Cameo Cafe

So last night was a friend’s birthday.  A bartender at the local watering hole, she didn’t get off work until almost midnight which meant that it was a late night before we even got started.  Having settled into my thirties a while ago, this is odd behavior for me but I figure that once you go out drinking late you might as well go all in.  We started at Good Neighbors Pizza on NE 8th and Dekum.  This is the local bar for a couple of my friends and the calzone’s here are delicious and large but I chose bourbon instead of food.  As they were already supposed to be closed when I arrived we left there after a bit and headed up to the Nest on Alberta.  The Nest is a very Portland spot with an interesting menu, which i did not partake in, with several vegan option and I definitely don’t think I am cool enough to hang out there.  We closed the bar down and I came sloppily though my door at 3 am clutching a bag of fast food and a diet Coke.  Feeling quite youthful, I stayed up and watched the newest episode of Top Model on the DVR.

This morning I felt a lot older.  I got up, fed the dog, checked some email and went right back to bed.  A couple hours later I tried again.

When I woke this time there was no power and a call to the electric company informed me that the whole neighborhood was dark ad we couldn’t expect any electric until 2:30.  I was desperate for food but not just anything would do so I rousted my roommate and off we went.  First we tried Namaste, the newish Indian buffet on 82 and Sandy in the old Steamers restaurant.  They were closed, they may have been suffering from the power outage or they may just not be open for lunch anymore which would be too bad.  Needing a quick solution to the food dilemma we looked no further than across the street to the Cameo Cafe.

The Cameo has been open since 1968 which explains why my grandparents, father and I have all eaten here over the years.  Its a funky little spot on a wedge shaped nook of Sand just off of NE 82 , across from the Grotto.  There’s maybe 10 tables in the whole place plus a counter for smaller parties, on the weekends the wait can be seriously long.  This is old school Portland and if you are looking for something fancy or hip this is not the spot for you.  What Cameo brings to the party is good food, an eclectic menu and massive portions for a fair price.  To start with the menu is you basic diner fare but a closer look will reveal the owner’s Asian roots.  There are Korean style soups, Asian pancakes and tofu scramble available. When we went the special’s board had a kimchee omelet on it, offered without a hint of irony.

Not feeling especially brave, we chose a pair of omelets and split the difference on the sides.  What arrived at the table was a mountain of food suitable for at least three people.  The massive mound of artichoke hearts, olives, mushrooms and cheese in one omelet was barely contained by the, at least, four eggs.  The entire mass was covered in a tangy hollandaise which left a well of butter around the plate’s fringes.  Accompanying the massive egg option was a truly impressive pancake which was thick, light and drooping off the plates edges.  The second omelet was smaller than the first because it was made of a thick layer real crab, shrimp, avocado and cheese.  Incredibly rich, it was more than a match for the first omelet’s filling power especially with the addition of a pile of hash-browns (made with real potatoes not dehydrated) and two slices of the house made strong bread.  The food was delicious, filling and deeply unctuous.  We barely ate half of what we were served, washed down with bland diner coffee, and we were stuffed.  I’ve been told the owner is proud of her servings, and rightly so, while the omelets were $11 and $12 respectively they were large enough to be a great value, and if next time I split one with my dining companion it will be with the greatest of compliments and a chocolate chip pancake on the side.


~ by whatsheeats on November 4, 2010.

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