Of Ham and Ghosts… or Food on the Fly: Joe Brown’s Cafe – Vancouver, WA

jbcafe1Usually, this is where our foodie-in-chief E.S. Norton would opine about the latest and greatest in culinary discoveries, but he was kind enough to share the digestive spotlight and thus you now get to hear about what I had for breakfast.

Because I don’t have what one would call a “normal job”, with “normal hours”, I get to spend a considerable amount of time parading around town, looking every bit as important as a homeless stockbroker.  Sometimes, I get hungry.  Which is what happened to me yesterday; and throwing caution to the wind I chose to visit Joe Brown’s Cafe, located conveniently on 817 Main Street, in Vancouver, WA.

jbcafe2The cafe’s exterior and interior are simple in their timelessness.  After all, Joe’s has been around since the late 30’s, and is one of the staples of the local food scene.  When you walk in, the combination of framed black and whites of space-age cars from the 1950s and of a younger Joe Brown transform you to another era, perhaps a simpler era, of bar-stool diners and Oldsmobilles.  Staying true to its decor, the menu is filled with your basic staples.  Because this morning I was only interested in an omelette, a Denver omelette to be precise, I didn’t bother going through the whole menu.  Maybe next time.  Pro Tip:  this place is always busy (I have walked by it numerous time in the morning) during the morning rush, so get here early and grab a seat; otherwise you’re sitting at the bar.

So, back to the omelette.  The 4-egg, ham, green pepper and onion caloric extravaganza was one of the best I’ve ever had.  The eggs were fluffy and melted in your mouth.  The ham and other innards were proportionately added so as not to overwhelm the eggs in size and taste.  The hash browns were just right – not too crispy and not too soft, with a perfect blend of salt.  Naturally, I had a choice of toast – I went with wheat (because I like to pretend that eating wheat bread will offset the 2000-calorie main dish I just greedily shoved down my gullet).  Other bread choices include white, sourdough and rye (there might be one more I left out – I was too hungry to remember them all).

Because I was late to the party, I ended up sitting at the bar next to a man from jbcafe3Wisconsin, who appeared to be a regular, and who – like me – also didn’t find that day’s newspaper to be filled with anything new and interesting.  We traded stories about the North/Midwest/Great Lakes/Frozen Tundras of Wisconsin and Michigan, and about our favorite football teams – yes, he is a Packers fan, and yes he has one of those worthless “ownership certificates” that everyone in Green Bay got for being CHEEEEZEHEADS.  I wanted to have a peaceful morning, so I didn’t bother bringing up the “Hail Mary” game against Seattle (sometimes I make wise choices, albeit rarely).  As we continued bantering back-and-forth, our waitress, whose name now escapes me, joined in as we began discussing the cafe’s old-timey-and-yet charming decor.  The waitress then proceeded to explain to us that every single one of the frames hanging on the walls hung crooked, and that no matter how many times the staff straightened them out the frames ended up crooked just as quickly.  Apparently once, during a typical morning rush, a large picture even flew off the wall, unprovoked, and landed in a customer’s lap.  She also mentioned some things about flying pens and rolls of paper towels, but by that point we had already come up with a theory that involved an angry or mischievous ghost of Joe Brown.

After finishing up my umpteenth cup of coffee and wishing my new breakfast friend a good day, I slowly walked to the door, still trying to process all that just happened.  Most importantly, however, I was just thankful for Joe Brown and his entrepreneurial spirit, and for all the Joe Browns out there who had an idea and the will to put together something that eight decades later still brings people together over a hot cup of joe and an omelette to share not just their stories, but also a few minutes of their life with one another.  So, if you’re ever in Vancouver, WA, stop by Joe Brown’s Cafe and you too may find a friend and a new story to tell.

~ TheRealThirtyMinuteAbs ~

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Categories: Food on the Fly

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