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New cafes make good neighbors

While Portland isn't a large enough city to support a cafe and tavern on every corner, it comes closer every day. As more neighborhoods evolve to incorporate a winsome mix of residences and commerce, entrepreneurs are catching on.

Volcanic activity

Paying direct homage to the neighborhood in name, Caldera Restaurante opened in Mount Tabor five weeks ago. (A caldera is the large crater formed by a volcanic explosion.) The intimate dinner house replaced a coffee bar in a 1910 building, making do with a small kitchen by keeping the menu simple.

Opening a restaurant is a first for husband-and-wife team Kevin and Becky Overby, but they have solid experience behind them. Kevin was a manager for McMenamins Inc. for 12 years; Becky worked in the company's corporate sales division for seven.

Kevin Overby describes the menu as 'casual, neighborhood comfort food.' It's got the prices to match Ñ entrees range from $7 to $11 Ñ but the fare is more interesting than burgers and fries. Many of the recipes come from Becky's side of the family, ranging from beef stroganoff to curried ham with pineapple over rice. Other choices include halibut with a sweet and spicy mustard sauce, linguine with clam sauce and blackened shrimp with rice.

'It's not chichi, but it's tasty,' Kevin says.

The area must be hungry for a neighborhood bistro because Caldera has been attracting plenty of customers with zero advertising. The restaurant has a full liquor license and seats 46.

Caldera Restaurante is at 6031 S.E. Stark St., 503-233-8242. Dinner is served from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday and 4 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday.

Sandwiches for all

A cafe with personality and good sandwiches is exactly the kind of place that should flourish on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

The Eastside Cafe, open three weeks, occupies a cool, high-ceiling storefront in a building that was condemned just a few years ago. Wayne and Rolanne Stafford bought the building and brought it back to life, housing their design and contracting business Armstrong Development upstairs, and renovating the ground level to house a cafe.

Tom Charette, then a server at the Veritable Quandary, responded to the Staffords' ad seeking a restaurant manager, and the Eastside Cafe started coming together. Huge windows facing the street, an exposed brick wall behind the counter and a beautifully aged wooden floor create an attractive, industrial atmosphere.

Breakfast is straight-up biscuits and gravy, eggs, pancakes and potatoes. For lunch, there's build-your-own sandwiches, a few specialty sandwiches, hot dogs and standard salads.

Eastside Cafe is at 2225 N.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 503-288-8036. It is open 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily.