Not your typical breakfast restaurant
“Perceptions” by Gerry Warner
It was with some trepidation that the good wife and I headed to Oregon for a vacation two weeks ago.
We couldn’t help thinking to ourselves that with all the craziness happening in the Excited States of America, a vulgar lout nominated for president and police killing and being killed in the streets, was this a good idea?
But we decided to take the plunge in our recently purchased Volkswagen camper van and bravely (foolishly?) headed out. A day later in Goldendale, Washington we had our perceptions disabused.
Goldendale, a small town on the Columbia Plateau close to the Oregon border, has clearly seen better days. But after a late start we decided to have breakfast there. Oddly enough, we had difficulty finding a restaurant open for breakfast in a country that usually serves the best breakfasts in the world and then we noticed there were several closed storefronts in the dusty town.
But we persevered and were finally directed to the “Coyote Café,” which we had difficulty finding because the sign over the door said the “Golden Chinook Café” that proudly served breakfast “all day, every day,” and in a previous incarnation, was known as the “Top Hat Tavern.” As we settled into our chairs and looked around, it certainly had the atmosphere of a tavern with dim lighting and a cast of characters that looked like they wanted to be in a tavern.
But then I looked closer and there was grandma knitting and watching her grandchildren in the corner as they played with toys thoughtfully provided by the restaurant. In another corner there was an old gentleman dozing in a deep, leather sofa that had probably been left over from the tavern days as well as a huge stack of old newspapers and magazines on the end of the counter including the Goldendale Sentinel.
It wasn’t fancy and certainly wasn’t bright and antiseptic like your typical fast-food restaurant. But I couldn’t help thinking “I could get to like this place.” It wasn’t just a restaurant. It was a warm and cheery community meeting place.
Then I saw the folded, one-page, paper menu that had a distinct military vibe to it. There was a “Basic Training” breakfast (bacon or Polish sausage patty with two eggs, hash browns and sausage gravy), “French Foreign Legion Toast” and a “Heavy Lift” (three-egg omelet, cheese, sautéed vegetables, hash browns and toast). And the restaurant also offered a salad with a “free cookie” and its own special blend of Goldendale Chinook Coffee. Not exactly your typical fast food joint for sure, but what a refreshing change!
When the “special blend” coffee arrived, it was served by a tall waiter with a goatee and macramé dreadlocks, who was the part owner with his father and a retired army vet. The coffee was great, I told him. “I spent 14 years in the army and I swore when I got out that I’d never drink a bad cup of coffee again,” he quickly replied.
As it turned out, it was a typically great American breakfast that took a while to arrive but was worth the wait. As we waited, I read in the Goldendale Sentinel about the shocking resignation of the Klickitat County Fair Queen. She wasn’t talking to the press, but the board president was and he said the board was seeking legal advice. And I watched as restaurant patrons leafed through a stack of paperbacks in the restaurant book exchange and I watched the kids play and do puzzles and I wondered if those millennial kids of mine would ever provide the good wife and I with grandchildren of our own?
But most of all, I wondered about the ambiguous country I was visiting, which on the one-hand seemed to be sinking into anarchy and despair and the other could provide a “clean, well-lighted place” that would make Hemingway proud.
Strange people, Americans, but I wouldn’t count the country out yet.
Gerry Warner is a retired journalist, who loves to travel and go out for breakfast with his wife Sandra.