Tonight on New Year's Eve 2018, Don and I are at home in Texas... watching TV... remembering a year ago when we dined at a restaurant in Thailand. I cannot remember the name and this photo does not help me. I will call it Cafe on the Canal.
Remembering Our New Year's Eve Feast
Last year, we dined with our daughter-in-law, Chali’s family, while visiting their Bangkok home. The Cafe on the Canal, was just across the street from their house, in a cozy neighborhood, far from the touristy city.
Borrowing the Menu
From the Canal
It was dark when our group headed over for dinner. A few days before, we had seen the restaurant in daylight, while on a canal tour.
Tableful of Food
The canal-side deck was fairly quiet at 10 pm. The live music had already finished up and tables were beginning to clear, just as our table began to fill with food.
There were a few toasts to the New Year and a special toast for our daughter's fiance. Jamie was not feeling well and he was in bed, across the street..
Then we dug into our fabulous foods. It's impossible to remember all the dishes we devoured, but Linda chose well and we did not go hungry. I must have used about 50 tissue-type napkins, from the little dispenser..
While finishing up our meal, Chali and Scott got a surprise visit and a wedding gift.
The newlyweds were quite the neighborhood celebrities, since their Thai wedding (a few days before) had pretty much involved the whole neighborhood... starting with a procession in the street.
At some point a grandma appeared, showing off a 2 month old baby. Chali and Linda cooed and took photos. The whole evening felt like we were celebrating in someone's home.
After we were finished feasting, we decided it was time for the fish in the canal, to have their own feast. Chali's brother dashed home and came back with the giant (Van Gogh decorated) tub of popcorn, that I had lugged home that day, from a movie theatre in the city.
With some World Leaders looking on from their portraits, we played quite a few ping pong matches. Luckily Linda had checked ahead of time and discovered no paddles & balls. She made sure we did some ping pong equipment shopping, earlier that day. We made good use!
Back in Time For Midnight
We finished up the matches, while the staff finished cleaning the dishes. Then we were back at the house in less than a minute. We cheered with champagne at midnight, then headed to the terrace to view the moon, which looked pretty full to me!
The Cafe on the Canal, saw us a few more times during our stay. Luckily Jamie's ailment lifted and he was able to feast on the incredible catfish dish that Heidi raved about. I can't remember specifics about the foods I ate, except that they were delicious and plentiful.
I so wish I could snap fingers and be right back there (with the whole bunch) on this quiet, New Year's Eve!
Nothing delights me more than a retro neon sign (including the word cocktails) and windows, painted with holiday greetings and clinking martini glasses! Usually, I just take a picture.
The sight of this neighborhood bar might scare some parents. But Don and I didn't worry. Instead, we joined the "newlyweds" and celebrated with drinks.
The front door opened to the original bar, which has been serving customers for over 80 years... first, as a lunch counter, then a bootleggers saloon during prohibition. The Holman's sold the bar to the current owners in the 1970's. Last summer the bar stools were empty.
The Game Room
The game room with its slanted linoleum floor was practically empty, too. But the walls were full of entertainment!
Last summer, it was a lovely day when we shared drinks on the patio bar. It didn't look quite as inviting, when we returned on December 26th. But even in the cold drizzle, the little area behind the bar looked a lot better than it did years ago... when it was an old used appliance graveyard. I learned that from some menu trivia.
December 26, 2018
We ended up having lunch at Holman's, on the day after Christmas. We were just finishing a festive holiday celebration with our kids and their spouses in Portland. What better place to dine, before heading to the airport!
The North Dining Room
I tried not to intrude with my camera, but there were quite a few people seated at the dark bar, at 11:30 am. We headed to the dining room, which was added in the '70's. It sort of felt like we were sitting down for a meeting at our round table, with rolling task chairs.
As it turns out, we were lucky to get this prized dining spot. Holman's opens at 8 am and Heidi said the table is usually occupied, by older gentleman, when she walks by in the morning.
I ordered a BLT with fries. That seemed like the kind of food I might have ordered years ago, at the lunch counter. They would have surely delivered my beverage with a straw, back in 1933. The sign on the table was a reminder that it was 2018 and we were in Portland. (Too bad the metal straws that Santa brought me, were packed!)
While we chatted and ate our fairly decent meals, I took in all the fun decor. The dining room had once been a Rexall Drugs and I tried to picture that. I doubt the Cigar Man was part of the drug store decor, but the lit up Rudolph and Snowman could have been.
Shoes and Socks
Before noon, the Game Room was very quiet. I checked out the slanted floor again and the pinball machines and the square windows, that let me peek in on the bar. I smiled to see the wooden shoe display, that I remembered. I was glad they had added some felt socks for the holidays!
