For the last several years, the Daily Cafe in the Pearl has anchored the corner of NW 13th & Kearney. Until recently, the site has witnessed the streetplay of vehicles and potholes large enough to swallow the smaller cars. With the improvement of 13th, the segment between Johnson and Lovejoy is dug up and closed to traffic. Protective fencing stands guard against intrepid pedestrians. I'm told construction hijinks will continue for another month or three.
Pearl dwellers and visiting groovatons may be rejoicing at the modernization. Not so the operators of the Daily, I fear. The place is inaccessible except to those intent on getting there. On this Saturday night, over the 90 minutes between 5:30 and 7, there were seven of us. (Another couple dropped by, but they just wanted directions to someplace else.)
My daughter and I enjoyed our burgers and fries. The former comprising Painted Hills ground beef combined with just a bit of onion and cooked to order. Gracie's burger was 8 year-old plain, with meat and bun jazzed solely by a slice of cheddar. Mine was according to the menu, with a half-leaf of romaine, red onion, garlic aioli, gruyere and tomato jam. The chutney-like jam included ginger, garlic, cumin, cinnamon, brown sugar and honey. It worked well with the meat and was pleasant on the tongue, though a bit sweet. The fries were above average--pale, thin, al dente, marred only by oversalting.
This degree of simplicity is the extreme, but treatments toward the same end of spectrum are the Daily's strength. I could have chosen from among three or four salad options, including a ceasar and a "deconstructed" Greek. Appealing entrees included pork roast and turkey breast preparations. There were cookies, cupcakes or a root beer float for dessert or, what I had, the affagato. Another deconstruction, I was served a plate holding a small bowl of vanilla ice cream, and lesser vessels of broken bits of hard crack cooked sugar, shaved chocolate, whipped cream and a shot of fresh-brewed espresso. Putting it all together was cheap entertainment, but enjoyable nonetheless. It tasted fine too.
The setting at the Daily is as unfussy as the food. The dining room is cement surfaces, cheap orange and green chairs and simple, uncrowded tables in four-tops and twos. Some nice art on the walls, perhaps courtesy of the PNCA across the street, rounds out the look. Our server was a sweet, willowy young woman. Her earrings were pretty as was she (OK, my mind wandered briefly). I imagined she would be as helpful and composed under pressure as she was dealing with a slightly fussy kid and not much to do. She handed us a bill for $28 which included my bubbly water and Gracie's milk. I'd give the food here a solid B, overall value a B+.
Even if it's not at the top of the charts, the Daily is the kind of steady, easygoing and inexpensive place the Pearl needs. It would be a shame to see it disappear with the potholes.
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