Answers to FAQs
I’ve been writing this column for six years, during which time I’ve eaten my morning meal at nearly 40 different restaurants in and around Portland. So people often ask me where they should go for breakfast or a weekend brunch.
But here’s the problem: there isn’t just one answer to that question. It depends on who you are and what kind of mood you’re in. Sounds like a cop-out, but it’s true. Still, I’ll do what I can to help make your choice easier. Read on, and ask yourself, Does this sound like me? If it does, you’ve found your brunch.
“I want pancakes, but I don’t want to feel guilty about it later.”
Go to The Good Egg (78 Middle St., Portland). Their multigrain cakes are at the healthy end of the pancake spectrum, but still delicious, especially with a healthy pour of maple syrup on top. Their cinnamon rolls are even better, but you don’t get to feel as good about yourself when you eat them.
“I get up really early on the weekend.” (See also: “I sleep in, but I totally love waiting in line.”)
Go to Bintliff’s (98 Portland St., Portland). They have some of the best corned beef hash in town, the coffee’s great, and the menu is long enough that anyone you drag along with you is going to be happy. But if you get there after nine o’clock on a Saturday or Sunday morning, be ready to wait — either outside in the cold or crammed into the entryway. The good news is, this is one of the few places you can get brunch on weekdays — you can get up as late as you want and still get a table right away.
“A good Bloody Mary is more important than hearing the person sitting across the table from me.”
Go to Local 188 (685 Congress St., Portland). A damn fine Bloody (or Mimosa) will only set you back five bucks during Sunday brunch. And the pancakes are so good, and so devoid of nutritional value, they’ll make you weep. But be forewarned: it’s REALLY LOUD IN THERE.
“I just want a regular breakfast at a regular diner. Is that OK with you, Mr. Fancy Brunch Guy?”
Go to Steve and Renee’s (500 Washington Ave., Portland). You won’t find a better basic breakfast. The prices are low, and there is no friendlier service anywhere, period. And that’s a fact.
“All I want is coffee and a doughnut. Or maybe a bagel.”
Get thee to the Holy Donut (194 Park Ave., Portland). Just because you choose simple pleasures doesn’t mean you should cheat yourself out of a good meal. The coffee and bagels come from Coffee by Design and Union Bagel Company, respectively, and the house specialties — doughnuts, of course — are ridiculously decadent. Lemon’s my favorite, but I can’t make all your choices for you. You’ll figure out what kind you want. I believe in you.
“I’d rather have dessert first, and then work backwards.”
Go to Caiola’s (58 Pine St., Portland). Start with a homemade cinnamon-and-sugar pop tart or jam-and-chocolate skivers (a.k.a. waffle nuggets) before you move on to the main course. The egg dishes — especially the crunchy, spicy Eggs Tostada — are unbelievable. And for the love of God, get a side order of maple bacon. Maple. Bacon. Are you hearing me?
“I want someplace legitimately local. As in, no tourists.”
Go to Artemisia Café (61 Pleasant St., Portland). Order anything. Biscuits and gravy, huevos rancheros, cinnamon graham French toast… you can’t go wrong, it’s all good. And, by the way, a lot of tourists are nice people, and some of them read this column sometimes. So lighten up, OK?
“I still can’t make up my mind, and now I’m starving. Can you just tell me where to go, already?”
Fine. Go to Schulte & Herr (349 Cumberland Ave., Portland). I promise you won’t be sorry. If you’ve never had German food before, you’ll be surprised by how good it is. Actually, if you have eaten German food before, you’ll probably be just as surprised. Their potato pancakes with house-cured lox and their Belgian waffle with blueberry-maple syrup are two of the best breakfasts you will ever eat.
Of course, there are more options. You can find a great meal at Hot Suppa!, the Corner Room, Ohno! Café and plenty of other places I’ll probably regret leaving off this list. The simple truth is, we have a lot of good choices in Portland, and not too many bad ones. We’re lucky — there are cities 10 times bigger that don’t have as many great places for breakfast and brunch.
So go ahead and ask my advice if you want. You already know the answer: It depends.
— Dan Zarin