Best of PDX
The Big Five Biscuit Joints
We weigh in on the breakfast bread at five local hot-spots, and we ask you to fill in the holes (in-the-wall).
If there are two things Portland peeps want to eat, it’s breakfast and comfort food. Marry the two, and their first born son would likely be the hard-working biscuit. At the very least, biscuits are a hearty, stick-to-your-ribs way to the start the day; at their best, they are flaky, salty, buttery hunks of baked heaven.
Sampling and ranking every biscuit in town is a bit above our pay-grade and cholesterol goals; so, instead, we present—in descending order—our scientific findings on the Big Five. We ask you, dear readers, to fill us in on your top five favorite lesser-known local biscuit experts. If we don’t hear from you, we might be forced to add Popeyes to the list…
And now, without further ado, let’s get butter and jammin’.
1) Tasty n Sons 3808 N Williams Ave, Suite C
Any which way you slice it (sweet or savory) Tasty’s biscuits are downright delicious. Erin’s Sweet Biscuits are small, buttery bites crowned with a crispy sugar crust and topped with warm blueberry compote and a dollop of fresh whipped cream. I would probably prefer a wee bit less sugar in that whipped cream, for balance, but I’m not complaining. These baby biscuits are just like their savory bigger brothers—warm, flaky, and peel-apart soft (like the difference between a croissant and a scone). Light and not over-salted, they don’t end up turning to spackle in your mouth. In the case of the Fried Egg & Cheddar Biscuit, the filling is fab, of course, but these are biscuits you’d be happy to eat without adornment of any kind.
2) Simpatica Dining Hall 828 SE Ash St
There are many reasons to save up your Sunday breakfast for Simpatica, including a simple side of biscuit with butter and jam. Crispy-crunchity on top, these hearty buttercup-colored delights taste baked-to-order, even at 1:45pm. But while the outside is gently browned, the inside is fall-apart soft, and each bite is a mouthful of fine flour and other quality ingredients. The biscuit I recently devoured was served with apple butter, and, much to my surprise, the spread’s dark spice and tang was the perfect foil for the salty richness of the biscuit. If it wasn’t for those damn share tables, I would have licked every crumb off the plate.
3) Screen Door 2337 E Burnside St
It says a lot about the breakfast here that people would be willing to patiently and peacefully wait an hour-and-a-half for a table. But I guess it makes sense when the prize is towers of fried chicken and waffles, platters of bananas foster French toast, and mounds of buttermilk drop biscuits and gravy. I braved the wait last weekend and could have eaten a urinal cake by the time my vegetarian B&G arrived, but it was also darn yummy. The giant biscuits are cut open and griddled until crispy, and then topped with a savory and wonderfully nuanced mushroom and veggie protein country gravy. In truth, these biscuits boast a texture more like a light cornbread or a really thick Texas Toast, but that makes them perfect for sopping up the sauce (and they are equally delicious with butter and jam) so I’m willing to let it slide.
4) Arleta Library Café 5513 SE 72nd Ave
Self-proclaimed “Portland’s Best Biscuits-n-Gravy,” these copper-colored pastry puffs are made with sweet potatoes, come topped with thinly sliced house-roasted pork loin, and are served swimming in a sea of rich, creamy rosemary gravy brimming with big, gorgeous chunks of sausage. But while the biscuits have a lovely, slightly sweet pumpkin pie spice flavor, they’re a bit dry, and more dense and cakey than light and flaky. They’re clearly made early in the morning and then sit around until ordered. They have enough of a siren song to have secured a visit from the Food Network’s Guy Fieri for an episode of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives a few years back; but you might be less than impressed if you’re brunch takes place more around “unch.” You’ll at least wish they’d reheat them.
5) Pine State Biscuits 3640 SE Belmont St & 2204 NE Alberta St
Pine State is popular, for sure—the line seems never-ending and they were recently able to open a second outpost on Alberta. But the thing is, while their menu is filled with crave-worthy and creative combinations of flavorful fillings (the fried chicken, bacon, egg, and cheese in the Reggie Deluxe makes it perfect hangover food, and I could eat a soup tureen of their whipped butter and honey), the biscuits just aren’t that great. The crust overpowers, while the center is almost doughy, which makes each mouthful a little difficult to get down. My guess is that these biscuits are baked in bulk early-on to meet the demands of the crowds, which gives them time to firm up and dry out. Perhaps a better name might be Pine State Toppings.