Off Center Cafe

Off Center is now Patty's Off Center Cafe

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.


Anonymous said...

I'll second that review - love the place! Just keep in mind that they don't take credit cards and there is not a close ATM (although they do take checks).

Anonymous said...

I'm all for funky (love the stepping stone in PDX and keystone in Eugene), but I will never eat at OCC again! It is so dirty and gross in there. The last time we were in, our waitress brought over the syrup. I went to pick it up to put some on my child's pancakes and there were about 1,000 ants (I kid you not!) writhing all over the top of the was disgusting. I motioned the waitress over...she looked at it and said "they must be all wound up from getting zapped in the microwave." EWWW YUCK.

Anonymous said...

There is an ATM in Nobles(the bar next door). Also in response to the ant story, I remember that day clearly, we were very busy and I did not notice any ants. When you showed them to me I was disgusted and honestly I was quite bothered by it the rest of the day, but shit happens man...I brought you a new syrup, while profusely apologizing and I am pretty sure I would remember saying the microwave thing...needless to say the ants were immediately taken care of. I am glad that you prize yourself on embelishing the truth to make others look bad.

Anonymous said...

I ate at Off Center Cafe once as well. All I remember was how unclean the restaurant was with flies buzzing circles around my table and unbussed tables. I couldn't get past the filth to enjoy the food. How hard is it to just keep a place clean? I can deal with furniture that looked like it was picked up from garage sales but I can't stand dirty booths and buzzing flies while I'm eating. I will never go back.

Anonymous said...

Oh whatever..The Off Center is certainly not sterile, corporate chain restaraunt clean but I've eaten there regularly for twenty years, and I've never had a bad experience.My favorite is the green chile tortoise with the orange date bread, mmmmm.

Anonymous said...


filbert said...

My whole family loves the food at Off Center - breakfast, lunch & dinner. While the place doesn't look slick and glossy, the tables, condiments, dishes and silverware are always scrupulously clean. To those bothered by the service, try Amadeus for the very definition of sllloooooow (but worth the wait). If you want fast service, try Denny's. But for truly delicious food you won't find anywhere else (try the Italian Vegetables, the Chile Melt, or ANY of the nightly specials), relax at Off Center. You will never get a bad meal there.

Anonymous said...

I've ate here several times in the past and everytime it was excellent. I especially liked breakfast. There was one in particular - can't remember the name of it but it had eggs, potatoes, cheese and mushrooms all mixed together. I need to make a trip over there soon.

EazyMoney said...

I've always liked Off Center Cafe although its been quite some time since I've been there. Duncan is a cool guy, and so is Ron if he's still around there.

The bibble and squib is a great breakfast, and the peanut butter pie is awesome.

Used to play poker with those guys on Monday nights (when they were closed) back in the 90's before poker became a fad.

Good times.

By far my favorite greasy spoon cafe. But due to location The Edgewater cafe gets most of my business.

Anonymous said...

Have never eaten here, but guess what, I sure will try it in the future.

I checked their rating with the County. Last score was a perfect 100.

So...can't be that filthy folks!

By the way, ladies, swab the bottom of your purse sometime, see what lives on that thing!

Anonymous said...

Last time I ate at the counter, there were a couple of ants on the table and I have seen flies.

That said, it is by far my favorite brkfst in Salem. Annie's Eggs and a cup of good coffee. Wish they were open on Mondays!

Jill said...

I had a curry pita sandwich under the bridge at the Saturday Market years ago. It was delicious. I told my husband it was from a place called 'Off-Center Cafe', so we went for breakfast soon after. He had a seat facing the kitchen and observed the cook flicking a nose ring around between handling food. He refused to ever go back.

I am a little surprised at their last "100" rating by the County...unless they knew the inspectors were coming.

Anonymous said...

In my experience, the problem is more that the Off-Center Cafe *looks* dingy than that it is actually unclean; the place is in an older building and they use old furniture, so it's never going to look shiny even freshly scrubbed.

That said, personally I got to a restaurant to enjoy the food. I've been going there off and on since 1986, and I have never - and I mean *never* - been disappointed with the food.

(All y'all chased off by appearances are leaving more room for me and my kids to eat there, so... thanks!)

Anonymous said...

As far as the eating area, it can be cleaner. And yes, I've eaten there with flies buzzing. The dishes and utensils seem to be clean though. Funky is an understatement.

It's a vegetarian friendly place. The Tofu Scramble is quite good.

While I appreciate the homemade bread, and it's usually good, it doesn't always taste right.

