Greenwood Mountain High

Quaint meets comfy on Northwest 85th.

A rosemary forest

A rosemary forest

WILD MOUNTAIN CAFɠ 1408 N.W. 85th, 297-9453, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Fri.; 8:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sat.-Sun.

Standing on the street and staring up through the tangled garden, the phrase “purple mountain majesties” wafts through a brain desperately in need of food. The peak, in this case, is a concrete house, but it is decidedly purple, and the stairs definitely fall under the mountainous heading. Can amber waves of grain and fruited plains be far behind?

Soldiering onward through a forest of fragrant rosemary and up the last flight of stairs, it already feels as if something special has been discovered. The south-facing front porch is home to three shoulder-high tables, lazily sunning themselves on a late-summer afternoon, while the windows offer vignettes of a tiny bar and a welcoming foyer with a mesmerizing display of pastries. Is that cinnamon roll calling your name? Or perhaps an old household ghost is whispering “hello”?

The Wild Mountain Caf頷ould seem a fit home for either cinnamon rolls or ghosts. Built in the early 1900s, the building’s latest remodeling began in summer of 2000, with owners Connie Stone and Roo McKenna doing much of the work themselves—everything from salvaging tiles for tabletops from Magnolia beach to turning an $11 water-bed headboard into an elegant bar back. Other restaurant menus provide elaborate descriptions about the food; Wild Mountain’s offers declarations of love for plumbers and roofers.

But what is a restaurant but a blend of practical (line cooks, licenses) and whimsy (pastry chefs, cocktails with bar monkeys)? Plumbing and roofing aside, whimsy is in full force at Wild Mountain—circus gates lead into the kitchen, painted vines twine around pillars, and food has names like “snick spin sal”and “picnic plate.” Connie and Roo put in a lot of hard work, and now, it seems, they’re here to have fun. As are you.

And mostly fun is what you’ll get. While you may have the odd wait before being seated, the servers are courteous—turning down music, procuring crayons for Junior, bringing a zingy wake-up call of a wasabi Bloody Mary ($5.25) with superhuman speed. They even manage to make the obligatory recitation of the specials cute—not through chain restaurant antics or haughty gourmet attitude, but with earnest attention and good listening.

BREAKFAST IS ONLY on weekends; it’s up to you whether to dine early with a crowd or opt for privacy and fewer food options later. With 12 inside tables (not counting the bar) spread over three rooms, you won’t feel crowded if you choose the former, but wait times for everything increase to just shy of annoying. After the rush, there’s a fair chance they’ll be out of coffee cake ($1.25), among other things, but award yourself a fat, soft cinnamon roll ($2.25) as a consolation prize—sweet indeed and good for sticky-fingered sharing. Roo’s Hometown ($7.75) is quite possibly the best breakfast mess in anyone’s hometown, with peppers, scallions, ham, and tomatoes all swirled together with well-cooked eggs and melted sharp cheddar. The cheese is a thick sauce—far richer and more cheesily luxurious than a typical breakfast scram.

Your dinner should start with the aglio olio ($8.25): A small dish of peeled, roasted garlic comes with a mound of rosemary-infused goat cheese and a stack of grilled bread slices. Think of the bread as merely a flavor-delivery system and spread both garlic and cheese thickly. Messy, yes, but warmly wonderful and pungently fragrant. The honey-drizzled fried chicken ($14.50) is a sticky surprise. Honey is an ideal foil for the peppery crust, and some sort of official proclamation is in order to ensure that fried chicken everywhere is henceforth drizzled with honey.

Alas, mixing sweet pickles and green olives into the potato salad was not a good idea, and the gummy ear of corn seemed fallen from some long-departed truck. Moxie Medley ($15.25) was a mixed blessing, with giant skewers of lamb and beef atop spicy, fully-flavored rice—a knockout if the rice hadn’t been downright crunchy. The meat, delivered by a mysterious “Billy the Meat Guy,” was gorgeously tender. (The beef had also been the recipient of a lightly sweet and pleasantly peppery marinade; your taste buds will approve.) Whoever Billy is, he does an excellent job.

MORNING OR NIGHT, take time in the midst of your meal to lean back and appreciate your surroundings. The porch has hanging baskets and those charming pillars. The front room has the cozy fireplace, molded from textured concrete and cluttered with candles. The back room (available for private parties) is graced with those pretty handmade tables.

Most importantly, every room is dressed out with diners that remind you what a great neighborhood Greenwood has become. All ages, all colors, all sexual orientations, and all variations of feeder from vegan to carnivore, enjoying the same homespun cuteness and attention to do-it-yourself detail. Sure, the plates are strictly ’70s vintage and half the silverware is stamped “Alaska Airlines,” but do we go out to eat in order to admire the table settings? Not in Greenwood, we don’t. We go for comfort, for pleasure, and, maybe, a glimpse of that mysterious Meat Guy.

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing