Stepping Stone Cafe
2390 NW Quimby Street
Hello from Portland!
Yes, finally, after been grounded at work for several months, I am finally travelling again. OK, OK, I was in both Tacoma and Tukwila but, you know what, that does not really count as it can be done as a day trip. However, Portland, while is driving distance as well, is slightly different. By the time you get here, chances are you might want to stay at least a couple of nights.
So, unlike certain other border crossings, this time it went relatively smooth and managed to drive from Downtown Vancouver to my hotel (in Uptown Portland) in about 8 or so hours (with a couple of stops in between – without the stops, it would have been ~6.5 hours), which meant I arrived early enough… To go to an open restaurant!!! Which then again begs the usual question… Which one?
I ended up going to Stepping Stone Cafe for one reason: it is a diner. Granted, there are a lot other restaurants in the area (think a combination of Kits and Commercial Drive) but, at the same time, it has that odd forced “fakeness” to it. So, rather to go to some of the these more “posh” places, I chose to go to what might be the lowest common denominator – but, then again, my reputation for selecting this type of restaurants is quite well know…
Now, this diner also has an interesting reputation: it was featured in Man vs. Food (haven’t seen that episode so can’t comment about it). Whether it being feature is good or bad I can’t say: what matters here is that it has some reputation. In that episode’s case, the “food” was pancakes but, despite it might taste good at any time of the day, I want something more “diner”. And, somewhat similar to what happened in Acme Cafe, I chose to go with some diner type dishes. But, first…
A green salad. Nothing exceptional, nothing wrong either. For the most part, a textbook salad. I could be nitpicky if I wanted to (distribution of tomatoes, for example) but, you know what? Is a *** salad and chances are you will be tossing it yourself! So, not much to comment about…
Yup, I ordered *two* dishes! Meatloaf dinner and mac-n-cheese! See, here is the little dilemma I had: I wanted to try both but knew that, if I ordered both, I won’t have finished them. When I told that to the waiter, he suggested I ordered the kids size portion of the mac-n-cheese! Now THAT is a brilliant idea. I wonder if next time I visit a restaurant (by myself, I must add), I should order several child size portions!
But, to the food itself, starting with the mac-n-cheese. While there wasn’t anything crumbl-y on top, I didn’t really needed it or expecting it. It just happen that I prefer what people would call macaroni with cheese sauce: something simple, no fuzz. So, if there were nothing crispy on top, it won’t have matter to me. As for the mac-n-cheese itself, alas, I wished it had more cheese flavour (it was somewhat uni-dimensional), as the creaminess was there. Still, it was quite enjoyable to eat to the point I almost finished it!
Moving to the meatloaf, it was served with mashed potatoes and some steamed vegetables (which happened to be steamed spinach). To me, this mash was really short of being a fail: if we took the gravy out, it would be completely bland. Furthermore, it felt slightly dry. Come to think about it, it look so “white” and lacking some skin or some clumps that made me wonder if this was made from a package (nothing wrong with it). The reason behind my suspicion is that the gravy used was quite similar you could make out of packed ones! OK, I might be stretching it, the gravy was decent but couldn’t shake away that feeling…
As for the meatloaf itself, it was “sliced” a bit too thin to my liking. But, hey, this is nitpicking! Fortunately, it wasn’t down to a paste consistency and still had some “chunks”. Furthermore, it had some seasoning, including what could have been chili peppers (I started to sweat lightly). Of course, I could be mistaken here… But then there was the gravy again… Actually, it worked fine but I would have preferred it not be poured on top.
One thing that I noticed about their patron is that they seem to be feeling themselves at home, the waiter was joking with them and so did other customers. I think I was the oddball that night… The food wasn’t extraordinary by any means; however, given the type of food, should I have expected it to be? At least, their key dishes with some minor tweakings would be enjoyable. In the meantime, given its simplicity and its “it is what it is” type location, I think I would feel comfortable and come back.