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Restaurant review: Voula's Offshore Café

Down by the waterfront, just east of the I-5 bridge, lies Voula’s Offshore Café, marked with nothing more than a simple sign on its single-story, blue canopy roof.

Voula’s is a short-order breakfast joint, so sure, the menu offers the usual array of egg and bacon breakfast selections.

But to stop there would simply be a trip wasted to the family-owned Greek diner.

Far from an iHop or any other typical pancake breakfast house, Voula’s menu boasts items including the Chinese Pancake ($7.65) — an enormous, plate-sized pancake filled with minced ham and eggs — and the Greek Hobo ($9.95). The Hobo comes as a giant scramble of hashbrowns, spiced Greek sausage, onions and eggs, topped with feta cheese. While not the most visually appealing item, its bold flavor combinations and perfectly crispy hash browns exceeded my expectations for a hearty breakfast. Another big plus is the cost: Voula’s prices run very reasonably, with the most expensive entrée being under $11.

The generous portions of homemade food and the intimate feel of the place have clearly given it more than a little word-of-mouth popularity. Back in 2007, Voula’s was featured on Guy Fieri’s Food Network program, “Diners, Drive-In’s, & Dives.”

But the fame that the show brought doesn’t appear to have rid the restaurant of its mom-and-pop feel. Voula’s has been quietly sitting in the U-District since 1984 when owner Voula Vlahos first bought the location to help put her oldest son through college. Vlahos told Fieri on his show that she aims to treat customers according to the Greek custom of making guests feel welcome and treating them like family.

“If you love the customers, you have to hug them,” she said.

This philosophy is noticeable even before walking in the front door. A station of complimentary coffee, cream and mugs sits outside the diner for guests in the case of a wait, which is inevitable during busy times. Visit when not in a hurry, as the back of the menu reads, “If you’re not served in 10 minutes … Relax! You’ll be served in 20 or maybe 30 minutes …”

Inside, an array of pictures clutter the walls, and there are servers donning blue aprons, bustling around tables with big smiles. On one wall sits an elaborate collage of mostly Polaroid photos of customers and their children over the years.

The kitchen lies in the heart of the restaurant, lined with bar stools and a perfect view of cooks flipping eggs or preparing heaping piles of hash browns.

Several menu items contain freshly smoked pork that Voula’s smokes outside, back of the restaurant. These include the Pinata Benedict ($10.95) — pork and poached eggs sitting atop grilled English muffins and doused with hollandaise sauce — and the Oddinator Omelette ($10.25) — which also includes mushrooms, green onions, Swiss cheese and BBQ sauce.

Voula’s also serves up a tempting lunch menu with items like the Little Squealer ($8.75), a tasty lunchtime sandwich made with their smoked pork, swiss cheese, tomatoes and chipotle hollandaise sauce. Also available are fresh slices of pie for $3.50 a pop.

At Voula’s, it’s all about the experience. Come hungry, and be prepared for a filling family-style meal.

Voula’s Offshore Cafe is located at 658 NE Northlake Way.

The verdict:

Voula’s Offshore Cafe is a tasty, generously portioned Greek breakfast spot, perfect for a leisurely weekend brunch.

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