Reviewed by Salem Man 4/5/8
So many people have been talking about Off Center Cafe I was excited to give it a try. To start with, the name is just perfect for a place that's just a stone's throw from the Oregon State Hospital, the forensic psychiatric facility made famous by the 1975 film One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest starring Jack Nicholson. From the outside it looks like your run of the mill diner with a bright sign directing you into the front door. As soon as I walked in, the sense I got was that this place is dirty. A circle of flies buzzed over one of the tables at the front of the restaurant where plates with breakfast crumbs lay in wait for a server to clean. I looked to my wife and said "if you want to go let's go." Before we could do a 180, a server led us to a corner table where a hole in the wall above our heads looked into the kitchen. We quickly found out that this window was how the dirty dishes were brought back to be cleaned. Yuck. But we still sat there and found ourselves looking over the menu and ordering coffees. I ordered the Huevos Off Centros with corn tortillas for $6. It came with eggs over easy on top of fried potatoes and piled high with a terrific red salsa. It wasn't a very spicy dish but it was flavorful and fresh. After eating the entire breakfast including the slice of grapefruit, my mouth wanted more. I wasn't embarrassed, in this place, to reach across the table and try some of my son's pancakes. With fresh maple syrup, these were some of the best pancakes I've ever eaten. I think they were whole wheat and three of them were stacked high on the plate. They also make a bear pancake for younger kids where the face is formed with fresh fruit. The Huevos may not have been a strong enough dish to get me to go back to Off Center but I would tolerate the uncleanliness for that tall stack of flap jacks again. One other thing you ought to know, it's kind of a hippie hangout. The walls are covered with liberal cartoons and posters. If you voted for Richard Nixon Off Center may not be your cup of tea or coffee for that matter.
Don't forget your cash or checks when you visit. They don't take debit or credit cards.
1741 Center St. NE
Mon.-Fri.: 7 AM-11AM
Sat.-Sun.: 8 AM-2 PM
Reviewed by JCB 12/16/7
The Off Center Cafe is off-center in more ways than one. It's not the easiest to find, tucked behind a dry cleaners and Noble's Bar on the corner of 17th and Center, with a poorly marked sign. The restaurant is also on the quirky side. Old Formica tables, mismatched chairs and a smorgasbord of art, maps, newspaper articles and bumper stickers dot the walls. The food, though, is fantastic. It's a great breakfast joint (I'm not even sure if they do lunch or dinner), with awesome omelets, humongous breakfast burritos, scrambled tofu, home fries, pretty much everything under the sun.
I've been coming to the Off Center for breakfast since I was a teenager. And really, nothing has changed. The food is still great, the coffee is still strong, and honestly, the service is still spotty. Some mornings, I'll get a good server, and everything will be great. Other times, I'll have to flag someone down to get my coffee refilled, I can see my food sitting under the lights for several minutes before someone thinks to bring it to me, and it takes awhile to even get someone to take my order. It's worth it though. The food is fantastic. They usually have a Sunday Special of a smoked salmon and asparagus omelet. It's my favorite. And whatever you do--no matter what--order either the homemade bread or the orange date bread. It's so great, and much better than store bought bread.