We didn't have time to play Pacman or pinball, but our very nice server did invite us to spin the Meal Wheel, before we paid up. She watched from the bar, while we took turns, hoping to match up the arrows for a free lunch.
This photo makes the wheel look like it was spinning crazily fast! It wasn't. Luckily my wimpy attempt was strong enough to make one revolution... before finishing with the red arrows pointing at each other! Free Meal!
My BLT was free and I got to write my name on the Winner's Chalkboard! This was my first dining adventure, involving a free meal!
Now, A Chart House Restaurant
On Christmas Eve we had reservations for dinner, at one of the nearly 30 Chart House restaurants. I wish the lovely hilltop restaurant had its original name. It kind of makes me think of Hillbillies!
At around 7 pm, our Uber driver skillfully zipped up Terwilliger Boulevard, high above Portland. At the top of the hill, we hit a traffic jam of cars, waiting to valet park. Our family of 6, happily exited, before reaching the tangle of cars. The glowing restaurant was buzzing with Christmas Eve energy.
Photo From 1930
Don and I usually avoid chain restaurants, but the Chart House is always a safe choice. We didn't want to risk some lukewarm holiday buffet, when we were feeling ridiculously lucky to be spending Christmas with our kids and their new spouses. Plus this Chart House had some great history. The property, once named Hillvilla, opened in 1921. Owner, R Simmons boasted about The View of a Million Lights. Today, the building doesn't look nearly as quaint as it did 90+ years ago, but it still has the view of lights and Mount Hood!
Busy and Festive
We were told our table wasn't quite ready and that was sort of a relief. We were in no mood to rush. We were in a festive, happy place with our kids. No one had to cook!
When we found 6 open barstools in the downstairs lounge, we were extra ready to relax.
Behind us there was a wall of windows, looking over the twinkling lights of Oregon's biggest city.
In front of us, we watched numerous bartenders (some in Santa hats) dashing, dodging, splashing, shaking and pouring! I kind of liked the cheery, rushed vibe... at least for a while. We had a nice toast, with our French 75 cocktails.
Up We Go
We were called to our table shortly after getting drinks. As we headed up the stairs I glanced over at the cozy fireplace. I wonder if that was added in 1954, when Ed Palaske bought and modernized Hillvilla.
I wonder what Mr. Palakse would think of the modern decor today. He would probably like the circular art on the wall. I'm guessing that was added when in recent years when the Chart House bought the property.
Table at the Window
When the hostess seated us at a window-side table, I wanted to cheer. We couldn't exactly see Mount Hood and the sun had set hours before, but the city lights below were mighty festive.
The whole day had been cold and cloudy, so I hadn't hoped for any stargazing. We did however get a good glimpse of the moon, now and then!
Our server introduced himself as Cole. If he was feeling a little overwhelmed with the holiday crowds, he hid it fairly well. We ordered wine and asked a few menu questions.
The Fine Cookbook
At one point I did share my silly traveling book with others at the table and I managed to get a smile from Cole, who said he had actually seen that illustration before. I asked if they stilled served "Spareribs A La Hillvilla. He said they did serve spareribs, up until a year ago. I was relieved it was no longer on the menu, since I usually feel forced to at least try whatever the cookbook has featured.
Maybe it was the wine, or the anticipation of Santa, but our gang could not have been happier. There was something so comfy-cozy about our table, as we settled in with wine and a couple baskets of warm bread.
Dining on a holiday meant we shared a little something in common with all the other diners. We were all celebrating. But even the staff seemed to add to the fun mix of energy in the place!
So Many Helpers
On a journey to the restroom, I squeezed past a few large tray-servers and I paused to look at all the foods sizzling on the grill. There were so many people giving up their own family time, to make our night special. I have to stop and appreciate that sometimes.
I tried not to laugh when I ordered Mac Nut Mahi. I felt a little like I was ordering at the drive-thru. But thoughts of McDonald's disappeared when I tasted my fish with warm peanut sauce, mango relish, soy glaze, mango sticky rice and Asian green beans!
My chopped salad with hearts of palm, cucumber, red onion... balsamic vinaigrette was a meal in itself, so I'm glad I saved room. No room for dessert, though. We were all happy and full by the time our empty plates were taken away.
While waiting on our Uber, I took advantage of a brief moment when the area near the tree was empty. A very cheery hostess offered to take our pic. This turned out to be the only photo of the 6 of us during our holidays together. Yay for family photos!
Before our ride arrived, I rushed out to get one more peek of the exterior. The 2 valet guys had a brief lull in activity, so I shared the cookbook with them. They seemed amused by the old watercolor image... or they pretended well. I dashed off to the side, to see if the shape of the of the building matched the illustration. It was too dark to tell, but I did see a 50-foot totem pole. If there had been a spotlight, I could have snapped a photo of the dramatic carving, that Palaske added in 1959!
