PLEASANT HILL, Ore. - Along Highway 58 you'll find the town of Pleasant Hill. It's the kind of place with few people and even fewer places to eat. There are however a couple of local joints that have you covered whether you are an early riser or looking for a place to dine for dinner.
The Sunrise Cafe and Sundown Pizza and Chicken are conveniently located right off of Highway 58 for any traveler willing to bypass the national franchises. Unlike the larger institutions both these hole-in-the-wall looking restaurants seem to be designed to make everyone feel right at home. Both are decorated in ways that only local eateries are able to pull off successfully.
Chef Randall King of the Sunrise Cafe tells me he and his family have owned the cafe for around 13 years, but it has been around for quite some time. Chef King not new to the business either. He's worked in several restaurants around the area and even attended Lane Community College, earning a degree in the Culinary Arts.
It can be easy to find yourself swept up in the complex creations and elaborate gourmet works of gastronomy, especially with an ample amount of experience and a formal education. For Chef King it's more about helping people cure their hunger all while making them happy. An easy task with the kind of comfort food you'll find on the menu at the Sunrise Cafe.
Over at Sundown Pizza and Chicken it's a similar story. Although, if you are like me the first question that comes to mind is, "Why pizza and chicken?" No matter how many different ways I asked the question, I never really did get a solid answer. Not because Chef Mario Perez was avoiding it. There really wasn't a specific reason. The rhetorical "why not" would have been a much better question to ask than why.
The age old question, "What came first, the chicken or the egg?" may not yet have a definitive answer, but in the case of Sundown Pizza and Chicken it's Chicken before pizza. They use a pre-made seasoning from a Seattle company called Cooper's Chicken. It's a flavor Chef Perez says has received a high number of praises, including every restaurateur's favorite phrase, "It's the best I've ever had." I'm not going to go quite that far, but it was pretty good. Something I attribute more to the double dip technique. Two trips into the seasoned flour bath can make for a moist piece of chicken inside a nice layer of crunch.