For the amount of times I went to brunch in less than 72 hours in Portland, and for the amount of minutes I spent waiting for brunch, you would think we didn’t have brunch in Oakland. All I can say about my persistent weakness for brunch, is that a good one sets the day off right. I had three great morning meals in Portland, three great days, and lots more food and drinks in between. Here’s my advice for a long weekend in Portland:
Here’s a place I would go to for drinks before dinner, forget about my dinner, and then still end up spending as much on drinks as I would on dinner. I would feel okay about it too. This is a dark and inviting bar, where dedication to artisanal craft permeates the menu and design: there’s a man slicing charcuterie in the glare of the front window, the chalkboard menu boasts local cheese and homemade pickles, candle-lit oak barrels and walnut plank seating line the room, and the cocktail menu features a number of homemade shrubs and syrups. While my friends swooned over our server, I fell hard for a fiery mezcal swizzle called the high desert swizzle, made with del maguey vida mezcal and blackberry shrub (a homemade blackberry syrup).
Transplant Kask to San Francisco and I imagine it would be too precious (and crowded) for me, but just like I noticed at other establishments in Portland, rugged Americanness seeps in; sometimes it’s a mounted deerhead, a few too many trucker hats in the kitchen, or just a really nice man with a beard. At Kask it’s less obvious, but still there— scan through the $10 cocktails and you’ll find a budweiser for $2. The bartenders took my jacket when I walked in, helped us select our meat and cheese plate with the patience of an oyster, and even grabbed a table for us as the room cleared out. If you are in Portland for one night, I would drink here and eat at Broder (see below…see how I’m gonna get you to keep reading?)
House aged cocktails, a long whiskey list, and a wide selection of absinth make this a difficult bar to be moderate at. Plus, for $6 you can get a giant bowl of truffle popcorn. Between that and the Kavalier and Clay ($9), a concoction of tequila, becherovka, lemon juice, and pineapple gum syrup, I was happy. Lunch and dinner are served here as well, although out of the three courses I shared, the cavatelli wtih creamed nettles was the only standout. I’d try the happy hour (from 3-6 pm and 11 pm- close), when cocktails are $5 and snacks like the daily grilled cheese and the daily charcuterie board run under $6.
The closest coffee house to our temporary home was also the only 24 hour coffee house in Portland. Good coffee, kombucha on tap, voodoo donughts, and a very sleep-deprived barista. (Travel tip: If a barista tells you that the “must do” thing in Portland is a weekly poetry slam, don’t even bother asking for his advice on food).
This dinnerhouse way on the Southeast Side grabbed our attention for its biscuit recognition in the Portland Monthly. The wonderful thing about Portland, in addition to a weird abundance of restaurants with good biscuits, is that so many restaurants have full bars— a window into why my friends from Oregon are such good drinkers. Country Cat has a brunch cocktails menu, which you’ll need after waiting an hour to sit down.
On the other hand, slow-cooked food is something worth waiting for and the “Slow Burn”, two sunny side up egss on top of slow-cooked pork and chile with south carolina grits was delicious. Get here around 9 am for faster seating.
Robin Thicke was on the speakers, a mounted plastic fish hung above the open kitchen, and underneath it two cute guys in t-shirts and baseball caps calmly pulled an assortment of baked eggs and scrambles out of the oven, adding finishing touches of picked beets and walnut toast. Just before I almost gave into the urge to grab my Scandinavian hash off the mahogany bar, one of the smiling servers grabbed it and glided towards our table. This is a skinny and popular dining room, so get here early if you plan to brunch- although they open the bar next door for people to wait and enjoy hot coffee. I ordered the Smoked Trout Pytt I Panna: small cubed potatoes, bell peppers, onions and smoked trout, topped with two baked eggs and pickled beets. It was the best breakfast I’ve had in a while.
Tasty N Sons
There’s an impulse to try everything at this place, and for it I blame the head chef, who stood at the window of the kitchen yelling out orders of glazed yams, bacon wrapped dates, potato donughts, and sweet biscuits as they came in. It’s slightly painful to make a decision here, so here’s my advice: skip the sweet small plates (they’re too sweet) except for the potato donught, which tastes much like it sounds, dense like a potato, deliciously chocolaty and satisfying like a donut. Do jump on the raddicio if you feel like a salad, it’s a big portion for $8, dressed well, and has some tasty croutons. The biscuits are good, so grab some sweet ones with blueberry compote, and the chicken fried egg & cheddar biscuit with fried chicken isn’t bad. My dish, the shakshuka red pepper & tomato stew with baked eggs, tasted like something I would’ve had in one of my favorite down-home, low frills Istanbul restaurants when I lived there. Turns out, as I learned from Wikipedia, this wonderful casserole of roasted bell peppers and tomoato stew served in clay cookware is a traditional staple of Tunisian, Moraccan, and Israeli cuisine (among others), so I probably did have it in Istanbul. The man at the table next to me said the north african sausage with over easy egg, couscous & cauliflower was just okay. My friends really liked the house-made kimchi, sauteed vegetables, brown rice with a sunny side up egg. You still have about 20 really interesting dishes to choose from. Good luck.
The Heart Cart – CLOSED
At the corner of 2nd and SW Stark food trucks adorn the sidewalks, making Portland street food newbies like us giddy. But when it was time to grab some food for our car ride home, we couldn’t decide— nothing stood out. Food carts are so common in Portland that most of these carts seemed, well, common. There was a Thai stand, a burrito stand, a Greek stand, and so on. However, just separated from the crowd stood a little electric blue caboose, quirky enough in its appearance to make us think it had something different to offer. The Heart Cart serves healthy comfort food from around the world, and all of the meals are gluten fee and vegan. Roll your eyes if you will but the Coco-Kale-namon, kale sautéed in coconut creme with cinnamon and paprika with a side of brown rice, was exactly what I wanted after a weekend of overindulgence.
In Between Meals
Lodekka dress shop
It’s a dress shop in a double decker bus— so cute you wanna poke your eyes out.