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Southwest comes to WL, LO

by: Vern Uyetake, Executive Chef Dan Uhl prepares a dish at the West Linn location of the Blue Sage Café. Located in the Central Village, Blue Sage offers American cuisine with a Southwest flair.

The management staff of Blue Sage Café has a lot of confidence in the residents of West Linn and Lake Oswego.

They've invested a lot in a new concept in the food service industry, and they're launching their flagship restaurant Monday in new facilities at West Linn's Central Village.

Testing the new concept further, in May another Blue Sage Café will open in Lake Oswego's Mountain Park shopping center. That restaurant will be located in a remodeled store, and will have as many amenities as West Linn.

Their research proved that at least four factors are critical to diners. Not only do they want the best quality, fresh food, but also they don't want to wait long to order, receive the food or get the bill and leave the restaurant.

They want the convenience of quick service with the amenities of an upscale sit-down restaurant.

Blue Sage Café staff intends to score big on all counts.

This new concept according to Vice President of Marketing Chris Hein, combines the style of quick-service restaurants with the quality of upscale, sit-down venues that offer memorable dining atmosphere.

'How many times have you gone to a restaurant where the hostess doesn't seat you quickly,' Hein said, 'or you're waiting for your server to come over and take your order? That's our appeal: In addition to great food, we offer guests the opportunity to eat at their pace.'

Hein says the flagship Blue Sage Cafés are being brought to West Linn and Lake Oswego by a Portland family that founded and continues to operate 30 Old Spaghetti Factory restaurants.

But the way Blue Sage is operated and the menu are a world away from Old Spaghetti Factory restaurants.

At Blue Sage, customers are greeted as they enter the restaurant, and they immediately go to a kiosk near a large tree to place their order. As soon as the order is given, a bevy of chefs begin preparing the food and a bartender begins making the beverages.

Customers take two copies of their check with them to the table, which they choose just before they are greeted by a member of the wait staff. From among the 125 seats, they may choose a booth or a table as well as the bar or the circular community table, where up to a dozen diners encircle a small central fireplace.

Beverages are then brought to the table by the server, who follows very soon with the food. The check is updated every time someone orders additional items.

'Our goal is to get the food out of the kitchen very quickly,' Hein said, 'so you won't have to wait long. And since your check is always at your table, you can leave at any time you decide. Just take the check to the cashier at the front.'

Executive Chef Dan Uhl shows a lot of pride in the Southwestern menu that he helped design. Uhl describes the cuisine at Blue Sage as 'American favorites with a Southwestern flair.'

'We're bringing to the Northwest some of the flavors of Mexico and Arizona,' Uhl said. 'We're really offering American favorites, but putting our Southwestern spin on them.'

Among Uhl's favorites is the appetizer spicy Santa Fe crab cakes, which includes Dungeness crab with a jicama mandarin salad, chipotle crema and sun-dried tomato infused oil.

He says one of the restaurant's signature entrees will be the Rio Grande top sirloin, which includes 12 ounces of Piedmontese beef, now grown in Montana, which is served with a smoked bacon potato cake, fire-roasted vegetables topped with garlic chipotle butter and toasted onion straws.

He is also proud of several pasta items, especially braised pork papardelle, which has a bed of wide ribbons of papardelle pasta covered with braised carnita-style hand-shredded pork and served in a tomato-base red-wine sauce.

Uhl also points to the signature desserts such as the Southwest chocolate cheesecake, served with a chili-infused caramel sauce and garnished with candied red peppers. The café also will soon become famous for its quintet of margaritas made with fresh ingredients including a homemade sweet and sour mix.

Think jalapeno margarita.

Blue Sage will offer lunch and dinner every day, and on Saturdays and Sundays they'll replace lunch with a special brunch.

Parents will relish the young rancher menu for kids because it's healthy food, which means nothing is deep fried in oil.

'We really went out of our way to make a good kids' menu,' Hein said, 'that will add a lot of variety for kids (ex: fresh fruit and salad).'

For its opening week, Blue Sage Café is donating a portion of its daily proceeds to three West Linn schools, each school on a separate day. To support Bolton Primary, dine April 1; to support Cedaroak Park Primary, dine April 2; and to support Athey Creek Middle School, dine April 3.

While designing this restaurant, Hein says his company purposely tried to avoid copying.

'There isn't any place with elegant ranch style like this,' Hein said. 'We want people to know that we offer a unique dining option right in their backyard. We're looking forward to being their neighborhood restaurant.'

Blue Sage at a glance:

-- Atmosphere: Elegant ranch style

-- Cuisine: American food with a Southwestern flair.

-- Locations: West Linn Central Village opens Monday. Lake Oswego's Mountain Park opens in late May.

-- Weekday hours: Lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; dinner from 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

-- Weekends: Saturday from 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; brunch served until 3 p.m. both days.

-- Prices: Range from $7 to $16.95; kids' menu, $4.95.

-- More info: Call 503-722-0077 or visit the restaurant's Web site www.bluesagecafe.com.