Review: Crescent Cafe – breakfast in the wine country

First Impressions, by Hungry Soul

A little over a year ago, the Crescent Cafe opened to many oo’s and aah’s. Owners, Michael McKenney and Danny Wilser had moved to Yamhill County to “retire” and it seems got bored. They formerly owned and operated Ella’s Restaurant in San Francisco, a much loved neighborhood spot. The Crescent Cafe is a step up from the other breakfast offerings in McMinnville, a little more formal, but still a comfortable start to a day of wine tasting. A year later, the morning lines are not as long, but the place is still hopping.

The wait staff all wears white shirts and black pants, you are presented a menu and told the specials immediately upon sitting down. The place has a comfortable, if not slightly aseptic feel to it. I find the lighting to be a bit dim, especially on a dark winter morning, but it doesn’t seem to bother anyone else. I am not a huge fan of their seating policy which is if you are alone, and it is busy, you many end up sharing the table. This is fine if you like to meet your neighbors and chat first thing, but not if you want to wallow in your oatmeal. One morning, there was no music playing, and on another, the strangest combination of late 80’s feel good tunes were heard. These songs are played in earnest and give the place an unusually retro feel that doesn’t fit with the décor at all. Service is quite attentive, at times overly so. Sometimes I just want to eat my breakfast. I don’t want to chat with everyone – but I suppose in a small town, this is the norm.

Food is thoughtfully prepared with local ingredients. Danny bakes all the bread and biscuits fresh. My favorite is the golden raisin oatmeal toast – so good with melted butter – you can buy it by the loaf to take home. Their biscuits are also quite tasty – light and fluffy. There is usually a coffee cake special each morning. I have had the raspberry coffee cake and it was remarkable because it actually tasted like raspberries, not overly sweet red things stuck in too batter. The buttermilk pancakes are pretty darn good. Lately, the chefs have been adding caramelized bananas to the batter which are then cooked into the pancakes. Let me just say, these cakes need no syrup. The caramelized bananas give it enough sweetness and flavor that adding syrup would be overkill. All the meat is sourced locally, and Danny makes his own sausage patties. These have been among the least successful items on the menu – sometimes they need more salt, others they are too salty. The bacon however is always cooked to perfection (provided you like it a little crispy like me). Each morning there is a special omelet. I have learned to order these – they are hearty and full of fresh ingredients. Crescent Cafe offers either hash browns or country potatoes with their breakfasts. I have been getting the country potatoes, which I find to be lackluster. They are too soggy. Country potatoes should have a crisp exterior and even be a tiny bit burnt on the ends. Hash browns just seem too easy to me: not a real test of a chef’s breakfast potato chops. Last time I was there, I had the hash browns, and they were fine.

A while ago, the restaurant started staying open for lunch too. The few times I have been, I have had solid serviceable sandwiches, some of which are real stand outs. A BLT with avocados on whole wheat was good. Nothing fancy. A warm chicken breast sandwich with caramelized onions and mayo hit the comfort food button for me. I lapped it up. At lunch they offer a variety of non-traditional sides to accompany your sandwich, which I like. Accompanying my chicken sandwich was roasted cauliflower with balsamic caramelized onions and olives. A nice alternative to the standard fries or salad.

I have heard from some people that Crescent Cafe is not a good place to bring kids. The reports have been that the staff is not terribly tolerant of the crying infant, or the two-year-old who won’t sit still. I personally have not seen this. However, the vibe here is certainly for a more mature crowd, who likes a good breakfast that is served with a healthy amount of respect. The prices may also be a predetermining factor. Breakfast for two with one juice and one coffee ran me $19.50 without tip. The portions are reasonable, but for people who want the huge hung-over side of greasy potatoes, this is not the place to go. But if you are gearing up for a day drinking wine, this is a fine place to line your stomach with grub to decelerate the absorption of alcohol.

