Restaurant Hodgepodge. The Observatory. Delta Cafe. Arrivederci. Pambiche. Dekum Pub. He Said Extra.

“Another damned blog entry! Always scribble, scribble, scribble! Eh, Mr. Crislip?”

Prince William Henry, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh, sort of.

A hodgepodge of good places to eat, depending on your mood.  I tend towards the OCD about writing, so here they are.

The Observatory

It is always a problem: try someplace new or go back to a place we enjoyed in the past. Hard call and life is all about making decisions. If I did both, I would end up looking like Mr. Creosote.

The Montavilla neighborhood in SE, especially the area on Stark, is a great destination for food and drink. According to the Wikipedia, the name started as Mount Tabor Village then ”Mt. Ta. Villa“, then ”Monta.Villa” and now Montavilla. There is Country Cat, RedWoodVintage Cocktail Lounge, the Beer Bunker and one of our favorites, the Observatory.

The Observatory has a somewhat arty atmosphere with a pretty back bar.

observatory baack bar

Back Bar




The only problem with the restaurant is a good one: there can be a bit of a wait for a table, but once seated the service is prompt, friendly, and tattooed. The food and drinks are delicious. This time we took a seat at the bar. The bar is never as comfortable as a booth but always more entertaining. I like watching the bartender make drinks while we talk about the day and the food. And if the meal and company are good enough, the nature of the chair should be unnoticed. It was.

The Blood Orange Negroni and the Ruby Rye Manhattan are both worth a repeat and only $7.50. My son, back from Boston this week, can’t believe how cheap the beer and cocktails are in Portland.



The food is also relatively inexpensive, few going over 15 dollars, well prepared and clever/unexpected. It is often the little things that take a standard meal and make it memorable. The Observatory has that down. Last time I had the steak with caramelized onion butter with mashed maple squash & bacon braised greens.  Basic food made better.



The desserts have usually been their weakness for me; they have never been quite as good as the description. I had a Sundae on a mini-waffle, but the waffle tasted slightly of deep fry oil. If you are not driving, I would go for a dessert cocktail instead.

Delta Cafe

The Delta Cafe is the closest Southern restaurant  to where we live.  It is also inexpensive, a bit divey, but in a good way.

It looks in the inside like a slightly rundown New Orleans bar. The service is prompt and friendly and heavily tattooed.  

I have nothing against tats, mind you, but it is one of those modern fashions, along with square glasses, hip-hop, and goatee’s that mark me as old.  I do not get tats, perhaps as I have seen too many that have not aged well.

The drinks were ordered and served right away. Always a must. I had the Outlaw : ginger infused whiskey with muddled ginger, lemon, bitter and soda. Good. But. I think I have a new rule with cocktails: avoid those mixed with soda or the equivalent. It makes the drink too much like pop, diluting the alcohol flavors. Good on a hot summer day, perhaps, but not on a cold winter’s evening.

 For dinner I opted for the fried chicken with mashed potatoes and black eyed peas. Solid comfort food, my only complaint is there were no biscuits to choose from on the menu. I had never tried black eyed peas before and they were a bit bland. Maybe that is how black eyed peas are prepared, I don’t know.

The menu, prices, and atmosphere are probably informed in part by being near Reed College; I suspect they are aiming for the college crowd.

delta bar

delta drinks

delta kerry




We live in Happy Valley, up Mt Scott from Clackamas town Center.  We do not have many good Italian restaurants in the area.  For good Italian the closest is Sellwood.  Kerry had recently met a friend at Arrivederci for lunch and suggested we give it a try for dinner.

Did you know that Milwaukie has  a Statue of Liberty replica?  Yep.  It is one-sixth full size and over 50 feet tall on its base. When they put it up it caught on fire and a part fell off.  Being Liberty is hell  I have driven by it many times on the way to one car dealership or another but neither stopped nor looked it up.  Now you know. Liberty is right behind the restaurant and parked near its base,  far enough away should it lose another extremity or burst into flame.

The sign out from says  Arrivederci Wine Bar, but it is more than a wine bar.  They have food, drinks, and music, usually jazz.  The Gordon Lee Quartet was playing while we ate.  Jazz is not my favorite style of music, but live music is always enjoyable.

