Say you've got an elderly aunt coming to town and she wants to take you out to lunch. In the old days you'd head straight downtown to the Georgian Room on the 10th floor of Meier and Frank. Its large open room full of immaculately ironed tablecloths, pale green draperies and heavy silverware would shout (or, rather, murmur) respectability. If the food didn't venture far beyond old standbys like Roasted Turkey Surprise and corn chowder, well, that was fine. The air of propriety was undisturbed and it was felt that if it was good enough for grandmother, it was certainly good enough for the rest of us.
But now that landmark has passed into history, and you've still got your aunt coming. The weather's good for a month or so yet, but sidewalk dining isn't really her thing and the funky patio scene on Alberta won't really do, either. Lucky for you there's the outdoor patio at Meriwether's on NW Vaughn. Secluded behind the restaurant under a large arbor, and with a fountain bubbling away in the middle, this green oasis will be hip enough to appeal to her adventurous side while the westside ladies gathered for lunch in their summer dresses will dispel any feelings of angst.
Again, the food isn't anything to get excited about, but it's perfectly decent and well-prepared and Aunt Lucy (that's her name, right?) will be able to find something she'll like that won't be too extravagant. And you can order her a nice glass of white wine (that's what she drinks, of course) and you can have your G&T. Or kamikaze. Or whatever will get you through the meal. Just know that your place in her heart will remain secure.
Details: Meriwether's Restaurant, 2601 NW Vaughn. Phone 503-228-1250.
Photos: Patio, top left; Chick pea fritters with eggplant caponata, right; Egg salad sandwich with bacon and blue cheese, bottom left (Note the cellophane toothpicks. Classic!).