Make Your Belly Smile
Open Daily, the Fuel Café (1452 NE Alberta St.) sits on the corner of Alberta revving guests with jugs of coffee and breakfasts. The owner Kevin, might be one of the last survivors from days gone by on Alberta. He grew up in this “when times were tough” neighborhood and has returned to run this restaurant he likes to refer to as “comfortable.” His mother still lives a few blocks away and is happy he came back before this location was lost to the new tenants peppering this reinvigorated area. For the last five years Kevin has called Fuel Café home. During recent years he has navigated the new Alberta amongst the many competitors who might be known for their dog-friendly service, or for any number of mad, unproven dining experiments that keep Portland bubbling to the top of food destinations. Although Fuel Café has a great many regulars, it’s also noticed by others for recognizable breakfast and lunch menu options. When you’ve perused the selections, you just know the All American Breakfast goes great with a red beer on any day you can get away with it, or that the Dutch Baby Waffle similarly deserves a Mimosa at its side. After you’ve visited Fuel Café you will want to eat here as often as possible unless you are looking for a “cathedral for fine dining.” With breakfast for under $10 it makes the decision even easier. “We want our prices to be reasonable so people can eat here any time they please without worrying about breaking into the laundry money,” Kevin laughs. “People want to wear clean cloths too.”
The caramelized, sweet, warm flavor of real maple syrup swirls into fluffy-pillowed waffle divots that may also host layers of crispy bacon, eggs from Kevin’s own hens, or fresh fruit and cream. Behind the coffee bar, friendly smiling staff members serve up huge hot mugs of coffee drinks that pay homage to Portland’s proud coffee-centric crazies. And it’s good. The inside has that classic California vibe you’d find in Haight- Ashbury, or that little hidden spot just down from U.C. Medical Center that really only the locals know, but wait, you’re in PDX, Being on Alberta, the street of gentrification, an action packed eating destination known for brunches and free spirited chefs recognized for creating trends, writing cookbooks, but never following a recipe. Inside Fuel Café, haphazard tables beckon for friends to join one another over several lunch dishes best described as a “melting pot on a plate.” Fuel Café is one of very few African American owned restaurants locally. Kevin himself is married to an Italian, and the chefs are all Hispanic. Sitting down together they discuss menu ideas and the culturally-driven group members throw in their own ethnic additions anytime it seems feasible. Noshing here is so pleasant you immediately think about coming back to try the dish your friend is eating. Like pennies in a pocket tumbling through fingers, the joyful flavor options jump willy-nilly across Fuel Café’s menu whilst allowing you to eat well and still keep enough change for an extra dry.