Olympia’s west-side culinary scene is reaching new heights.
The Park Side Café, opening Monday, offers Olympia’s first rooftop dining area, putting diners atop the two-story building at Division and Harrison, where they can see neighboring West Central Park and much more.
“The position of the building gives us a view of Mount Rainier as well as the Olympic mountains on the west side,” café owner Alicia Elliott told The Olympian. “That’s one of the inspirations for the rooftop dining.”
At the soft opening Saturday, the roof was one of the most talked about features of the café, which serves vegan comfort food with a focus on local and organic ingredients.
The view is just part of the appeal: The restaurant also has a dumbwaiter, a miniature freight elevator that allows employees to send food to the roof so customers needn’t carry it up the stairs.
Dumbwaiters were first used in Victorian houses to transport food from the basement kitchen where servants prepared it to the dining room above.
Architect Jeffrey Snyder came up with the idea to install one in the café, which also boasts such Victorian-inspired details as an embossed copper ceiling.
The building has no full-size elevator, so those with disabilities won’t be able to check out the roof, and roof-bound diners will get a bit of exercise before they dig into items from the ever-changing menu. The offerings will be both light (soups and salad) and hearty (lasagna, enchilada casserole, chickpea Marsala).
“The menu concept is seasonal and local,” said Kelly Green, who manages the restaurant with Victoria Kantargis.
“It’s like a CSA but restaurant style,” Kantargis added.
The cafe’s whimsical paintings of animals are meant to be the only clue that the food is vegan, said Elliott, who funded the creation of West Central Park and deeded it to a nonprofit. Saturday’s menu didn’t misspell pepperoni or oyster -- usually a code used to designate vegan substitutes -- though the offerings, of course, contained neither.
“We don’t want people to be intimidated by the fact that it’s a vegan restaurant,” Elliott said. “The focus is on making the food as appealing and delicious as possible.”
Most popular on Saturday, when about 500 people dined in the café, were the hand pies, available in pepperoni pizza and cheesy broccoli. Plans are to make them a regular item, with a rotating selection of fillings.
There were plenty of sweet pies, ranging from strawberry balsamic to raw lime cheesecake, and other desserts on offer, tooas well. (Inside-out German chocolate cake, anyone?)
The restaurant will be open daily for breakfast and lunch, with breakfast offerings to include vegetable-and-grain bowls, burritos and sandwiches on croissants or gluten-free English muffins, both baked in house, Green said.
The menu will continue to develop, the managers said, adding that they plan to keep the café open for dinner when the park hosts concerts on summer Saturdays. They’re also aiming to make the menu completely organic.
“Right now, I would say 99 percent of our items are organic,” Green said. “We will be pursuing organic certification within a year.”
The Park Side Café
- What: The new vegan café, with a focus on organic and local food and a rooftop dining area, has its grand opening Monday.
- When: 7 a.m.-3 p.m. daily
- Where: 1909 Harrison Ave. NW, Olympia
- More information: 360-352-8344, theparksidecafe.com