The Block House Cafe – Dayton

I woke up super early on Sunday determined (since I’d volunteered to switch my on-call time with my co-worker) to visit one new place for breakfast and get a story written – before my on-call started at ten am.  The place I’d chosen was the Block Cafe located in Dayton.  It’s a bit east and south of Lafayette and on this particular Sunday I asked my friend B if he’d like to join me, which he usually was up for so, I drove to Forest Grove and picked him up and headed to Dayton.  The drive was pretty nice.  Since it was a bit of a journey I decided to drive the 300 – yeah, I know I should have driven the bronco, but I don’t like putting too many miles on it and I need to swap out that alternator for the new high-powered one that I got.  Anyhow, The drive is pretty nice and is on a route that I haven’t driven too many times before.

As I arrived I saw the block house – it’s a converted church – which is amazing.  It’s got quite a bit of parking but must be super popular since there wasn’t much parking left close to the front door even at this hour, which was around quarter to eight in the morning on a Sunday, there was plenty of parking across the street though.  The Block House cafe is located in what was originally the first baptist church of Dayton which was built in eighteen eighty-six.  The sign for the cafe is a large wooden square with big white letters that looks very modern and classy.  It immediately sets the tone for a very high end experience at the Block House cafe.  There’s a beautifully done bronze and brass plaque outside the building commemorating it’s membership into the historic registry.  The exterior ambiance of the Block House Cafe is very elegant and well done, there are blocks rather than concrete near the parking area and the lights on the outside on either side of the front door reminded me of globe lights from the fifties.  If you look up before entering you’ll see an inlay commemorating the original building date (eighteen eighty-six).

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As soon as I got in I was greeted by our waitress, Dawn – who was the sweetest person ever.  She guided B and I to an empty table and was very quick to ask what we’d like to drink – B got his usual coffee and I got my normal iced tea.  I did notice that around two thirds of the tables were full even at quarter to eight in the morning – and they had opened only about forty-five minutes ago.  The glasses were great – what seemed like small mason jars with handles on the side and suited the esthetic on the inside quite well.  The iced tea was wonderful – it tasted like it was made the way I make mine, made in large batches then very quickly cooled – with ice, it has a different flavor (and is stronger) than normal fridge cooled iced tea and I try to make a couple of gallons a week.  Yeah, that’s caffeine addiction for ya.   I took another look around and noticed how beautiful the tables and furniture were.  The chairs were nicely cushioned and dark wood which accented the light color tables quite well.  The hardwood floor was a honey color and likely original to the building, however I couldn’t be sure, it looked old but well taken care of.  The wainscoting on the walls were in two different layers; dark on the bottom layer, light grey in the middle and white on top to a very high ceiling.  The ceiling was so high in fact that the room seemed more like a square than anything else.

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Near the back is a large counter where more high seats are – at least nine or ten to add to the thirty or so spots at normal height tables for folks to sit at.  The back wall is completely bricked to match the exterior and there is a large mirror and elegant display that holds wine, glasses and other items.  In the back corner opposite the door is the pay area and is mostly invisible for folks dining, so most people don’t notice it’s there.  Past this pay area is a nice hallway leading to bathrooms and the kitchen area and to a door that will lead to the outside seating area (when the weather is cooperating a little more).

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Now that I’d stopped looking around I finally had a chance to look at the menu – there were quite a few amazing looking items on it.  I decided upon – you guessed it – chicken fried steak, my favorite and B decided on a scramble with added mushrooms.  Dawn came by and got our orders (she agreed with my choice of the chicken fried steak – and even agreed with my request to put the gravy on the side, it’s so you can dip the pieces of the chicken fried steak in it – something B always rolled his eyes at when I order it.  Dawn said how good the chicken fried steak was at the Block House Cafe – another point for her!) and refilled my glass again, like I said, super sweet.

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The only problem – as B pointed out was that every surface in the Block House Cafe is a hard surface and even in the early morning with a pretty hushed crowd it was a little tough to have a conversation there.  I couldn’t think of anything that could be done to change the design without sacrificing the looks of the place, so it’s a difficult issue, however it is an issue, so I thought I’d point it out.  Pretty soon Dawn delivered our breakfast and it was just as fantastic looking as Dawn had said.  I was definitely not disappointed in my selection.  It was exactly as I’d requested – the gravy was think and hot and on the side – just as I’d requested, the freshly prepared potatoes were perfectly cooked and crispy, and the eggs were actually over medium, something most places seem to have a tough time doing.  B reported that his scramble was absolutely delicious as well.

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As we were finishing up one of the other customers who had overheard Dawn talking to me about this site came over and gave me a piece of literature that wasn’t on my table regarding the church building.  Among lots of other fascinating information I learned that the tables we were sitting at were originally the floor joists for the church and were trees that were cut down over one hundred twenty-eight years ago.  Incredible!

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As we were leaving Dawn mentioned that there is an outside seating area that will be used once the weather improves.  I decided that would be a great place to get a few pictures.  It was a fantastic spot.  Bricks on the ground trees growing and placed strategically to somewhat separate dining parties, lots of native grasses bordering the area around the spots where the tables will be set, and a really nice water feature.  I couldn’t wait until the weather clears enough to be able to enjoy a meal like lunch at the Block House Cafe.

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I walked across the street from the Block House Cafe because there is an old house/building there.  While I was walking I got a nice view of the Block House Cafe – it really is a nice beautiful old building.  I turned around again and realized I was looking at a mid-nineteenth century fort that must have been located nearby.  There are two large placards on the side of the fort explaining why it’s there and what purpose it served while it was being used.  The  placards also explain why it is the shape it is.  If you stay on the path around the park there is a large sign that explains quite a bit about the history of the courthouse square park.  Past the sign there is a large rock that has a brass plaque on it which was placed in nineteen seventy-one and also honors Joel Palmer.

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The really cool thing about visiting the Block House Cafe is that it’s located in this vintage church – something that’s fairly popular on the east coast and in the midwest but something I’ve never seen here in Oregon.  That, and when you visit the Block House Cafe you also get to visit Fort Yamhill at it’s new location in the Dayton courthouse park.  Overall it’s a four a half Heywillamette experience with the only detractor being the somewhat loud acoustics in the Block House Cafe – I’m not sure it’s something that can be helped at all, and I certainly don’t have any suggestions, and to be honest, the service (Dawn was amazing!!), the ambiance and the quality the food more than make up for the possibility of any difficulties you might have with conversation there.

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