Dining Out: Fresh berries find place at Mrs. Joe’s Kitchen

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Why: It’s berry season, and it’s hard to get berries much fresher than from the fields. Better yet is getting in-season food at the farm where it’s grown. That’s what happens on Saturdays through December at Mrs. Joe’s Kitchen at Joe’s Place Farms in Vancouver.

The kitchen opened about six years ago, said Michelle Shumaker, 48, daughter of Joe Beaudoin, who owns Joe’s Place Farms, an 80-acre farm clustered in suburban Vancouver. The simple menu offerings were inspired by weekend breakfasts with the Beaudoin family.

It used to take all morning to make berry crêpes for seven children. It was a special treat, Shumaker recalls of her childhood breakfasts. That’s why, when customers ask if the restaurant will ever open on days other than Saturdays, she says no.

“If we had it every day, it wouldn’t be a special treat,” Shumaker said.

Atmosphere: Mrs. Joe’s Kitchen occupies an unassuming spot in the store at Joe’s Place Farms. Jog to the left, just past an old walk-in cooler, and you’ll see the little bistro, where cookie jars and crocks line the walls, and cafe tables are scattered across the concrete floor.

Order at the counter, where you pay first, and you’ll be pointed toward a help-yourself coffee station. Settle into one of the cafe tables — we opted for the seat next to the window — and a server will bring you your order.

The dining area was comfortably buzzing when we arrived at about 10:30 a.m. By the time we left, near noon, the restaurant was bustling.

Dining is casual, but we saw some people who opted to dress up, especially among the older crowd, with ladies donning suits and pearls.

What I tried: Ice cream for breakfast? Apparently, yes.

My companion was intrigued and opted for the Quebec Crepe With Strawberries. I took the savory route and ordered a Half and Half Plate, which included half of an order of Joe’s special and a frittata.

The Quebec Crepe arrived with two heaping scoops of vanilla ice cream on top of a crêpe teeming with fresh-from-the-field strawberries.

The cold ice cream in this strawberries-and-cream affair melded well with the warm crêpe and fresh berries. If the first bite was a taste sensation, with its contrast of temperatures and flavors, the last few hit a creamy note as it all combined in the melted ice cream.

Shumaker said the Quebec Crepe differs from the kitchen’s berry crêpes in both presentation and the amount of berries included. Quebec-style emphasizes the crêpe’s flavor while the berry crêpes are loaded with fruit, with an emphasis on the berries. Shumaker estimates the berry crêpes, which are served with whipped cream, have about 60 percent to 70 percent more berries than the Quebec Crepe.

The Half and Half plate was a yang to the Quebec’s yin — a savory dish with eggs, cheese and meat. It arrived with a generous frittata wedge, a heap of Joe’s egg-and-ground-beef dish, a side of baked apples and salsa.

The Joe’s Special half of the dish — an egg-based mixture of ground beef, spinach, cheese and onion, topped with sautéed mushrooms — was a home-style feast. The crust-less frittata wedge was an egg and parmesan cheese mixture speckled with bits of bell pepper and bacon. The baked apples, infused with cinnamon, were a sweet complement to the savory frittata.

Highlights beyond what I tried: Next time, I’ll order a berry crêpe. Shumaker says raspberries have just come into season. You won’t need to twist my arm to convince me to order those juicy berries topped with whipped cream.

Other observations: While we were checked on from time to time, this is a laid-back place where guests are expected to fetch their own coffee. Dress up or down and, after breakfast, there’s fresh produce to investigate in the farm store.

Cost: Figure about $8 for a breakfast plate and $2 for coffee.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays June through December. The kitchen will be closed on July 30.

Where: 701 N.E. 112th Ave., Vancouver.

Information: 360-892-3974.

Health score: Mrs. Joe’s Kitchen at Joe’s Place Farms received a health score of 0 on Oct. 17. Zero is a perfect score. Clark County Public Health closes restaurants that score 100 or higher. For more information, call 360-397-8428.