PORTLAND, Ore. — Tucked away in Southwest Portland is a two-story house. From the outside, it doesn’t look like anything fancy. On the inside, however, is a restaurant that has captivated the Portland Trail Blazers franchise for years.
“I always tell people,” said former Blazer Clyde Drexler, “there is this place you got to go to that is not going to blow your socks off outside, but you’ll love the food: Cafe Du Berry.”
Cafe Du Berry is a family-owned restaurant that is just down the street from the Blazers’ old practice facility at Lewis & Clark College. Mike Andersen and his wife, Lydia, opened it in 1984 and had five children who have all worked there too. Mike Andersen can rattle off the go-to orders from different Blazers. Drexler? Two orders of French toast and ham or pepper steak. Rasheed Wallace? A breakfast eggs combo with pepper steak or salmon.
And it’s not just the Blazers who have enjoyed the food and company of the Andersen family. Mike Andersen said basketball legend Bill Russell has eaten at Cafe Du Berry multiple times after being introduced to the restaurant by Drexler. The Boston Celtics icon’s typical visits, which have become less frequent as he has aged, came during pit stops on the long drive from Seattle to California.
“One of my cherished customers was Bill Russell. He used to come here all the time,” Andersen said. “Sometimes I didn’t know that he was in here because I was so busy, but then I would hear this laugh. I was like, ‘It’s Bill.’ My heart started to pump because he is my hero.”
The entire Detroit Pistons team in the mid-2000s, NBA scouts and executives, and Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant have also stopped in to enjoy the French-American cuisine.
“To this day, Cafe Du Berry is always my first stop whenever I make it back to Portland,” said former Blazers forward Scottie Pippen.
Drexler was the first Blazers player to eat regularly at Cafe Du Berry after Dr. Bob Cook, a former Blazers doctor, invited him. Cook used to bring fish to the restaurant that were cleaned and cooked for him.
“It was farm to the table before farm to the table. Everybody tries to say that now, but Du Berry was like that in the ’80s,” Drexler said. “They have the best French toast in the world, and it came with potatoes that were phenomenal and fresh strawberries and raspberries. I’d get a side of ham and a big glass of milk.
“I couldn’t wait to get there. It was my pregame meal and what I wanted most mornings when I got up. All my kids loved it too.”
Drexler went there so often that his family became close with the Andersens.
“The whole family, the daughter, the son, I knew them all,” Drexler said. “They were like extended versions of our family. Sometimes I would bring my kids for breakfast and Mike’s son would join us for the day afterward. I’d bring him back before they closed. They were like family.”
Eventually, the Blazers’ all-time leading scorer was joined by his teammates, including Terry Porter, Buck Williams, Jerome Kersey and Kevin Duckworth, Mark Bryant and Tracy Murray, for breakfasts.
Porter, who enjoys the French toast and two eggs over easy, said the Blazers bonded over those meals.
“Clyde, Buck and myself all lived in the same area,” said Porter, now the University of Portland’s head men’s basketball coach. “We would stop there on our way back after shootaround or before. That was before the days of having a chef making your breakfast in the practice facility. We had to go make it ourselves then.
“It became part of our game-day routine. We would sit there and talk about our opponent, life, and hang out.”
While Drexler was the ringleader for the Blazers at Cafe Du Berry, he often drove his teammates crazy with his tardiness.
“He was always late to everything,” Andersen said. “Everyone would always give him a hard time, especially Buck Williams.”
Blazers players often placed to-go orders too.
“They would sit in the stairways and customers would have trouble moving around them,” Andersen said. “They would all sit there and hang out because it would be raining in Portland.”
The next generation of Blazers continued to dine at Cafe Du Berry as well, including Pippen and Wallace.
“Everyone hated Rasheed Wallace because he wouldn’t talk to the press. He’d give smartass answers. But he was the nicest person here,” Mike Andersen said.
After Wallace joined the Pistons in 2004, he even persuaded his entire team to come to the restaurant during their regular-season trips to Portland. Andersen said the Pistons would call ahead of time to get their orders, which included “70 orders of pepper steak and 50 orders of French toast.”
“Their eyes are always bigger than their stomachs,” Andersen said. “I’ve never seen players in the NBA eat more than a third of their food.”
One Pistons official said head athletic trainer Arnie Kander was responsible for scheduling trips to Cafe Du Berry on off days in Portland that included the entire team arriving at the restaurant on a team bus.
“We made a point to do team breakfasts there because it was a place everyone wanted to go and it created an atmosphere where everyone could bond together over a great meal,” Kander said. “These meals provided great opportunity for players, coaches and staff to build and strengthen relationships that translate into a stronger bond on the court as well.”
While Mike Andersen was the lead chef at the restaurant, Lydia Andersen was the heart and soul. It was her personality and hospitality that also attracted players to the restaurant. She recognized them. She made them feel at home. She knew the names of their children and asked about them. She also persuaded Drexler to go to her native Philippines for some speaking engagements.
Wallace and former Blazers forward Gary Trent Sr., meanwhile, gave Lydia tickets regularly, her husband said.
“She was outgoing, always talkative. She loved to see us come in there because she was a Blazers fan,” Porter said. “She loved talking to us about the kids because she saw them when they were really young. She always cared about what they were doing. She would talk about our era and ‘Sheed. She loved the connection and that guys came in there to bring connection to her spot.”
Said Pippen: “Lydia was like family to me.”
Cafe Du Berry changed forever after Lydia Andersen died on Feb. 21, 2017. The restaurant stayed closed for three days after her death but had to reopen for financial reasons since the entire Andersen family worked there.
Mike Andersen said the entire restaurant was so packed during a memorial for his wife that people couldn’t get upstairs to get the food. He also said former Blazer Brian Grant attended her funeral.
“I am a patron who loves their food. I feel like I grew up with them. When Lydia passed, it was so sad for the community,” Grant said.
Said Drexler: “I know how devastated the family was. They’re a very close family. It was tough on Mike. Tough on the kids. Tough on the grandkids. Anytime the matriarch of the family passes it’s a huge loss for everyone.”
Mike Andersen said he is still telling former Blazers and patrons when they come back to the restaurant that his wife died.
The 65-year-old has also shared recipes with Drexler and Pippen so they can cook his signature dishes for their children.
“Mike has taught me how to make most of the dishes,” Drexler said. “I’ve been in the kitchen through the years learning how to make them. Not that I remember the recipes, but I did make them.”
Said Pippen, who Andersen noted is a really good tipper: “Mike even shared with me their recipe for French toast, which my kids really enjoy.”
Pippen recently took his son, Vanderbilt signee Scotty Pippen Jr., to the restaurant earlier this year when the latter’s high school team played in Portland.
Andersen said his business has “fizzled” with the current Blazers players outside of Gary Trent Jr., who was introduced to the restaurant by his father. Trent Jr. said the current players don’t go because “they don’t know about it.”
Still, plenty of people around the league continue to visit when they’re in town.
Ed Davis, who played for Portland from 2015-18 and currently plays for the Brooklyn Nets, loves the baked bread on the kitchen counter. He was introduced to the restaurant by his old Memphis Grizzlies teammate Tayshaun Prince, who was introduced to it by Wallace.
“We got up there like 6 or 7 in the morning before shootaround,” Davis said. “[Prince] hyped it up as a good spot that I had to try it out. It is still one of my favorite breakfast spots in the world.”
Drexler said the new Blazers are missing out.
“Even to this day when I’m in Portland, it is one of the best places to go to,” Drexler said. “You go there to see Mike and his family, but the food is always the best. It’s so good.
“If they’re not going, they are missing the boat.”