Following the death of Uncle George Littreal from lung cancer, my Aunt Phoebe gave up life in the logging camps and returned to the city with an exciting idea.
Sitting around our dining room table one night, she shared her thoughts with my mother. The two of them talked earnestly far into the late hours. The following morning, they announced their new partnership.
Phoebe and my mother had decided to open a restaurant!
After scouring the town for a good, low-rent location, they settled on storefront space in a drab, two-story brick building over on the west side, across the street from the Portland Civic Auditorium. A grubby little coffee shop that had once occupied the space was long gone, although fixtures’ and equipment were still in place. The building owner was growing desperate. My mother and Phoebe said he made them an offer they couldn’t refuse. The deal included painting the interior, installation of a new Frigidaire, and a low-rent lease
They named their restaurant the “Good Eats Cafe”— neatly scripted in a small circular neon sign which they hung in the front window.
As you entered the “Good Eats Cafe,” a counter with maybe eight or nine stools took up the entire left side of the room. Four, maybe five booths lined the wall along the right side. At the rear end was a small kitchen, storage space and a single toilet. That was it.
My mother handled the front end, both counter and booths at the start. Phoebe handled the kitchen. My grandfather, with an aching back and a gimpy leg, quit his WPA job and came in as part-time dishwasher and potato peeler. He alternated with a Chinese cleanup man. And when I was around, I poured water, cleared dishes or just hung out.. They kept the place open for lunch and early dinner.
Phoebe and my mother made a good, hard-working team. They enjoyed each other’s company. In the mornings, they’d work together on one big daily special. This was usually some old family favorite, such as meatloaf with mashed potatoes, or corned beef and cabbage, or chicken and dumplings, or pot roast with onion gravy. Then Phoebe would go to work, baking those magnificent fruit pies that had made her the toast of the Oregon logging camps. Apple pie was on the menu every day, along with a couple of changing fruit varieties. Once she put raisin pie on the menu. But my grandfather and I seemed to be the only ones around who appreciated it.