemic. The restaurant, sleek and modern in a historic building, pivoted quickly to a takeout model with online ordering and can’t stop won’t stop slinging pies, including those with the best gluten free crust this tiny traveler has ever had.

It felt crazy at first, like everything did during those first few weeks of quarantine. Cunningham threw up some tables blocking the door, and picking up a pizza felt a little like walking into the last street battle in Les Misérable

Still, you could feel the love. Sometimes love is as simple as a giant sausage, house-made ricotta, fennel pollen pizza and a nice bottle of Chianti.

Rather than shirk from the challenge, the McMinnville Downtown Association has decided to close down sections of Third Street on weekends this summer so that businesses can serve people outside safely. 

Now, the love gauntlet is like being hugged by a place as you walk past people enjoying themselves. You can see faces, and it feels like deliverance. Nodding and waving at a safe distance to people you know becomes the best thing you did all week. Making googly-eyes becomes not the actions of an insane woman, but a pretty natural human response.  

We couldn’t wait to do Dine Out(Side) at Pizza Capo and see the fresh flush of familiar faces on the street. Pizza is always good, but it’s even better when you feel like you’re a part of something.

As we sat at our table in the middle of the road, it struck me that Third Street isn’t a vacation from our lives, it is our life, that the worst part of pandemic life is not that it has shuttered businesses, but that it has created barriers to how we can love each other.

For now, at least, we can have some of that back.

Who is doing McMinnville Dine Out(Side)? 

Call head and make a reservation, since seating is limited to provide for safe dining.

3rd Street Pizza Co.
Family fun at its best.

Blue Moon Lounge
The steak dinner is legend.

Cabana Club & Grill
Where fun happens.

Community Plate
You know somebody here.

Crescent Café
Buy a loaf to take home.

Gem Creole Saloon
Not just for Mardi Gras.

Joysticks Arcade & Eatery
Fun times for kids and parents.

La Rambla
Small plates, big flavor.

McMenamins Hotel Oregon
The one on all the postcards.

Nick’s Italian Cafe
McMinnville’s James Beard award winner.

Northwest Food and Gift
Gifts and wine and more.

Pinot Vista
Comfy, classy, and country-themed tasting room.

Pizza Capo
Perfection in pie form.

Pura Vida Cocina
Big, unexpected flavors here.

R. Stuart Winery & Co.
Try Autograph, it’s amazing.

Terra Vina
Several Oregon wine varietals at one spot.

The Bitter Monk
Local hotspot for beer aficionados.

The Oak
A town favorite.

Union Block Coffee
Get your jolt here.

Willamette Valley Vineyards
Pinot pleasures abounding.

Emily Grosvenor is Editor of Oregon Home Magazine and head storyteller for #McMinnvilleDentist.  Follow her on Instagram @emilygrosvenor.