Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Cameo Café – Portland, OR

My friend Babo and I had made lunch plans at the previous night’s karaoke activities, so we decided to meet at this place that had been recommended to him. The Cameo Café – which Babo was amused by when I asked if it was like “Word Up” from back in the day. While spelled the same, it bore no resemblance to genius that was Cameo (the band). Babo said this place was a Korean/American Breakfast/Lunch place (yes, with the slashes included) (and he was dead on).

Chicken Little still wasn’t feeling fantastic and decided to sleep in the car while we were eating. His loss. This place deserves multiple pages of reviewing. But I’ll condense it as best I can.

First off, the place is next to the Cameo Motel, an equally run-down looking establishment with blue and white paint on the outside. Not scary run-down, more homey-run-down. We walked to the front door which is a sliding glass door like you find in your house to go out on the patio. There were all kinds of photos, articles, and awards scotch taped to the door as well, so you really couldn’t see through it that well.

We got seated by the owner who - a very friendly Korean woman named Sue Gee. Then we saw the rest of the staff. One other pretty Korean woman and then the rest of the staff looked like X-strippers (The X could stand for any integer less than 1940). These women looked rough. Prison tattoos and stretch marks in places I didn’t intend to see during brunch. REALLY rough. I did however find it amusing the short order cook was a beast of a woman and wearing a purple velvet dress shirt while cooking hashbrowns.

The menu is a bizarre mix of American greasy-spoon breakfast fare and Korean traditional dishes. Everything we ordered, the waitress commented AT LENGTH about, as if reassuring us that it would be good. ODD. Slutnik got a ginormous pancake, Gerd got a Monte Cristo, Babo got Mandu Kook Soup, and I got Bulgogi Beef. When I ordered mine, I was asked if I wanted hashbrowns or rice with mine. Seriously? I went with the rice, despite my Alabama roots.

The Monte Cristo was really good and appeared to be double thick. Not entirely deep-fried like at Bennigans, but still awesome. The pancake I assume was awesome since they usually are. Babo's soup was good, but a bit different than he expected. And my Bulgogi was great (glad I went with the rice).

The owner came over and talked to Babo in Korean for a short while and invited him back to her place (I’m totally making this up since I don’t speak Korean). She told him to go to the location closer to his house which is more of a lounge and dinner place. He was non-committal as usual. Very nice lady.

One of the harder looking waitress came over to our table and asked if we needed the ketchup bottle of raspberry goo which Gerd was using on her Monte Cristo. We didn’t even get to say yes or no before she picked it up. She looked at Gerd and Slutnik and then squirted a blast of raspberry goo right onto Slutnik’s pancake and then another blast right onto Gerd’s toast!!! Then she turned around and left with the raspberry goo. We were speechless for like 30 seconds. Never have we experienced anything like that. It was classic.

The place was decorated kind of crazy as well. A parasol was duct taped to the wall near the door. There were various ethnicities represented in the decorating scheme. Random photos on the wall and more articles. The seats we were sitting in were like the wire metal patio chairs with really small hard seats. After about 30 minutes, my ass was completely numb. Another 15 and it was painful. The restroom you had to access through the kitchen area, but it was very clean.

This place was good, but sort of bizarre. I’d kind of recommend it just for the experience and the quality of the food, but the weird factor still throws me off a bit.

Did I mention Chicken Little is still asleep in the car through all of this? Ha ha ha

Top 5 things about the Cameo Café
1. I got to sing Word Up all day
2. Super nice owner
3. Great Monte Cristo
4. Beef Bulgogi
5. I didn’t even know Babo spoke Korean!!!

Bottom 5 things
1. Kind of freakshow experience as a whole
2. Raspberry squirting stealing waitress
3. Uncomfortable seating
4. Real rough staff
5. The Mandu Kook Soup may be an imposter



librarygrrl said...

Wait, Kwang doesn't get a secret identity? Like Angry Chinese Waiter or Mr. Friendly or.....Steve? WTF?

Anonymous said...

Yeah. WTF, man. The guy least likely to share information on the net doesn't get an alias? How about "fulestro", which is the captcha that I needed to type to post this.