  • Phone: (503) 435-2655
  • Address: 526 NE Third St, McMinnville, OR. 97128
  • Hours: Wed-Fri 7am-12pm, Sat-Sun 8am-12pm

Your thoughts are welcome

  1. taylorad3 says

    I have had many a great breakfast at the Crescent Cafe, I do agree that the seating rules can be a bit rigid, however Micheal has always been a tremendous host.

  2. grumpyfemale says

    I went there for the first time yesterday and it was the best place my husband and I been to in along time. Michael is better than the best. I also went back there again today for breakfast and then at lunch for my husband to go lunch. There is nothing to complain about that place. The OJ is to die for, now I can not even drink any kind of OJ but theirs LOL.

  3. Guignol says

    Crescent cafe is by far the best breakfast we have consistently had even competing with Portland restaurants. Michael and Danny are two rockin guys who have commited themselves to satisfying there guests from the minute you walk in until you leave. They grow their own veges, only source local products and are so welcoming on every occasion. Danny’s brandied apricot-currant coffee cake is HEAVEN, and the banana pancakes too. Keep it up guys, There is life in Yamhill county

  4. grumpyfemale says

    Crescent cafe always has good food. There coffee cake is so moist and it falls apart when you try to cut it. The employees are always happy some times they are funny you can not help but laugh but it is all good. Michael is a great host he warm, always smiling. Michael introduced us to Danny finally two visits ago. It was an honor to meet Danny in person finally. Danny’s dishes he makes are so divine, they usually melts in your mouth. We think to our selves how does he make the food so moist, so smooth or makes it melt in your mouth. It will always be a mystery to us. We have told everyone we know to come and try the Crescent Cafe. I told everyone on My Space if they are in Oregon they should come to Crescent Cafe for the best meal in the world. Thank you Michael and Danny for finally bringing a good eating place for people to enjoy down to earth good food. If you come there to eat be full warned that there maybe a long line of people waiting to get in to be seated. So bring a good book or something to pass up the time while you wait. It is worth the wait. We love the seating arrangement cause you are not sitting on top of people or elbowing the person next to you in the next table. It is small enough that the noise level is not so high. If they put any more seats in there it would not be the small, quiet restaurant that is growing a name for themselves in the Yamhill area anymore, it would be like there competitor so crammed, no room at all and noisy. Keep up the good work you guys.

    Love you guys
    Terry and Anne

  5. Prone to Hyperbole says

    Absolutely a glorious place! My partner and I went because of a high recommendation from Deborah at Bistro Maison who, by the way, runs the other best brunch around these parts, but STILL recommended I check this place out.
    This is too hard to describe… no hyperbole is needed! The owner, Michael, literally swept us into a comfy 4 top (and did not ask us to join other diners) ;-) and proceeded to pamper us from moment one. It caught us so off guard that we actually thought he must have thought he knew us, or that we were reviewers or something. But upon reading other user reviews, he seems to do this for everyone.
    Our waitress was perfection. The teamwork of the staff was perfect. The food was delightful. The breads / french toast were highlights. The egg dish seemed fresh and delicious if a little under-salted or bland. But I realized I think I’m just too accustom to the bacon or truffle salt heavy cuisine of trendy brunches around PDX. The juice, food, pricing, and service (and surroundings) were flawless.

    Everyone should give them a try! Nice country drive down to McMinville, eat, walk, hit Serendipity for the cheapest, best fresh-baked cookies, brownies and cupcakes around, and crawl back to Portland.

    good times. Kudos, Michael and Danny!!!!

