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OC's Just a Bite Cafe now open in two locations

The cafe is called Just a Bite, but customers receive a lot more than one bite. In fact, they receive all the affection that owner Lori Reyes and her family can serve up.

by: PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Lori Reyes, left, and daughter, Liz Reyes, make a point of hand tearing freshly cut lettuce, before using it in salads and sandwiches.And then there are the soups, sandwiches and pastries, all homemade, and, of course, gallons and gallons of coffee.

There are now two Oregon City Just a Bite cafes — the newest one just opened in February inside the Clackamas County Development Services Building, 150 Beavercreek Road. The original site is located across the street from the Oregon City Post Office on Molalla Boulevard.

The Reyes family bought the first site two years ago from Jack Robeson, the original owner of His Bakery. He had moved to the Molalla Boulevard space in November of 2011, and still partners with the Reyes family.

“He does all the baking, the cakes, pastries and bread, while we do all the rest,” said Liz Reyes, 23, Lori’s daughter.

“And he mentors us, since we are first-time business owners,” she said, adding that her first job was at His Bakery, when she was 19. Robeson still owns a His Bakery location at Southeast 72nd Avenue and Woodstock Boulevard in Southeast Portland.

All of this goes toward explaining why the space on Molalla bears two names: His Bakery and Just a Bite.

Clackamas County hookup

It was Robeson who suggested that Liz and Lori Reyes connect with the county. A short time later they filled out a 25-page proposal to open a cafe at the DSB site. The county also made it clear they were interested in a cafe that could supply gluten-free food and other healthy options.

“They also wanted to know our sustainability and recycling policies,” Liz Reyes said.

In November 2013, the two women found out they were chosen to move into the DSB space, which they did last month.

The enterprise is a family effort: Lori mostly works at the original location, while her son, Erik, 19, and Liz run back and forth between the sites.

“We are lucky to have Patty Mouser as our manager at the DSB cafe. She is so dependable, while Erik and Liz are both strong baristas, and Liz is a rock-star sandwich maker,” Lori Reyes said.

She added that her other son, Robbie, who is in the National Guard, helps out when he can, as does her husband.

There has been a learning curve, figuring out how to keep two cafes running at the same time, and has been more work than they thought it would be, Liz Reyes said.

“Our first week at the county we blew a fuse, since we had too many things plugged in,” her mother said.

“But everyone has been so patient with us as we get used to a new kitchen,” Liz Reyes said.

Because workers at the DSB location have short breaks and are always busy, the hardest thing to get used to was the “grab-and-go mentality,” Lori Reyes said, adding that the atmosphere at the original site is much more laid-back and relaxed.

But then again, the busy customer base has allowed the two women to come up with new options like yogurt cups, fruit and vegetable plates and a protein plate, complete with a hard-boiled egg and cheese slices. They also serve pre-made sandwiches, with chips and a cookie, in addition to sandwiches made to order.

The two women knew they would be serving a lot more coffee at the DSB location, so they held a coffee tasting, and Bridgetown Coffee was the big winner. Even people who were not coffee drinkers participated in the vote, they said.

Another difference between the two sites is that at the DSB location the two women serve scones, muffins and cookies, while the original site is known for its homemade pies and fancy decorated cakes.

The chow

Customers who come into the original Just a Bite Cafe will immediately notice that there is a corner with comfy chairs, dedicated to Lori’s mother, Betty Hiltz, who died two years ago.

“Betty taught my mom to cook, and mom taught me,” Liz Reyes said, adding that the two women use family recipes, especially when they make soup from scratch.

Favorites include an Irish chicken soup with cabbage, a cheese chowder and an autumn bisque with a pumpkin base.

The most popular sandwich at either location is the gobbler, with turkey, bacon, cranberries, cream cheese, lettuce and tomato.

In addition, the two women are very aware of food allergies, so they partnered with a gluten-free bakery and nearly all their soups are gluten-free.

What Liz Reyes likes best about her job is working with customers and getting to know the people who come in.

“There is such a community in Oregon City and everyone is so nice,” she said.

Her mother agrees, adding that she appreciates the way her regulars support the cafes and each other. She returns the favor by making a point to use local businesses for banking, and purchasing appliances and produce.

She also provides day-old pastries to the Pioneer Center, Teen Challenge and to several local churches.

Liz Reyes pointed out they are grateful for the support of the county.

She added, “It has opened the door for catering orders.”

Her mother noted that the cafe will supply the pastry and fruit trays for 250 people for an upcoming county-employee appreciation day.

And for those wondering what the sandwich special is for March, that would be a Reuben sandwich that would make St. Patrick happy.

Just a Bite Cafe

What: Just a Bite Cafe opens second location

Where: DSB site, 150 Beavercreek Road, Oregon City

Hours: 6:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday

Original site: 19273 Molalla Ave., Ste. C, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday

Contact: Call 503-518-0110 (Molalla Boulevard location), 503-742-5330 (DSB location) or visit the website at justabitecafe.com for menus and prices.



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