Manila clams, $16.95; beet salad, $12.95; house ground hamburger sandwich, $15.95; wild mushroom risotto, $18.95; calzone, $15.95
In the Flow
Big River Restaurant and Bar
101 N.W. Jackson Ave., Corvallis, OR 97330
Hours: Lunch 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday
Owners: Brant and Carol Pollard
Atmosphere: Warm, airy space with big windows, an arched ceiling supported by bow-truss beams and a touch of retro-industrial chic — the warehouse-like building once served as a bus garage. The wait staff wears black, but Angela McFarland’s whimsical art lends a bright splash of color to the walls. Lunch seating for up to 150.
Clientele: An easygoing mix of rain parkas and power suits, with Oregon State University faculty rubbing elbows with techies from HP Inc., doctors from Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center and engineers from NuScale Power and CH2M Hill.
Most popular: The entrée-size salads, especially the hearty Cobb and (in season) the salmon salad. Pasta dishes, including the rigatoni with herbed grilled chicken, fusilli with Italian sausage and butternut squash ravioli.
Best seat in the house: In summer, try for a patio table. Cold, rainy winter days call for the cozy confines of the Bow Truss Bar; if you’re lucky, you might snag a seat by the gas fireplace.
Danger zone: The first thing you see when you walk in the door is a diet-wrecking array of more than a dozen killer desserts, from Warm Triple Berry Cobbler to Big River 4 Layer Cake to Chocolate Raspberry Sin, all lined up and shown to perfection in a gleaming glass case.
Inside dope: Want to impress an important client? Big River’s elegant and sophisticated 101 bar, normally open only at night, is available for group rentals at lunchtime.
Bragging rights: When Big River opened its doors in December 1995, the Corvallis riverfront was a wasteland of abandoned warehouses and dirt parking lots. A few years later, voters approved a $13.5 million civic improvement project that transformed the area. Today it’s a thriving restaurant, bar and retail strip — with Big River anchoring the north end.
Overheard: On a recent weekday, a large group gathered for a birthday party was trading fishing stories, a self-possessed young woman was nailing a job interview and a man in a business suit was introducing his lunch companion to a pillar of the local dining scene. She: “I’ve never been here before.” He: “When I first moved down here in 2006, this was the only place to go. Now there are restaurants all over the place.”
Critic’s corner: $9.95 for dessert? No, thanks — I’m watching my weight.