We may have dined at a chain restaurant, but the yummy food and curious history, made for a dining adventure. Maybe next time we'll catch a sunset!
Christmas Eve Brunch
Warming Up Inside
They don't take reservations, so we waited for a table, along with lots of other people. We were outside for a while and then found space inside, under paper snowflakes!
There was a festive bar, serving at least 7 kinds of Bloody Mary cocktails and at least 12 flavors of Mimosa. I was happy with the free coffee, set up on the sidewalk.
White Tree and Snowflakes!
A Place to Play
The white Christmas tree wasn't the only special thing nearby. There was an elevated stage, with lots of toys and a play kitchen. Heidi and Chali could have leaned over and grabbed something to play with while we waited for food. Restaurants never had fun play areas when I was a kid... or a young parent!
The menu was colorful on the outside, with creative selections on the inside. Maybe that's why they call it a cafe and arthouse. Actually the art part was all over the walls. If it had been less crowded, I would have roamed and enjoyed.
A lot of amazing foods came to our table. For sweet stuff, we had Maddie Cakes (lemon-ricotta pancakes with blueberry compote) and Grand Marnier French Toast. I was tempted to get the Maple Cashew Granola, but the spinach and mushrooms in Ed's Scramble won out. At least mine came with toast, so I got to sample Jam's homemade jam! I also snuck a bite of some amazing biscuits and gravy!
Good Food Good Service
Heidi and Jamie picked well. The food was worth waiting for. Once seated, the service was speedy, without feeling rushed.
Lunch at a McMenamins Tavern
Don and I came upon the Rock Creek Tavern in Hillsboro, over the Christmas holidays. The old barn west of Portland, looked quaint and cozy.
Out of a Book
As we approached, I felt like I was a character in a fairytale. Weathered boards, red & green painted windows, rock chimney and moss covered roof! It looked like something the 3 Pigs might have constructed, together! There was even a curious mushroom decoration, posing like an umbrella near the porch.
When we stepped inside, my eyes went straight up from the bar, to the fine deer head, with antlers and no fur. Then my eyes settled on twin, glowing mushrooms. Oh how the place would have tickled me 50 years ago, when I was 11, doodling polka-dotted mushrooms on every piece of paper I could find.
I was so excited to learn the history of the tavern, when I noticed a framed picture from the 1940's.
I read later the tavern had opened as a store in the 1920's. The building was later replaced with an old blacksmith shop and became a popular store and tavern, adored by the locals. Much later in the 1990's, the tavern was bought by the McMenamin brothers, who have always known how how to bring fun and celebration to their properties!
Fireplace... and Fire
Luckily the McMenamin spirit was positive, even after the barn burned to the ground in 2002. I'm not sure where the fire began, but only the fireplace was left when they began to rebuild, with repurposed materials and old boards from local barns.
So when Don and I sat in our cozy corner on our church pew seats, we didn't know the tavern was a rebuild. We thought we were in the historic barn, where locals gathered to shoot pool and drink beer and listen to local musicians, for 80+ years. Actually, only the walls just changed. I guess we were still sitting in the space where folks celebrated for decades!
We studied the menu, while the fire crackled nearby. It was fun to see our server stop by to throw on a few extra logs before taking our order. Later I spotted a wood burning stove in the back of the barn. The tavern was toasty cozy!
In the Loft
I heard laughter and the crack of pool balls from above. I took a quick trip upstairs while waiting on food.
It was fun looking down on the diners from above. I could spy on Don. He appeared to be praying... or glancing at his phone.
One More Mushroom
I was right. There was a pool game in progress. There was also an incredibly long shuffleboard. Best of all there was a mushroom lamp that seemed to grow up from the floorboards. The mushroom's light was glowing down on a yummy looking order that was ready to be served. I hurried back down.
I dashed down the stairs, absorbing the fun atmosphere with carpets and white lights.
There were at least 10 McMenamin beers on tap, so we got one to share. The menu looked pretty familiar, since we've dined at a lot of McMenamin properties. But that can be a good thing if you love their Cajun Tots and Caesar Salad and Dilly Tuna sandwich.
A lit torch seemed to invite guests to the patio, but it was too chilly. I can only imagine how fun this space is on a summer's evening. But where was the floating dance floor? I heard there was one somewhere!
We don't have much moss in Texas, so I had to take this fine pic from the parking lot. What a lucky find this was, for a quick lunch on the road! Next time we visit Portland, we'll have to make this a destination. At night, with live music and a floating dance floor...next time!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.