One of the best breakfasts in town - if you can get over the less than immaculate dining room. Also, they're not the friendliest bunch, but I like that. They're not rude either. They're definitely very friendly with the regulars. It's an interesting place, and I'm glad it's in Salem. We need more local, independent minded business. Like the place or not, if we had more place like this, Salem wouldn't pale in comparison to places like Eugene and PDX.

Anonymous said...

Best breakfast in town in my opinion. The funkiness of the place is out of the ordinary here is Salem, but of course shiny, yet cheesy places like Bentleys thrive here, so go figure.

I love to get a counter see with a news paper and drink coffee and read cover to cover over my brkfst.

Best of Salem.

Jess said...

We ate there not long ago...the food was pretty (extremely picky) husband didn't really care for the buckwheat pancakes though, he said they were really dry. The service was...meh. The waitress gave my husband fake syrup instead of the maple syrup he'd ordered, and it took us forever to get our coffee refilled and we were sitting right at the counter. *shrug* Maybe it was an off day.

I'm willing to give it another shot and might go again by myself, but the hubby probably won't.

Anonymous said...

Okay, the food's not bad....but the owner is trying to be sooo "resistant" that they may as well have a sign on the front saying "new customers-GO AWAY" It is not user friendly. No credit cards.(you ARE about the only place in town that doesn't, besides Burger Basket) Wow...what a rebel. Also, what hours are they open? You gotta be a regular to know that. Not open Mondays, certain days open for dinner, others days not. And, is it clean? The last time we ate breakfast there, our waitress, who was about nine years old (is that legal?) and very cute, spilled cream all over our table. She blotted it up with a dry paper towel and it was dripping through the cracks of the table onto the floor while we finished our meal. Gee, I wonder if that cream is still buried in the cracks of that table? (you know the answer)
Again, the food isn't bad, but the general attitude of this place is: We don't really care if your here or not, man. Well, you win. Count me as one of the "nots". There are plenty of places who like new customers. Stay cool, man.

Anonymous said...

In Response to Wayne, The Off Center actually does take credit cards now. Otherwise, this place has been doing things the same way for 20+ years, outlasting most other restaurants in town, so yeah, they probably don't care if people who don't appreciate the atmosphere are in there or not. There's a Shari's a mile or so off that might be more to your liking..

Anonymous said...

I've always wanted to try Off Center because I love tiny hole-in-the-wall greasy places, but with everyone saying that they are unfriendly and "don't care" I'm afraid to. I tend not to trust people who don't care with my food.

QG said...

This is a great cafe; try the homemade bread!

Anonymous said...

The food is high quality and presented well. Go on a Sunday, the wait staff are very friendly and attentive. They serve only breakfast on the weekends..the best breakfast you will ever eat. The pancakes are wonderful, the orange date bread is awesome, the omlettes are to die for and bibble and squib with a touch of curry is the best.

Anonymous said...

I am not a breakfast person, but I must say that I LOVE the food at The Off Center. The homemade bread and homemade date bread are a must! I love the fact that I can order the same meal 10 times in a row and 7 of the 10 times it will be slightly different (I am sure that this is done by what is fresh in-season as well as by the cooks mood)...mind you, I have yet to have a "Off" meal at the Off Center. It's nice to know that in this pre-packaged world, there is still a place that you can go eat where the food does not find it's way out of a cardboard box. NOTHING prepared at the Off Center comes prepackaged or frozen. It's fresh, it's yummy. Get used to it and love it for what it is YUMMY. I might also recommend the fresh squeezed juice. Also as a side bar, the barber Cal (next door) is BY FAR the BEST barber in town!!!!! Just remember, Cal's is not your 5 minute "salon" he is an old time barber that takes pride in his work and enjoys conversing with his clients...Salem is lucky to have both the Off Center as well as Cal's barbershop.

Anonymous said...

I had a hair-cut at Cal's barbershop a couple of years ago. Drove me nuts. He took forever and I thought he was going to scrape my skin right off. He just kept talking and cutting - for over an hour. I won't be doing that again. Nice guy though.

Anonymous said...

Are most of you off your rocker? old not dirty for one for two have any of you gone into the kitchen at any of the places you eat? Three Off Center has never had a cook with a nose ring. This Place is Eclectic the food is bar none the best in salem fresh ingredients and cooks who love food. A New review needs to be done as the place has had some paint etc.. with that said The Kitchen is always clean order take out because it is almost always a packed house anyway! And as far as the rude server he was fired some time ago. This is a place you can let your kids be loud and when they get done with the crayons the art they created will be put some where on a wall fridge etc.. and the Coffee is a special blend from allann Bros. made only for the OCC get over your selves I watched the Chef from a prominent place here in Salem drop Whole chickens outside on the ground and pick them up and take them in the kitchen ... Not throw them away outside and he was next to the dumpster so enjoy your snobby places and get sick I will continue to take my family here and have a wonderful time great food and have NEVER gotten sick btw have the Halibut cheeks when in season mmmmmmm yummy

AMY said...

