About The Bistro
Garibaldi Portside Bistro is a love story, first and foremost. A tear-jerking, binge-worthy tale of how loved ones will do anything for each other, families will back each other’s play, friends will gear up & pitch in, and communities will use their shoulders as much as their votes to provide unrelenting support.
Pay it no heed, mention, or other-mind. It has taken a little of everything to elevate The Bistro into a destination that is truly, remarkably, and sometimes unbelievably Bistro: Redefined.
The Bistro started how most things start: as a dream.
This dream was originally born from the imagination of Portland native and Cordon Bleu-trained Chef Dennis Cavitt.
A dream in need of a little motivation.
Dennis’ motivation revealed itself in 2012, as it often does, when that boy met a girl.
Combining his culinary skills with her marketing & design savvy, Dennis & Amanda decided to share this dream and put its framework to paper.
That same year, Dennis’ parents retired to Garibaldi.
As Dennis put it,
“I’ve been coming to Garibaldi since I was in my mama’s stomach.”
His family camped either Old Mill RV Park and Barview Jetty County Park annually throughout his life, but he never considered moving to the coast until he brought Amanda out to meet his parents.
Amanda, an Alaska native, immediately fell in love with the natural beauty of Tillamook Bay & its place along the Oregon Coast.
They added “Oregon Coast” to the plan.
Over the next couple years, Dennis & Amanda wed and brought a beautiful, benevolent baby princess into the world.
Amanda found good work in Tillamook.
They built a home in Garibaldi within a very short walk to the princess’ grandparents.
The only thing left to do was to push their dream from paper to praxis.
At this point in the story, Dennis was still making daily drives over the mountains into the valley for work.
The original plan was to run a Food Truck up & down 101.
Dennis & Amanda wanted something fun & engaging for their customers. With a food truck, they could spend less time stressing about overhead & rent, and more time creating gourmet comfort food.
They envisioned a life of migrating with the tourists and attending all the events throughout the year, exploring every nook & cranny of the Pacific Northwest as they went.
Especially the music festivals. The ‘music’ part will be revisited shortly.
As Dennis & Amanda were about to pull the trigger on a food truck…
A family friend spotted a “now leasing” sign in the window of a tan cottage, nestled within the north end of Garibaldi Marina, across from the boat docks.
At first, Dennis & Amanda weren’t sure.
- Food truck plans were already in motion.
- Recipes were perfected.
- Connections were made.
- Events routes were mapped out.
As for the location, it was shoulder-to-shoulder small and a couple blocks off 101, away from the traffic to whom they hoped to advertise.
The location also wasn’t near any of the events they were looking forward to attending, and definitely not near the music festivals in the Gorge or Bend.
But that location gave them the thing they couldn’t get on the road: roots.
That little brick & mortar location made of ‘earth & wood‘ gave them a place down the hill from their family, especially their little girl.
While they couldn’t fill that cottage with a lot of tables & chairs, they could load it with local art, choice music, great times, and even better food.
Dennis & Amanda contacted the Port of Garibaldi on a Friday and told them of their culinary idea.
The Port was intrigued, then asked if they could see the business plan on Monday.
Dennis & Amanda agreed.
At this point in the story, we should point out that while Dennis & Amanda had their plan, that plan wasn’t yet written in the business plan style.
In fact, neither Amanda or Dennis had before written a fully functioning business plan, but they had two & a half days, and Google.
Amanda crafted a design vision.
With tables large & small, lightly-used Carl’s Jr. chairs, and artwork – both hers and other artists’ – she envisioned a theme that had a touch of fishing, a touch of Alaska, and a touch of togetherness.
She also decided the cottage would look better in rustic red.
Dennis went to work on the menu.
Now that he couldn’t cook to individual festival tastes, he needed something thematic that would stand out.
But what stands out in an Oregon Coast fishing village that’s around the corner from a destination beach city and up the shore from a dairy farming community?
There were already steakhouses, cafes, and burger joints aplenty.
Tillamook Bay area’s also probably, “The Coffee House Coast,” with all the incredible choices available.
“What about seafood?”
“While building a seafood restaurant would be the obvious choice, and we both love seafood and do seafood dishes, there were already good places nearby fully dedicated to that market. We also found that folks who come here to fish would rather eat their own catch and when they go out, have something completely different.”– Amanda Cavitt ca. 2019
Then Saturday night, Dennis & Amanda discussed menu options repeatedly, over & over & over & over & over again, while he smoked his famous ribs for their family dinner.
“I had a taste for smoked meats. No one else around really had it.”Dennis Cavitt ca. 2016
Sometimes, the answer finds you.
Dennis & Amanda chose the food, the food chose the music. Blues, from Texas, through the Mississippi Delta, up the river to Memphis, and all the way up to Chicago.
They emailed the plan off during the part of Sunday night some others would call “Monday Morning.”
The Port approved it that Monday.
Dennis & Amanda later negotiated, struck a deal, and officially pivoted from their original plan.
But they had to complete their new vision on a shoestring budget as their original food truck plans didn’t have to account for little things like seating capacity and bathrooms and bar stools and a liquor license.
Fortunately for Amanda, not only was she was a gifted artist, but having grown up in Alaska where the nearest town could be forty miles away, she immediately knew how to tackle the fiscal challenge of getting the most out of what was immediately available. She worked her job during the day and crafted the customer experience during the evening and on the weekends. When she wasn’t designing layouts and shopping for perfect complimentary pieces, she was creating artwork and design elements to adorn even the most innocuous corners of their cottage “bistro”.
