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. There's something quaint in the name Hillvilla. I picture hillbillies or a stucco building on a high hill.
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 homey 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'd probably like the circular art on the wall. I'm guessing that was added in recent years, when the Chart House biz bought the property.
Table at the Window
When the hostess seated us at a window-side table, I wanted to cheer.
The sun had set hours earlier and we couldn't exactly see Mount Hood, 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!
Before we even met our server, I knew this was not the night to bother our waiter with a cookbook. (I usually us the old book to strike up funny conversations) But I did have the 1963 Ford Motor Cookbook in my bag.
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. And I wasn't in the mood for spareribs.
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 in the restaurant. 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!
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.