I decided to visit Mary’s Kitchen this morning, and even though it isn’t exactly as far as I normally like to go in my wanderings around the Willamette Valley, I thought it still fulfilled the requirement of actually being geographically located within the area of the Willamette Valley, but I digress. Mary’s Kitchen is just as I remembered when I first dined here, at least ten years ago. Maybe more like twelve or thirteen years ago. It’s still located in Cornelius on the south side of Tualatin Valley Highway between Forest Grove and Hillsboro.
The first thing I noticed when I arrived was the incredible hours that Mary’s Kitchen is open. I later learned the main reason, but for now I was just stunned to find out that their hours are 3:30am – 2:00pm. It’s normal I suppose for many places to be open for just breakfast and lunch, but I’ve hardly ever heard of an establishment opening at 3:30am. I also noticed just before opening the door that they don’t accept any debit or credit cards – this was a bit of a disappointment for me as I hardly ever carry cash – inevitably it seems to burn a hole in my pockets, so I had to go back to the Seven-Eleven and get forty dollars out of the ATM, which was fine, no big worries. The front has modest parking and large signage that is difficult to miss from the road. It’s clearly marked and when I arrived at 8:30 there was plenty of parking and I found a spot in the front.
The staff when I arrived was super friendly and the other customers all seemed to know one another. They were all talking to one another and enjoying their coffee and breakfasts. I found a spot near the window where I could look around at the incredible atmosphere and peruse the menu – the nice thing is that there are menus at the tables already – something I particularly like. Something I should mention – even though I’ll mention it again I’m sure is that the prices listed on the menu are the actual prices. The breakfasts are very reasonably priced. I’ve never been to an establishment where my favorite (chicken fried steak) is less than twelve or thirteen dollars at least. Here is is under eight dollars.
The waitress came around and I ordered my favorite (of course you did!) then took another look around. There is an enormous variety – I mean as many as a normal human being can imagine in one area (outside of Graceland itself), of Elvis paraphernalia on the walls. More than can easily be comprehended actually. It takes some time to drink it all in. Several customers – when they are done with their dining wander around looking at the items on the walls, occasionally snapping pictures. It’s not quite shrine like, but one can easily imagine somebody taking years to accumulate this much material.
While waiting for my breakfast to arrive, I struck up a conversation with a customer who moved here in 1989 and has been coming here for years – his comment was “prices are from the 80’s” and “It was so full last Saturday I had to go somewhere else”. I asked him what time, and he said it was around 9am. He also said that “Many farmers eat breakfast here,” which likely explain the very early hours.
In addition to all of the Elvis paraphernalia and kitsch everywhere – also teddy bears. One shelf is in fact completely full of ceramic teddy bear items. Completely full. There are also larger teddy bears in some of the corners, so the general esthetic might be considered a little confusing, but I thought it was charming.
My food arrived and I was very impressed – obviously everything was home cooked. The gravy was homemade and just as I liked. The Chicken Fried Steak had a great coating that wasn’t too crispy and obviously wasn’t frozen or pre-made. The hash browns were shredded from potatoes (from what I could tell) minutes ago. Everything was super delicious. Also, there is free coffee with breakfast!! There are several self-serve refill stations around the restaurant which are refilled quite often by the staff.
In looking around again I noticed that there is a drugstore-type communal counter. Where several folks are sitting and have struck up conversations. As I counted there is seating for around fifty diners, and on every table prominently displayed is an announcement that Mary’s Kitchen is celebrating it’s twenty-ninth anniversary, so obviously they are doing something right!
Overalll I give Mary’s Kitchen 4.5 Hey Willamettes with .5 away for not taking debit or credit cards but 1 whole additional Hey Willamette given for the sheer volume of Elvis items so Mary’s Kitchen earns a staggering 5.5 Hey Willamettes overall.