A couple of factors dovetailed in my opinion such that checking out Northern Cafe seemed was the perfect thing to do last Thursday:
- we were headed to Ikea just across the bridge right after
- it seemed like the IGers (I follow) hadn’t been there yet so it made me feel ahead of the game – I’m not an IGer even
- with Chinese and Western dishes, there would be something to match our mood
- with my background with parents running a Chinese-Western restaurant for over 30 years (a fraction of this establishment, open since 1949), it’s “research”, something I can tell my parents about
There are lots of instructions on how to get to the restaurant which is on the second level of building that is mostly used for the adjacent lumber company. It’s pretty clear that you can’t park in the lumber yard but I was terribly nervous parking outside the lumber yard with signs on the posts that say it’s for Northern Lumber customers and employees. Do Northern Cafe customers count? We arrived at 12:30 on a Thursday during March/Spring break for kids and waited under 40 minutes for a table.
The ceilings are probably between 6 and 7 feet and there are 9 classic red booth seatings which could fit 4 each (snugly) and a long table seating maybe 10. You can imagine that if it was not a restaurant, it was the lumber yard’s boss’ office, a spacious one if with a low ceiling – that the kind of space that became a ~50 seat restaurant. The kitchen is I think what they call a galley, a long shape that folds on itself and our booth was right next to the “server counter” and a fridge from where the drinks were retrieved. Bathrooms were in a narrow hallway between the stairs going up to the restaurant and the dining room and thankfully we didn’t have to visit for Kiddo still wants me to accompany him. He kept saying when we were in that hallway, that it felt like we were on an airplane. The black and white checker dining floor is sloped but all said, it felt clean enough to be comfortable.
About 6 people were working the kitchen – I think 1of them may not have been Chinese. It could still be family-run for all I know and I heard them speaking in Cantonese.
The whiteboard of Chinese specials was on the wall just in front of me so I was studying it while Kiddo played on my phone while the food was being prepared. I decided on a wonton soup because I didn’t want to order rice-and-something and fried rice started at $15. There was a Sweet & Sour (or Dry Garlic) Pork and Chow Mein and steamed rice combo but I didn’t want Chow Mein. I was upsold to a “war wonton soup” which has vegetables and BBQ pork. Kiddo – I swear he said it earlier – wanted a cheeseburger and that’s what I ordered but when it arrived he said he wanted a chicken burger. (Ugh.)
The cheeseburger: the patty could have been more seasoned but it was a good size and I liked the fries were fried well. Kiddo being anti-protein sources, barely ate the patty and ate the rest of the burger.
The wonton soup and spring roll: I’m just super accustomed to my mother telling me how her ingredients are real and fresh and intact. So, the spring roll seemed to be only vegetables and they had a tart taste. I can’t complain about the filling too much but it was burned. The wonton filling was a bit blended (mushy) and I’m guessing it was pork and I would not have picked out the shrimp except that I saw intact shrimp in one of them. The BBQ pork was super lean and they used a wheat-noodle that had an after-taste that wasn’t unpleasant to me.
So I thought it would be neat to bring my father to the restaurant when he visits – maybe I still will – but it’s more for kicks than for him to enjoy excellent food or food that surprised you. Between Kiddo and me, we surely did not explore the menu much. There are classic breakfast options which MY said she would have ordered but I figured that if just two dishes, and Kiddo staked a claim on the burger, that I had to try something Chinese.