For Dennis, his shoestring challenge was similar but for one glaring exception: doing smoked meats his way with the richest, most savory flavors he could squeeze out of a piece of meat would require a commercial wood smoker. Unfortunately, a new commercial wood smoker would burn up the budget – so to speak.
But why buy a commercial wood smoker when you can build one?
- Dennis knew what was needed from the smoker.
- His father, Bob, a retired Intel engineer who was flipping houses for recreation, knew how to build the room around it.
- Close family friends put together the smoker design & materials.
- Dennis & Amanda got approval from the Port.
- Dennis & Bob & friends went to work.
Together, they built that gorgeous fire brick & iron rack smoker that still today sits in the smoke room on the east side of the cottage.
Garibaldi Portside Bistro opened in Summer of 2016.
Success has grown slowly, organically, one customer at a time. First with family, then friends – and their friends, and neighbors. Word-of-satiated-mouth has been the predominate marketing mechanism.
Each year, we do a little better.
Now, believe it or not, those amazing ratings & reviews our customers give us on local review sites, including:
Significantly contribute to our growth.
More and more, tourists who don’t originally see us from US 101 end up discovering us for the first time while researching these local sites. And, often, come back the second time…
It’s amazing how such a thing works. Thank you.
And, please, keep those reviews coming.
Buying & remodeling The Troller building.
In October of 2018, Dennis & Amanda completed a deal to buy the building that, for over 40 years, was home to local-favorite The Troller restaurant. Situated in the heart of Garibaldi Marina with bay views on three sides, and centered within the one-way loop which literally puts us on a driver’s “port side” at all times, the new location gives The Bistro over five times the seating capacity of the original location. That doesn’t include the expansive kitchen space, newly-built wait station, and conveniently-placed walk-in coolers – two for the kitchen and one for the full-service bar.
Originally, the plan was to move Garibaldi Portside Bistro into The Troller location by February 2019, but as the layers were peeled away for our light renovation, it was readily apparent that more love was needed for a structure that had seen over 40 years of rain-soaked Oregon Coast winters.
We weren’t prepared for such intense work, and we were scared.
Admittedly, we were overwhelmed by the work that had to go into rehabilitating the building. For years, the building was for sale, and the years went by. We knew that, but the more we worked on it, the more we realized that in its condition, it wasn’t ready for long-term use.
Bistro Nation and Tillamook Bay rallied us.
Were it not for our family, friends, neighbors, and customers who simply heard we needed a hand, we would be stuck with an old building and a myriad of problems. They donated time, know-how, skills, and sometimes, pure force of will to help us.
Our Team at The Bistro has been nothing but supportive, understanding, and forgiving.
They didn’t sign up for all we went through, but they’ve stayed on for the ride. When they weren’t stretching shifts to cover gaps at the current location, they were picking up a broom or learning how to install FRP at The Troller location. Above & beyond.
The list of supporters is long. Plenty, proper long.
We’ll soon publish a list of everyone who pitched a hand, gave up their days and months and opportunities, and worked to make The Troller location a reality.
There’s been so many that we’re starting to think we’ve forgotten more than we’ve remembered.
If you helped, and we forgot to put it on the list, we’ll add you. Even if it was just for the shortest of time, we’ll update the list. You deserve it.
We never had second thoughts about where to plant roots.
That said, not only did our family & friends & customers rush to our aid, but seemingly everyone in the Tillamook Bay area lent us a hand or an encouraging word at some point in time during the remodel. We can’t even begin to describe our thanks. Words do a no-call, no-show when we try to express our humility and appreciation. Such gratitude will never be repaid, but with every day we get to turn on the lights and fire up the smoker, we’ll do our best to pay it forward. That best seems to be the way things work around here.
Thank you, Bistro Nation. Thank you.
As for our official opening in The Troller location.
We can almost-safely say that we’ll be moving into The Troller location by Labor Day, 2019.
The immediate future primarily involves learning how to navigate our new location. Our team is incredible. Not only are they great people, but standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the “Little Bistro”, they learned how to work together. It’ll take time for them to feel their way around the new location. Then we’ll need to find additional members to grow our team. We’ll click our heels and wish really, really hard, but it probably won’t happen overnight.
As we grow, we’ll expand into more days of the week, as well as open for breakfast.
If you’re interested in joining our team, click here.
The Second Floor.
There was a reason The Troller location was built with a flat roof despite its location along the Oregon Coast. The original structure is designed to hold a second floor. That big beam running down the middle of the location isn’t there for show. It’s ready to work.
Ultimately, if things go well, the plan will be to utilize a second floor in some capacity.
The Food Truck.
Dennis & Amanda still to want to have festivals and events as a part of their overall customer experience. There are still plans in the works to go from a trailer & tent to having a full-blown food truck to meet new people and experience new locations in the Pacific Northwest.
Including music festivals.
Dennis has an overwhelming love of music. Wait until you experience what he’s installed at The Troller location. When evenings at The Bistro aren’t filled with live, local music, a club-quality stereo system will pitch in to provide the perfect Bistro mood.
As for that rustic-red cottage we started in.
We’re not done with it yet. We’ll hold onto it that cottage for awhile. There continue to be plans thrown back & forth. Be on the lookout. Once we’re ready, we’ll probably spring it up without much notice or fanfare, like we did the first time we launched a business there.
It’s a hope that the right idea chooses us, just like it did when Dennis & Amanda were first inspired for their menu – while cooking their family dinner.