Saturday, May 1, 2010

"You eat here because we let you" - Stepping Stone Cafe

Back from another “search and rescue” trip to Portland. Looking for that perfect coffee house only to find that perfect might not exist. At least not to my less than wabi sabi accepting mind.

The first place, the one we actually drove up to see, was in an old house in a very hip neighborhood. Maybe that is the problem. I am beginning to realize I am not hip – as much as it pains me to say it. Portland’s motto is “Keep Portland Weird.” I admire originality, creativity, standing out from the crowd, but sometimes when you are trying to keep something one way all you do is create a lot of the same. Don’t get me wrong – I love that Portland has something for everyone and that they give everyone a chance to try. You can make it in Portland I believe if you have a good product, a lot of determination and strong spirit.

But anyway, forgive my rambling, the first place needs a lot of TLC, paint, a kitchen remodel, a backyard of mud that needs to be landscaped and it looks as if the landlord of the building has no intention or desire to help out with that. Well that just makes bad business sense. I’m not going to fix up your building so that you can lease it to someone else. The owner of the actual coffee house business was sweet, but already wanting out in less than one year makes you a tad skeptical. The second place was a bit south of Portland in a strip mall. No character, no personality even though the owner has obviously tried. She tells us that she is back to year one earnings (meaning nothing) after running the place for five years. She has a family emergency and has to be out of there by June 1. So, the area was not where I’d want to be and she sure didn’t paint a pretty picture for us. The third place I actually like – I have been talking to the owner for the past year. She has a successful little coffee house, and I do mean little. It might be 300 sq ft and she wants $50k for it. The place seats 8 and there is no room for growth. So, what you see is what you get. More money than I was hoping to put out but maybe we can work something out. She is not in a hurry, she actually likes what she is doing, having a good time, and that in itself is a strong selling point for me.

So back to reality. Having just had a birthday last week and renewing my driver’s license, it was here waiting for me when I got home. My photo looks like one of those celebrity DUI mug shots, with droopy jowls and all. "OMG, is that what she really looks like?!" We ate like the people you see at a “Homestyle Buffet anywhere USA” while in Portland and now I am ready to get back on track, eat right, and with good intentions, vow to be healthier by this time next year and to smile in my next DMV photo. But one thing for sure, Portland is pure delight for your taste buds – everything you want you can find. One of my favorite places to visit is "The Tao of Tea" on Belmont.  Their 500 mile Chai is incredible, especially when you pair it with their flatbread with honey, dates and toasted coconut.  I do have to recommend a little place we went to for breakfast on my birthday. It is called the Stepping Stone Café and they were featured on the food network at one time, I think they were on “Man vs. Food”. When you first get seated and start looking around you get a little bothered by the “grunginess” of the place, but very quickly you don’t care. The people running the place are young, funny and, I have to say it, very hip. For example, the plaque outside the front door reads “Beware of Attack Waitress” while inside there is a sign that says “Chewing gum available – under tabletops and chairs” – I mean that is pretty funny! But the food – they are known for their huge mancakes ($3.50) that can feed four people. I ordered one and only got through a quarter of it. It was great. Definitely visit the place if you get a chance. And of course a trip to Portland wouldn’t be complete without a trip or two to Voodoo Doughnut. No false advertising here, when they say they have an apple fritter the size of your head, they have an apple fritter the size of your head.

Mom - thanks for the birthday card - it made me cry!!!!  Love you.  Olivia & Bryan, thanks for spending my birthday with me - I love you both!!!! 

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