The Breakfast Serial

photo/Naomi Zarin
photo/Naomi Zarin

52 Washington Ave., Portland

There was a time not too long ago when the only place for eats and drinks along the downtown end of Washington Avenue was Silly’s. In the past year there’s been a surge of new establishments in the area, including the “boutique BBQ restaurant” Terlingua, which opened last summer. My Bollard colleague Hannah McCain went there for dinner late last year, and since then they’ve begun serving brunch.

Terlingua specializes in house-smoked meats and explores the flavors of Mexico’s interior regions. My wife and daughter and I, joined by a couple friends, braved the parallel-parking hell on a recent Sunday morning to give it a try.

Drinks were in order. I had a long post­-brunch to-­do list that day, so I stuck with coffee, which was excellent: strong, smooth, and dark as a black hole. Terlingua’s brunch cocktails cover the basics — mimosas, screwdrivers, margaritas — but also include concoctions like the El Duderino (coffee, Allen’s and horchata) and michelada (a traditional Mexican combo of beer and spicy tomato juice — the house Mary mix, in this case).

Our friends both opted for the classic Bloody Mary ($10), strong and spicy, with a powerful blast of horseradish. My wife tried the Mary Verde, a bright green mutant version of a Bloody Mary made with Tito’s vodka, jalapeno peppers and herbs, garnished with a smoked shrimp, pickled egg, green olives and other tidbits. It was less spicy than expected, but quite enjoyable — though at $12, it was more expensive than half the entrées on the menu.

One friend ordered chilaquiles ($10): strips of corn tortilla in a mild red ranchero sauce with cilantro, Vidalia onion, pork-belly beans and crumbled crema cheese. She requested they leave off the eggs, which would have added some richness to this slightly salty, yet deeply and complexly flavored dish. The tortillas arrived al dente, but, sadly, were soggy within minutes.

I tried the deviled egg sandwich ($9), served on a thick, chewy flatbread with cucumber, tomato, onion, and salad greens. You could call it a glorified egg salad sandwich, but it’s a damn good one. The sprinkling of crispy fried garlic on top made all the difference.

My wife’ leaf lettuce salad ($9) came dressed with a crisp, refreshing vinaigrette and topped with crispy shallots. She added house-smoked turkey ($6), which was surprisingly bland. It was a decent salad, but at $15 we expected something a little more impressive.

The Terlingua French Toast ($10), on the other hand, was a huge hit. My daughter loved the generous helping of fresh berries and caramelized banana on top. The whipped honey butter was supremely decadent, and real maple syrup arrived on the side. The toast itself was rich and custardy throughout and cooked to perfection.

Still, the best meal of the morning was our friend’s Pulled Pork Benedict ($13). The shredded pork was moist and smoky, and the green­-chile biscuit was fluffy and flavorful. If you’ve never had Tabasco hollandaise, hurry over there now and ask for a shot-glass full.

— Dan Zarin

Terlingua serves brunch Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.