Last night was my first failed foray into Sellwood, at an attempt to locate a fabric store. No matter where I went, the GPS red dot on my iPhone was always traveling in the opposite direction from where I was headed. The fabric store closed before I could find it, and on the brink of tears, I drove on, lost, in search of redemption. I found myself driving slowly past Lili Patisserie and Café and could not help but investigate my namesake. I walked in upset, lost, and hungry, and left impressed, beaming, and satiated.
Lili’s is special. This is the kind of restaurant you would want to bring your best friend, your sister, your mother, or your boyfriend. It has a welcoming charm, a non-overly fussy French interior, and incredible food at reasonable prices, given the quality and locality of the ingredients. I find out from the perky waitress with enviably tousled hair that Lili’s brother owns a farm less than a mile away, which is the origin of all the produce used in the recipes. Much of the menu is based off of this farm-fresh produce, and it is impressively tasty. In addition, everything at the restaurant is made from scratch, and made to order. Even the bread and butter is delightful! I am presented with an elfin-sized wheat roll and whipped butter with fresh herbs.
Inside, antique mirrors cover the walls. Vintage wooden frames and cookie tins adorn the cabinets, with a wash of pale blues and greens throughout. Even the floors are charming, with hand-painted drawings and words of kitchen supplies. A lemon juicer lies ahead; a mixing bowl to my left.
I peruse the menu of well-crafted dishes, and decide upon the gnocchi. Lili has the best gnocchi, hands down, that I have ever tasted, and I order a lot of gnocchi. Their secret – no potato! What? I still have some questions about the reality of this dreamy dish, but I do know that the dough is made with ricotta cheese, topped with a San Marzano tomato sauce, and set over a bed of sautéed spinach. There is even a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese to create utter perfection. The gnocchi itself is fluffy, angel-puff soft, and served with a spoon, for $14.
It is rare that I order wine at a restaurant (I tend to save the extra cash to purchase dessert, as I am an avid sugar hound) but I decide to order Namaste’s “Peace,” a Chardonnay blend, for $7. It has a slight effervescence at the first sip, and tastes of crisp fall apples – a perfect autumnal wine. I am even more at peace. The majority of the wine selection is from Oregon and Washington, and I love that they support local wineries!
I overhear nearby conversations of Cinderella pumpkins, of sorrel, of trips to France. The fellow patrons are well versed in the ways of dining, and they fill up the café quickly – the small, ten table venue develops a waiting line within minutes of my arrival. I am informed that the dessert case is filled to the brim with sweets during the day, which is also the after dinner dessert selection. I choose the lingonberry panna cotta. The lingonberry topping is tart, the panna cotta is thick and custardy, and served in a mason jar. I leave none behind.
I could not be happier with my meal at Lili Patisserie and Café. I left wanting to spread the word to everyone I know who appreciates beauty, local cuisine, and excellent culinary skill. This is a place I would love come to on a date…but I already took myself here on a date, and will continue to do so, until my boyfriend catches on. I hear they also serve breakfast and lunch. Blueberry pancakes, anyone? I will be back soon. Their winter hours are rather short, so make sure you check the hours before heading out to Sellwood.
Lili Patisserie and Cafe
8337 SE 17th Avenue