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Weekend! Food: Taste

Sagittarius shows all signs of becoming an old favorite
by: ©2006 DAVID PLECHL, Now going into its second year, Sagittarius Cafe keeps the customers coming — and coming back — with great service, satisfying entrees and solid ambience. Here, co-owner Mike Clark stirs up a drink.

Sagittarius Cafe (2710 N. Killingsworth St., Suite B, 503-289-7557) is not a spot for snooty foodies. The menu doesn't include crispy sweetbreads or truffles or artisan bread. It doesn't change weekly, and the wine list isn't unusual.

This is essentially a mom-and-pop neighborhood restaurant. But if you're in the mood for decent food and drinks in a cool setting with good music and excellent service, I think it's worth a drive across town.

Sagittarius offers basic pub food (burgers, sandwiches and salads) with a few clever variations. Entrees include some really satisfying dishes like perfectly creamy Parmesan-cheddar macaroni and cheese topped with freshly chopped rosemary.

My favorite is the coconut-curry lime chicken with vegetables served over couscous. There's nothing subtle or nuanced about it - it's just tasty, and spicy, too.

My friend loved the crispy and rich quesadilla with black beans, jack cheese and avocado. Sagittarius also serves a mean beer-battered halibut fish and chips with dill tartar sauce and mango chutney.

Vegetarians will find several options, including a deep-fried veggie burger.

This space is colorful and small with just a few tables and a bar that seats eight. The colors are red, orange and a vibrant rose.

On one wall is a giant mural of the restaurant's name in a calligraphic script. Four 1960s-style, bright orange fishbowl-shaped lights hang from the ceiling. The atmosphere is casual, relaxed and cool. It has the feel of a restaurant attached to a music club.

The service at Sagittarius really stands out. That's probably because the servers usually are the owners, husband and wife Mike and Robin Clark. Both work very hard; you won't have to wait for menus, food, drinks or your check.

The Clarks opened Sagittarius just over a year ago. Before that Robin waited tables at Papa Haydn and Cup and Saucer, and Mike worked at the Multnomah County Library. He also is a musician who plays with Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks.

Opening the restaurant was a good gamble. 'It pays our mortgage,' Mike Clark says.

He adds that there are 'a lot of neighborhood regulars, but we still see people coming in for the first time.' I think most of them will be back.

The restaurant is closed Tuesdays, mostly because the Clarks don't like to miss Tuesday trivia night at Beulahland.

Sagittarius is open 11 a.m. to midnight Wednesday through Monday.

• • •

Over on Northeast Sandy Boulevard, another restaurant is about to observe its first anniversary. On Saturday, Oct. 7, Ohana Hawaiian Cafe (6320 N.E. Sandy Blvd., 503-335-5800) celebrates one year in business with live Hawaiian music and hula dancing.

The anniversary also features a special luau menu Saturday with dishes like chicken long rice. The cafe is thanking customers with free Hawaiian desserts while supplies last. Ohana is open for lunch and dinner 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

• • •

There's a newcomer on Southeast Division Street. Sckavone's (4100 S.E. Division St., 503-235-0630) opened Sept. 17. The restaurant-bar is owned by John Finley, grandson of Nick Sckavone, whose name is well-known to anyone familiar with the history of Portland sports.

In addition to being instrumental in bringing amateur and semiprofessional baseball teams to Portland, Sckavone owned and operated a pharmacy and soda fountain at the intersection of Southeast Division Street and 41st Avenue from 1934 to 1975.

In 1947, it was moved from across the street into the space that now houses Sckavone's. After the pharmacy closed, several other businesses leased the space, but the Sckavone family never sold the property.

Now Sckavone's, which according to chef-manager Angelo Pisano, serves 'classic American and comfort food' has opened in the space serving breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week.

Hours are 8 a.m. to midnight weekdays and 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. weekends.

• • •

Also in Southeast, Chef Tucker's Patisserie (3257 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd., 503-238-2600) is scheduled to open in the old Calendula spot the third week of this month.

Chef Tucker Mortensen is a local boy who trained for three years in France before returning home and working at St. Honoré Boulangerie and Papa Haydn.

The patisserie will serve pastries and coffee and limited breakfast and lunch menus. Eventually it will add even more pastries to the menu and maybe offer dinner.

Currently the Web site, www.cheftucker.com, is geared toward Mortensen's catering business, but you can see photos there of some of his beautiful pastries.

The patisserie will be open 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday to start.

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