Have you eaten at Our Café? Few stories are more inspirational than those that follow the arc of a dream. Stories of people who have a vision for their future. People who do what it takes to turn those dreams – that vision – into reality.
This is exactly the story you’ll find when you visit Our Café in Banks, Oregon. It’s the story of Matt Farag and his wife Melissa Nash Farag, who set out with their family to realize a dream.
About Our Café
From Portland to Banks Banks, Oregon, population 1,860, is a quaint, one-stoplight town that sits just off Highway 26 in Washington County. It’s just the type of place you may find yourself in as you need a refreshment on your way to a beach day in Seaside or Tillamook.
Sitting just on the outskirts of the Willamette Valley’s fertile wine country, Banks also makes a great launching point as you set about on a day of wine tastings.
Settled on Main Street, just a couple blocks away from that stoplight, Our Café now stands out as the diner in Banks – though that wasn’t always the case. The building had been more of a coffee shop, serving either a prime rib or spaghetti dinner only two nights a week. Then it closed.
In the meantime, the Farags made their way from California to Portland with a dream of opening a food cart, then later a brick-and-mortar restaurant. After working for decades working in the restaurant industry, Matt was ready to strike out on his own.
When they got here, Matt got a job at the downtown staple Mama Mia’s and the family immediately began saving for the food cart. While there, he met someone through a friend who was selling a closed restaurant. The land also had a house sitting next to the restaurant. Jokingly, Matt made a comment about buying it, then laughed it off and forgot about it.
“But we went to the house a few more times and it started eating at us,” Melissa says.
A month went by before they finally decided to approach the man selling the property. “One night it sort of just clicked. Why not?” Matt says. “I’m tired of working for somebody else. I’m tired of always being told what to do.”
Although moving into a brick-and-mortar first was contrary to his plan, plans adapt. “Why not start here and then open the food truck in Portland?” He asks.
Fortunately, Melissa’s mother, Ellie Dellie, stepped in with both some much-needed investment and a deft hand at breakfast (she makes the delicious bisuits and gravy), so the couple took the plunge. Moving to a city of less than 2,000 people, 17 minutes from the farthest reaches of Portland Metro, would be no easy decision for many, but for the Farags it was no big thing.
“It’s still probably a little bit more city than we wanted,” Melissa says with a laugh.
Why Our Café?
A True Restaurant Now that they’ve arrived, with a house to fit them and their two kids, and a restaurant for Matt to call his own, Our Café has transformed from the previously-named Banks Café – little more than a glorified coffee shop – into a true restaurant.
With a full kitchen, the Farags have expanded to breakfast, lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday and brunch on Sunday. Now they’re focused on getting the word out.
“This place was closed for six months,” Matt says. “And before that it didn’t even serve dinner. So we not only want people to know we’re open, but that we are serving a full menu.”
The aforementioned full menu follows the same tried-and-true Oregon principles as some of the priciest fine-dining eateries Portland has to offer.
“I want to serve food that I make. Not some canned crap,” Matt asserts. “If we are going to live in a small town, I want to source from that small town, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
“Our berries come from just down the street,” Melissa interjects.
They even go so far as to offer Portland Ketchup, which is quite possibly the best compliment for a pile of delicious French fries.
On a warm summer afternoon, you may consume those fries alongside the Porky’s Revenge. In what is surely a meat-lover’s nirvana, this monster of a sandwich consists of a third-of-a-pound brisket chuck patty, a pile of slow-braised pulled pork, a few slices of thick Carlton Farms bacon, and a slice of pepper jack cheese. Blanketing the beast is a heaping of house-made barbecue sauce and nitro aioli.
If your comfort food bone still isn’t satiated, try the pork belly mac n’ cheese. Slow-braised pork belly is served with penne pasta, creamy gouda and crunch pork “croutons.”
Stop in for dinner for the pan seared salmon with parmesan and truffle risotto and asparagus. The salmon, wild caught and local, is cooked to perfection and seasoned beautifully.
With such an array of first-class cooking on display, the small town of Banks is now home to a culinary master the likes of which it hasn’t hosted before. Our Café is your café, and from the looks of it, it’s here to stay.
“The people are really friendly,” Matt says.
“And the kids really love it here,” Melissa finishes.
It’s the kind of story that gives you hope for dreams unrealized. No matter what you want to do, you can do it. Our Café and the Farag family are living proof of that.
Our Café is open Tuesday through Thursday from 6:00am to 7:00pm. On Friday and Saturday, they are open until 8:00pm. Join them on Sunday from 10:00am to 3:00pm. They can be reached at 503.922.9444 or by visiting their Facebook page.
William Bessette – PortlandMetroLive.com Contributor
William Bessette is a published author, poet and longtime journalist who has been covering politics, entertainment, culture and travel for over twelve years. He currently works from his home in the Pacific Northwest profiling restaurants, reviewing local plays and reporting on regional, national and international travel.