1429 SE 37th Ave. off Hawthorne
Open Tue–Sat: 5 – 9:30 pm • Sun: 4 – 9 pm Closed Mondays
Tucked in nicely on 37th St, 3 Doors Down Café off Hawthorne Blvd. is a neighborhood-friendly, gourmet-dining establishment. Co-owners Kathy Bergin and Dave Marth made their way from Connecticut twenty + years ago bringing their special understanding of food sensibilities to the west coast.
Bergin was raised around the food industry and her father was a short order cook. She started waiting tables and cooking as a young person and worked her way through college with this skill. “What I loved about preparing food in Waterbury was that the recipes often required a trip to individual shops to obtain the ingredients.” East coast neighborhoods are a conglomeration of ethnicities and the shops reflect this diversity serving the Italian, Portuguese, Sicilians, Irish, Eastern European, Caribbean and other varied palettes.
When they first came to Oregon, Bergin and Marth were working at JP’s inside the Cannon Beach Hotel helping a friend with her restaurant. They would drive to Portland for supplies and Pastaworks was one of their main stops. “We liked all the different ingredients they had to offer. It was similar to what we were used to,” Bergin said.
When Baba Roots closed and the space became available on 37th St. they decided this was the perfect location to start the restaurant they dreamed of. That was in 1994, 3 Doors Down Café first opened in about 1/3 of the space they now occupy.
Marth is the main chef and he chose to cook what he knew best, traditional Italian with a French flare. “One of our cult classics is coming into season, grilled peaches and scallops,” Marth said. Although he admits to being the ‘King of Pork’, serving the spice-brined pork chop this time of year, he excels at other traditional and creative cuisine. “We serve a variety of seasonal dishes,” he said, and fortunately, the northwest supplies an abundance of produce to choose from.
A seasonal favorite right now is the farro paccherini cacio e pepe, summer squash and Parmesan cheese. Farro paccerini describes the ancient wheat used and the shape of the pasta. cacio e pepe is a Roman pasta dish that means cheese and pepper.
Another tantalizing dish is fresh prawns, clams and mussels in a traditional spicy fra diavolo sauce of plum tomatoes, chili flakes, kalamata olives, cherry peppers and fettuccine. “We love this time of year with the fresh produce, especially the Heirloom tomatoes for the caprese salad and tomato sauces or the padronne pan-fried peppers,” Bergin said.
Over the past twenty years, Bergin has developed her wine program. She now serves what she calls an esoteric list of over 150 locally- produced, national and international wines. They even serve old- fashioned keg wine from Oregon’s local vineyards.
The bartender, Matt Stiles, has been with 3 Doors Down almost since they opened. He’s perfected unique drinks like the on tap beet, lemonade vodka or the side-cars served with brandy-soaked cherries. “We are fortunate to have good, loyal servers. Christina has been with us since we opened and Matt for eighteen years,” Bergin said.
3 Doors Down was one of the first gourmet restaurants in inner SE. Bergin and Marth have customers they served on their first dates and are now preparing their epicurean delights for those people’s kids. “We’ve become a part of these families,” Bergin said.
For a chance to try a variety of their Italian fare, the Happy Hour Tuesday – Thursday from 5 – 9:30 and Sunday 4 – 9, is a good place to start. Taste the delicious eggplant parmigiania, or the vodka sauce tortiglione and sausage, even perhaps a Yankee-steamed burger for a sampling of the food. While you’re there, experience the special drink or wine of the day. You can follow them online www.3doorsdowncafe.com Look for them on Facebook too.