  6. Don says

    I was told that of few offerings in good ‘ol McMinneville, that the Crescent had a great breakfast! The ‘biscuits and gravy were definately homemade and quite delicious. I am one to linger and enjoy my meal for sometimes ‘an hour to two hours, depending on the food, staff or general feel of comfort. This was not that place. Service was good, however very ‘driven towards the ‘check and will that be it ‘kind of feeling. Focus seemed to be on bigger tables and condensing or moving smaller one’s around. I was even told by the owner that he may have to move me from my four’-top to a corner if he needs, because of his lunch crowd picking up. Really?? After that, I could really get a feel of the restaurant, owner and false commintment to patrons. It made sense that he was a ‘transplant from Cali. moving to a new ‘wine area. I have family from California and I get it. Too bad that people whom begin something good in restaurant offering’s, can’t be focused or true to quality service or genuine hospitality. Hopefully things can improve for this nice little cafe. Food was really good! Perhap’s the owner can study up on some ‘southern hospitality….

    • says

      I don’t know Don… if someone came into my breakfast restaurant and took up a table for two hours, I wouldn’t be very nice either. If it is empty, that’s one thing, but otherwise that is money out the window.

      • Don says

        It’s all about the money. That is why ‘most restaurant’s fail despite other reasons. A table for one person and or his/her guest within a ‘two hour window is not that unreasonable. Depending on the ‘service time of a more gourmet place as in contrast to faster eateries of fast food places in general, one to one and a half hour’s can happen easily! I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but this is the biggest reason most ‘city luncher’s do not eat out of their office much. Aside from all that, ‘most of us between our texting fastlane and hurrying around each other, never stop long enough to enjoy much, especially our ‘dining experiences! Hopefully’ you and many ‘other’s alike will slow down long enough smell the ‘rose’s or at least the food you eat… -Don

        • JandJ says

          Sorry, but I’m with FD and pdxyogi on this one. There’s nothing wrong with lingering or wanting to take in a meal at a more relaxed pace. However, if you’re a lone customer occupying a 4-top at a busy time, then you might have the consideration and willingness to move to a different table and it’s not unreasonable for a restaurant to ask that of you. As far as being “all about the money”, well, what do you think enables a restaurant to be in business? Money and butts in seats has to be a consideration and under the circumstances you described, the owner wasn’t out of line in suggesting a move IMHO. As far as all that “experience and background” you think you have on this topic, are you suggesting that others here haven’t eaten out as much as you or are you making reference to some other relevant experience?

          BTW, FWIW, I think the pacing at many restaurants is overly fast and that is a legitimate issue that I’ve experienced at a number of restaurants in this town. However, your circumstances are quite different, and as FD suggests, the problem here is probably you, not the restaurant.

  7. pdxyogi says

    Don, it appear’s a’s if you are the problem. Sound’s a’s if you wanted to camp out 2-3 hour’s at a 4-top, keeping them from serving additional patron’s. Who do you think you are? It’s breakfast not an eight-course fine dining dinner. Were I the owner, I’d have said the same thing’s to you possibly wor’se. [Apostrophe abuse intentional]

    • Don says

      Most people in Portland and other surrounding cities often enjoy restaurants to see and been seen. Mostly to follow the crowd or hype that some restaurants generate. As I posted in my comment to ‘Crescent, I like to spend at least an hour or maybe two enjoying my food and company. When ‘scoping out a restaurant for the first time, especially one with different rave’s, I tend to check it out well with menu and wait staff including atmosephere. I see that many Portlander’s find new restaurant’s trendy square’s to fill, and hurriedly eat and leave without really getting what the place is about or even caring for that part. For the record, I tried dining at the ‘Crescent with two ‘different guest’s I met with that morning, and we all shared the same thought’s about the restaurant. I did like the food, however the way the restaurant was ran stayed the issue of concern! You, pdxyogi should soul surf yourself a little bit before jumping on a ‘band wagon! I can almost assure you, I have way more experience and background in what I comment on. ‘Have a great day and don’t give up! There are still lot’s of wonderful places to eat out there… :) -Don

  8. Don says

    Thank you for the reply. Opinions are alway’s welcome! If ‘everyone were to agree on ‘everything, it would be a very boring world to live in….. ‘Cheers, -Don

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