Making quaint café her own
August 28, 2015
One of downtown McMinnville’s best breakfast and lunch eateries, The Crescent Café, 526 NE 3rd Street, has been under new ownership for six months now. But you wouldn’t know it unless you asked.
That seamless transition was part of the plan for Nora Lamb, who purchased the popular café in April from original owners Michael McKenney and Danny Wilser.
“The plan from the beginning has been to keep things the same as much as it makes sense to me,” Lamb said. “I wanted it to be a quiet transition. Michael is well known in the area; he has some big shoes
to fill. But I do feel like it’s my own now.”
While ownership changed, the kitchen and wait staff remained the same. So did the from-scratch menu that features traditional, but often innovative American fare; buttermilk pancakes and waffles; french toast; fried cornmeal; creamed chicken and biscuits, and much more.
“It’s been the smoothest transition I could have asked for,” Lamb said, crediting the former owners and remaining staff, including head chef Andrew Head and kitchen manager Ben Linsday. “They were all trained very well by Danny.”
Lamb, who started in the restaurant business as a server at the age of 15, grew up in Wyoming. Her brother attended Linfield College, and after visiting him Lamb fell in love with McMinnville and eventually moved here. She married local musician and industry worker, Freddie Lamb, who helps with the baking but retains employment elsewhere on Third Street. The two lived in Portland for two years, but returned to McMinnville where they live with with their daughter, two-year-old Myra.
“There’s a sense of community in Mac that makes it home for me. That’s why we moved back,” she said.
The community aspect is part of the local culinary scene, too. Lamb credits local owners like Cindy Lorenzen of The Sage and Rick Drakeley of The 411 Eatery & Lounge for providing advice along the way.
“They’ve been so good for being mentors and helping me find my way,” she said.
Lamb was a manager at La Rambla and Gem Creole Saloon for several years, but always knew she wanted to own a restaurant of her own. A brunch business was not necessarily what she demanded, but she was looking for a quaint, small café.
“I think it’s nice to meet everyone who comes in the door,” Lamb said. “I really like the personal aspect of the café. … I love that we have amazingly loyal customers. The servers know their order, what they like and don’t like, when they come in.”
If you are searching for The Crescent Café, just cruise down Third Street on any weekend morning and look for the crowd waiting outside. Lamb said the only challenge she has had from the beginning is feeling like the location is too small. But that can also be a pleasant problem to have.
“Those people standing outside on the curb are my best advertisement,” Lamb said.
With the cafe already established, Lamb said the plan is not to change, but extend.
“I’d love for the café to be known for its lunch as much as its breakfast,” she said.
She also plans on expanding into evening service, hopefully starting in the next couple months with Friday and Saturday dinners, and eventually serving three meals a day, seven days a week.
Needless to say, fans of this “quaint, daytime café” have no quarrels with the change in ownership.
Crescent Café is open Monday through Friday 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information or to view the menu, visit crescentcafeonthird.com.