Maybe Shannon and Benjamin Caulfield's new brunch spot, which they're calling Sunday, will be the tiny spark that ignites a new Southeast Portland food destination.
The young couple fired up the grill at the ancient Kupie Cone drive-in, a forgotten gem marooned in a sea of asphalt kitty-corner from the Southeast Holgate Boulevard Walgreens. They've transformed the down-on-its-luck locale into an absurdly sweet playroom where faded vintage tablecloths grace the tables and laminated place mats bearing woodland scenes play out across pale yellow and blue walls. And the food, served on pastel Melmac plates, is equally, if not more, charming.
Ben Caulfield gives cheap, greasy-spoon standards a fresh, even vegetarian-friendly, taste. Instead of hash browns, you'll get a full plate of crisp, herby potato pancakes ($5.50). Huge omelettes (around $7) are stuffed with bright spinach, chevre and button mushrooms. And please, do not pass up a side serving of his rough-chopped applesauce. We can't vouch for the lunch menu yet, but we hear Shannon will still serve you ice cream, Kupie Cone-style, through the little window out front.
Perhaps the sweet little cafe could turn into more than just a hangover cure. Perhaps it could serve as an anchor for a whole new business block party in the working-class Creston-Kenilworth neighborhood, a trapezoid sandwiched roughly between Southeast 26th and 50th Avenues and Southeast Powell and Holgate.
A few blocks north of Sunday, just past Southeast Gladstone Street's three aging upholstery shops, Grace Emanuel and John Mitchell have staked out their own neighborhood claim, opening the airy Gladstone Coffee & Gallery a month ago. They've already got company. The Gladstone Street Pub, a homey tavern owned by bartender P.J. Barrett and his wife, GleeAnn, is set to open next week.
"Portland used to be full of all these small neighborhood centers," Emanuel told Bite Club. "They died out, but the buildings are all still there, waiting."
She's right. In a town where an "it" neighborhood like North Mississippi becomes a chic food address seemingly overnight, will the buzz of these three new businesses start a real-estate feeding frenzy in this sleepy neighborhood?
Bite Club ain't callin' Creston-Kenilworth the next North Mississippi just yet. After all, the Mississippi 'hood was filled with cheap commercial property and received the attention of city revitalization efforts. But this corner of Southeast Portland is filled with more homes than commercial zones, a fact that could put the kibosh on any real business boom.
Shannon Caulfield shrugs off speculation on how hot-or-not the C-K area could become. "Right now about 70 percent of our business comes from regulars-people from the neighborhood," she says. "That makes me feel good right now."
, 3835 SE Holgate Blvd., 771-5680.
Gladstone Coffee & Gallery, 3813 SE Gladstone St., (971) 506-4918.
Gladstone Street Pub, 3737 SE Gladstone St., 775-3502.