While it’s been open for about a year, Cafe Hibiscus and I go back over twenty (though I didn’t know it until three weeks ago).
Twenty Nine Years Ago: Chef Martin Wyss leaves the Kahala Hilton returning to his roots by working with wife Jeannie to open the neighborhoody Swiss Inn in a supermarket strip mall on the outskirts of Honolulu, HI.
Twenty Eight to Eleven Years Ago: One of my earliest foodie memories, I recall sitting with my family in a dark overhead beamed European style chalet dining room, sipping an amazing slightly sweet savory Swiss Onion soup from a stone bowl (note: Childhood memories like half-remembered dreams are slippery at best).
Eleven Years Ago: After a successful eighteen year run, one that would see Swiss Inn write it’s own special chapter in Honolulu culinary history, Martin and Jeannie decide to retire and close their beloved eatery.
Four Years Ago: The Wyss’ give their blessing to daughter Jennie as she turns a selling-to-coworkers side project into a successful bottling and distribution of the family’s secret Swiss dressing here in PDX.
Three Years Ago: Setting up audio visual gear at a corporate event catered by the Wyss family, I rejoiced at the opportunity to devour a smörgåsbord of old school Swiss Inn favorites, but left wondering whether I’d ever do so again. Shortly after, but unrelated to this event, we packed up and moved to Portland.
About A Year Ago: Unknownst to me, Jennie opens the deceptively named Cafe Hibiscus, a cute Alberta neighborhood joint serving her family’s Swiss cuisine with a generous side of Aloha (Hawaiian style love, not the suburb pass Beavertron).
Twenty Four Days Ago: My brother and sister-in-law meet Jennie at the Alberta street fair, promising to convince his brother (me) to return with him the next day for lunch. I don’t remember everything he said, but “Swiss Inn” was enough.
Twenty Three Days Ago: We show up at Cafe Hibisicus and are immediately treated like part of the Wyss Ohana (“family” for those who haven’t seen Lilo and Stitch). I have my mind bending “Anton Ego Ratatouille” moment as I take a bite of the Swiss soup and myself both grown up and child simultaneously enjoying the same bowl. We order way more than five people should eat for lunch, but there are no complaints, at least not until we try getting up and walking (btw though not required, for maximum cost-effective-variety-sampling-action eating family style is totally recommended).
Twenty Two Days to An Hour Ago: I edit pictures. I take more. I work. I play board games. I work. I procrastinate on writing this post. I reflect on the warmth and goodness of the Wyss family and our wonderful lunch. The Swiss Salat Teller, a sampling of all their salads is an order-every-time dish for me (along with the Swiss Onion Soup). Also loved the Rotisserie Chicken Sandwich, their classic Emince Zurichoise (pork cutlet in creamy mushroom sauce), and anything that has to do with either their spatzli or their garlic butter.
This very moment: I finally finish writing about how an unlikely Swiss restaurant with Hawaiian roots causes a temporal collision of my past and my present, my old home and my new, and how I definitely think you should pay Jennie and Cafe Hibiscus a visit (name a another delicious 808 or PDX Swiss restaurant that treats you immediately like family, in fact name another Swiss restaurant, see what I mean).
4950 NE 14th Avenue
Portland, OR 97211
Hours: Wednesday-Sunday 12-3 p.m.
Wednesday-Saturday 6-9 p.m.
Closed: Monday & Tuesday