We sat in the back so we could carry on a conversation and the jazz added to the ambience: wine bottles and, at least near our table, some odd photographs:  a shot of some women in old swim suits and another of 5 models in 1950’s underwear.  How they were Italian was not obvious.

The food and drink were nothing special, but delicious.  Yet another Old Fashioned for me (is there any other cocktail) that did not skimp on the whiskey, followed by the special, gnocchi in pesto with prosciutto and pine nuts, piping hot and delicious.  The desert was a tiramisu, made different from the usual fare by honey drizzled on the plate.  All basic recipes done perfectly.

My only complaints?  The service was a bit pokey, especially at the beginning, when I want my drink and I want it now. Wah.  I suffer mostly from first world problems.

And no bread with the dinner or on the menu.  Dinner should always come with bread so you can sop up every last drop of sauce.  I like to do that, leaving a completely clean plate,  and then ask the waitress to box it up for me.

Well, I think it is funny.

And the meal was relatively inexpensive: three drinks, two entrees and a dessert for 60 dollars.  A good price for good food.


Where to eat after a movie (The Big Short, see it and you will vote for Bernie) when it is the middle of a Sunday? Too early for dinner and too late for breakfast/lunch. Kerry suggested Pambiche, which I would normally avoid because it has long lines. We will probably never eat at the Screen Door as I have no interest waiting for a meal. Pambiche is often a long wait at prime eating times, but it is perfect for a midday meal.

It is Cuban food, which is a fantastic combination of Southern, Cajun and Mexican.

It was too early in the day, at least for me, for a cocktail. But the banana milkshake is the best. Better, even, than Mikes. It has cinnamon and small ice chips and is perfect. And the ice gives the illusion that no, it doesn’t have that many calories.

I went with the pulled pork sandwich with fried plantains. As sandwiches go, it is a battle between the cubano and the banh mi  as the best form of the food. Tough call, but it is like deciding between an IPA or an ESB. A comparison with no real answer. And that also reminds me. My son asked: Is a hot dog a sandwich? I say no.

It was the restaurant’s 10th birthday when we were there, and everyone got a troika of free mini pastries.

Pambiche is the perfect place to delicious Cuban food in the middle of the day. And no real wait.

I recently read Havana Nocturne: How the Mob Owned Cuba & Then Lost it to the Revolution, and someday I  really want to go to Cuba (always pronounced by my grandmother as Cube-er, must be a NE thing). The food and music looks too good to pass up. For now the closest I will get to Cuba is Pambiche.

Dekum Pub

I grew up in NE Portland and we spent a fair amount of time tooling on our Stringrays (could I pop a wheelie or what?)  around NE on our way to the Portland Airport.  The airport in the late 60’s was a great place to hang out.  We could watch plane takes off and land, there was always a couple of bucks worth of change to be found in the huge banks of pay phones for candy, and we could play the chase game (our version of tag) for hours.  No way could anyone do that today.

Far NE is another part of Portland that is unrecognizable from the my childhood.

My eldest son, home for a week, is a beer fan, his favorite being Breakside, so for his last night we went to the Dekum Pub. Saturday night is not a time for quiet dining in a brewpub.

The pub, an industrial space,  was crowded and busy.  The hostess described seating us as people jenga, which I thought was funny, and put  the three of us at a table for 2.  No problem, we had plenty of room.

The atmosphere  is the usual beer pub industrial, woods and metal. Nothing that would soak up spilled beer to give the space a sour stink.  The waitstaff was pleasant and prompt, and I was impressed how one lady could hold two pints in one hand and maneuver through the crowd without spilling a drop.

The menu is kicked up pubfood and served hot.  I went with the Pork Belly Sandwich   (braised with soy, brown sugar, leeks, ginger, and star anise then seared golden and topped with hoisin sauce and a spicy fennel, carrot and jalapeno slaw) with sweet potato fries. Delicious.

But go for the beer.  I had the sampler and they even had a stout I liked.  The best of the IPA’s was the Pathfinder, a “Double IPA aged in Gin Barrels Pine, orange zest, resin, classic hop.”  There was just the faintest, and wonderful, hint of gin.  I can see why it is my son’s favorite brewer.

I definitely want to go back, but not on a Saturday at prime time.  Now if I could just get Kerry to be a beer drinker…

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