Saturday, September 15, 2012
Finding My Pappy’s - Milo's City Cafe in Portland, OR
My parents, Helzie (Mom) and Jeano (Dad), had one of the most loving relationships that I have ever seen. They somehow managed to maintain that love through raising six kids, three foster kids and on a shoestring budget. There was never much money for extras and if there was it was spent on us kids. My parents have both been gone for some time now (18 years for my Dad and 10 for my Mom) and as I grow older I think of their relationship in a new light. For example, there were two things that my Dad would always find the money for: roses (ALWAYS red) for Helzie on special occasions, and a weekly breakfast at Pappy’s, the pizza place up the street.
Pappy’s was (is) a small local place where the booths are plastic and the cold drinks are served in paper cups. My parents went there so regularly that for a few Christmases the waitresses gave them presents. They went there for their one-morning-a-week breakfasts before Jeano dropped Helzie off at work. He changed up his order from time to time while she always got two eggs over easy with bacon and home fries. When my sisters and I want to feel closer to them we do not head to the cemetery, we meet at Pappy’s for lunch or dinner (they sadly no longer offer breakfast). I never really understood their obsession with Pappy’s breakfast; it was good food but not anything really special.
Then I went to Portland, Oregon and walked into Milo’s City Cafe…..
Jay knows that one of my favorite things to do on vacation is to go out to breakfast, and it is an even bigger score if they have Eggs Benedict. He did some research and found Milo’s, it fit the criteria and was a few blocks from the hotel. The moment that we walked in it felt like home, the interior was so bright and welcoming. There were booths and tables to select from and with the cheerful “Welcome, sit where ever you like” from someone behind the counter I knew we had found a gem. Our waitress, Redd, was as sassy as could be and you could tell she genuinely loved her job. Actually everyone who worked there seemed happy, not in a fake Disney-like way but really, truly, just in a good mood.
Of course I ordered one of the Eggs Benedict dishes, and wanting to try something different I got the vegetarian version (which we didn't get a picture of) with a tomato in place of the Canadian bacon. However, after some gentle ribbing from Redd, I also got a side of their house pepper bacon. (We would later be introduced to Redd’s Bacon bibles which are a sight to see, request to see them when you go!) Both Jay and I agreed that the bacon was amazing, as was the locally handmade and grilled sausage Jay ordered. The Eggs Benedict was delightful as expected, the tomato was so flavorful and fresh with the acidity cutting through the hollandaise. Writing this I can almost taste each item as I describe it (the tell of a great restaurant). The coffee was strong and dark, real coffee, not anything fancy with froth; just simple coffee brewed well. When we left Milo’s I made Jay promise we would be back before we left Portland.
It was on our second visit that it dawned on me, I had found my Pappy’s. I was thousands of miles away from home in a place my parents had never been, but I felt them all around me. Sitting there with my Jeano (Jay) I felt a sense of connectivity to the adult that I am and the people my parents were. I was seeing them as adults with their own story, not just as my parents. This is what they felt when they walked into that place each week, they felt like in this big universe they had found their spot to just…be. Sure, the food at Milo’s is really good, fresh and very well prepared (not to mention inexpensive) but it was the whole experience that made it special. (For the record they also serve lunch and dinner.)
We shared our thoughts with our server on the second visit (Redd was not in). After telling us he would share it with the higher ups he pointed to or check…with the server name Milo clearly filled out. Connecting with him about the experience and enjoyment of it made it even more special.
It makes me sad to think that my Pappy’s is so far way but I rejoice in having found it. Far too often when we blog about food and drink we put the emphasis on the technicalities. I hope that each of you can have a moment like I did, when for some inexplicable reason you feel connected through time and space to people you have lost or memories long gone. I am forever a fan of Milo’s City Cafe and will visit each and every time I am even CLOSE to Portland. To Milo, the owner and our server, I will say that I hope you take some joy out of creating, for me, the perfect place to help me to miss my parents a little bit less. I thank you.