I'm glad some people have gone to Off Center when it wasn't dirty; that gives me hope for perhaps they DO clean it now and then, and we just haven't seen it.

I have a love/hate relationship with the Off Center. I love some of the food, but don't take people there because it's embarrassing. The last time I was there, the booth we sat in was quite literally DRIPPING with old, dried food. The seat cracks were FILLED with crumbs. The table was sticky. Something had been spilled on the table, and it was still clinging to the sides in many places, so much so that I ended up with a stain on my shirt from leaning up against the table.

I'm sorry... but that's dirty.

And yes, the guy cooking the last few times I was in there had MULTIPLE facial piercings. Granted, it's been a while (like a year) but after the really bad service we had last time (hey, sorry, I don't have two hours to eat breakfast before work) and the lack of cleanliness... I'm spending my dollars elsewhere.

Until, that is, my craving for the Bibble and Squib grabs me again.

Anonymous said...

i've never been in the OCC. but as to the flies circling what restaurant or cafe doesn't have those?

Dad-Do said...

Off Center is the best breakfast in town. We go there at least once, maybe twice a week. There are other great options (Word of Mouth, Busick, and maybe even Whites), but Off Center wins for me.

The service is questionable. One of the servers always acts like she is really annoyed you walked in, but the other server is great.

If you have never been to Off Center, you really ought to try it. Go with an open mind as to the service and the fact it is kinda shabby (personally I like the character). Try the homemade bread and my favorite Annie's Eggs. Yum!

Anonymous said...

The OCC is great! Why do I think that? It is not immaculate. The less than sterile atmosphere helps boost my immune system! I Love it! I haven't been sick in years!

Anonymous said...

Off Center has the best coffee in town. Their homemade bread and raspberry jam is out of this world.

I agree with above that the service is either hit or miss. Great or terrible.

My wife and I ride our bikes to the off center from South Salem every Saturday morning and it is a treat.

Anonymous said...

I recently took over the Off Center, for my step-dad Duncan, the first if the year. Since owning it we have done a remodel and the place sure has cleaned up well. The atmosphere still has that Off Center funky feeling, without all of the funk. The food is still great and hasnt changed. I challenge all of you who had a bad experience to please come back and give it another try. Our new phone number is 503-581-6418, we do togo orders.

KandN said...

Rosie, Thank you for the new phone number! All of us here at were so happy about what was going on that we put the word out about your cleaning and remodel here and here. People were happy to hear to the news. I think it's great that you're working so hard and listening to your customers!

Anonymous said...

maybe you could post your hours too? I went for breakfast a while back on Monday and it was closed? Also, I would probably eat lunch there if I knew you were open.

Might try to get your phone number published somehow (besides just here), I have tried looking it up and can't find it online.

When the usual older cook is working the food is excellent. Coffee wasn't quite as strong last time I was there, but still good.

A hidden gem in Salem. Good breakfast. Last time I was in the service was great (little girl - Brandy maybe was her name). Service was hit or miss in the past so this is a good development.

Anonymous said...

OCC is, in a word, filthy. Look around, nuff said.

Anonymous said...

Ok, if you look above - two of the very positive comments about OCC are from me. We have loved it for years. It changed hands recently. It is cleaner.

The service has always been pretty much hit (5% of the time) or terrible (95%) of the time. Now the food has started to slide. We were in twice in the past month and both times were served by who I am pretty sure is the owner. Acted liked she was irritated that we were there (both times). Barely even civil. Would it hurt to be polite and at least get us a cup of coffee?

Food was average. Better than Whites or Word of Mouth, but still greasy. Looked like there was a younger guy cooking. Both Whites and WOM have good food (not great) but stellar service.

In general, for a restaurant to have such terrible service, the food really has to be great to make up for it. For a long time it was at off center, but not now.

I am in the restaurant industry so I don't criticize lightly.

I just don't get it. We come in to your restaurant to spend money and you act annoyed? We have been regular customers for a LONG time. We have put up with terrible service in the past to get the great food. Now it is terrible service and ok food.

ps - if they had a phone number or email I would have sent this directly to the owner.

Anonymous said...

I had lunch there with a co-worker about a year ago. The service was so slow that I had to eat my sandwich a little too fast for my taste to get back to work on time.

The food was really good, but I had my suspicions that the server might have been stoned, as he was really slow and had to ask me several times what my order was.

All things considered, a good experience - just don't be in a hurry.