“Let’s go to the Observatory for a last minute birthday thing” the text said. It seemed ominous, even though it was from my good buddy and I knew it was his birthday.
The Observatory? What is that? Where is that? These are the questions which paraded through my head. I envisioned a lengthy trek over the mountains to the beautiful Oregon coast. I didn’t mind a trip to the coast, of course, but not on a school night.
Fortunately, a quick Google search showed me that the Observatory is actually a restaurant in the Montavilla Neighborhood of Southeast Portland, only about twenty minutes or so from my comfortable Cedar Hills home.
So we drove, my wife and I, west on 26, through the tunnel and through downtown. We drove up memory lane (at least for me, since I grew up in the neighborhood) and finally made it to Stark and to the unassuming structure that informed us that it housed the Observatory. We opened the door and pulled open the curtains (literally) and were ushered into another world… a world of delicious homemade cooking, local art, and a pleasing ambiance.
We found our friends and began to mingle. It was quiet, with low volume conversation and music in the background at a conversational level. But not stuffy. Quite relaxing, in fact, with the daily specials written on a mirror, with water color paintings (for sale!) of famous icons (Jimi Hendrix, Maya Angelou, Phillip Seymour Hoffman) lining the back wall, and soft tones throughout: The Observatory is as enjoyable being observed as it is in filling your tummy.
Which brings me to the food…
The Observatory opened in December 2008, with a menu intended to have something for everyone. “The Observatory does elegant dinners, quick lunches, inventive happy hour snacks, delicious cocktails and amazing desserts. The Observatory also features rotating seasonal soups and specials. The environment is sophisticated yet casual so it works for a special night out or an easy place to meet up after work.”
There is nothing particularly unusual about the menu. You can get burgers, fish n chips, fried trout, mac and cheese, chicken fried steak, and a handsome selection of wines, beers and four gigantic shelves worth of liquor. The menu doesn’t tell the story: the presentation and the taste are the real authors. This is not greasy, pub fare slapped together and thrown on a plate. No. This food attacks your taste buds with vigor, this food pleases the eyes and this food leaves no greasy residue behind. In fact, I challenge you to leave even a crumb on your plate. This made from scratch, locally sourced and organic (where possible) food will leave you drooling and ready for a return visit to both the Observatory and the Montavilla neighborhood.
The Observatory deserves to be visited by Portlanders and non-locals alike… and visited often. The Observatory is located at 8115 SE Stark in Portland, Oregon.