Back in the day, SE Foster Road was the home of Tom ("Free is a very good price!") Peterson and various dive bars and chop shops with a few all-night groceries thrown in for good measure. But now, in the tradition of SE Hawthorne or, more recently, NE Alberta and N Mississippi, Foster and its environs are becoming a hot spot for development, with little cafes and new restaurants springing up everywhere, house prices shooting up and port-a-potties on every corner signaling much remodeling is afoot.
One little outpost that is ringing the changes coming to the neighborhood is the Arleta Library Bakery & Cafe, a teeny storefront right across the street from Mt. Scott Park and the Mt. Scott Community Center on SE 72nd Ave. This bitsy place seats maybe 20 people, and from what I've heard it packs 'em in for weekend breakfasts with a line down the street, with most of the crowds there for their biscuits and gravy, said to be among the very best in town. The rest of the brunch menu looks equally impressive for such a small place, and they also have house-made breads and baked goods available for takeout for very modest prices.
I happened in for lunch, which on this summer day meant that we had our pick of tables and which featured a special of a Philly cheesesteak sandwich with the option of provolone or cheddar. I've heard that these sandwiches can be really great or really bad, but never having had one and wanting to see what they could do, I ordered it. Out came a nicely wrapped homemade bun stuffed with tender, flavorful roast beef, caramelized onions and a lovely veil of provolone.
Friend Kristin had the Godfather, a sandwich of house-roasted natural beef, roasted red peppers, cheddar, lettuce, and tomato on their Paesano bread, kicked up a notch with a garlic horseradish sauce spread. This treatment of what could be a nice but pedestrian sandwich is typical of what this cafe does well, which is to add a bit of thoughtful execution to classic cafe favorites.
And if these guys are typical of the new businesses looking to open up in this neglected corner of the city, and I've heard they are, then we are only a year or two away from seeing a seismic shift happening along another eastside corridor. Now to come up with a cutesy abbreviation ala NoPo or LoBu...LoFo? Send in your suggestions, people!
Details: Artleta Library Bakery & Cafe, 5513 SE 72nd Ave. Phone 503-774-4470.