It's a short, but scenic drive from Portland to nearby St. Helens, a small historic town on the banks of the Columbia River. The drive is worthwhile when you stop at the century-old Klondike Restaurant and Bar.
Owner/Chef Dave Wuollet, and his life partner Veronica Bartlett, who re-opened the historic restaurant in 2008, have crafted a new menu, and have a philosophy of serving only "Delicious American Food Served in a Casual Atmosphere."
The dining room is homey, warm, old-timey, comfortable and romantic and features a display of local artisan quilts, soft lighting, candle-lit tables, and antique, numbered doors from the former hotel. Families are most welcome and while the restaurant seats around 80, it feels much more intimate and homelike.
The menu is extensive, featuring a number of steaks including 8 oz. Top Sirloin, Fillet and Chipotle Flat Iron steaks, a 12 oz. NY Strip Sirloin, and an impressive 14 oz. Ribeye, a number of seafood dishes, a generous variety of sandwiches and burgers (the Klondike is a 1/2 lb. burger with ham, bacon, pepperjack and cheddar cheese, and BBQ sauce), a dozen appetizers and a similar number of salads.
Klondike offers a Small Plates menu that is perfect for light lunches or dinners, and, if you wish, the chef will consult with you and design a custom surprise small plate for your party. The Flat Iron Slider with Smoked Blue Cheese and marinated onions we tried was fantastic, as were the Hot Spinach Artichoke Toasts.
At the suggestion of our friendly server, Kim, we asked for a split of the Roasted Red Potatoes with their signature Polenta Cakes to accompany our Blue Cheese Ribeye, and were delighted with both. But the cakes are good enough that next time we come back we'll just order these.
They have a full bar offering wine, local brews and mixed drinks, and the antique wooden bar itself was shipped around Cape Horn in the early 1900's.
But for heaven's sake do not forget dessert, most especially whatever cake-of-the-week they feature from local Sweetcakes To Go bakery. We inhaled the German Chocolate cake, but on other days you might have a choice of Salty Caramel, Hot Chocolate, Red Velvet, Boston Cream Pie, Raspberry Lemonade, Key Lime, or Banana Split.
Many thanks to Dave and Veronica for rescuing a century-old restaurant and for bringing the restaurant into the 21st Century with style, grace, and oh yes, those incredible polenta cakes and sliders.