Hummus, spiced lamb crumbles, plump raisins, a perfect fried egg and plush, charred pita for scooping at Levant

LEVANT

Average Wait Time at 10 am on a Sunday Morning: 10 minutes 
Go-to dish: Hummus with lamb, eggs, and pita

A year ago, Levant’s Mideast-modern cooking felt directionless. But the kitchen’s recent course corrections—specifically a playful new Israeli weekend brunch—suggest a very promising future. Who else even dares to stick a slab of sweet, sesame seedy halvah inside a flaky homemade croissant? You can order a “chef’s choice” feast ($20 a head) and pitchers of harissa-spiced Bloody Marys for the table, assemble á la carte eats from shakshuka to freekah porridge, or just come for fab hummus deep in spiced lamb crumbles and plump raisins, with a perfect fried egg plopped on top and plush, charred pita for scooping. Add on one of the bar’s complex, refreshing cocktails, which tap everything from chinato to green tea–infused tequila, for a major wake-up call. 
2448 E Burnside St

OLD SALT

Average Wait Time: 10 minutes
Go-To Dish: Two-egg breakfast with salt potatoes

This mellow spot is soaked in familial rusticity right down to the milk bottles for water, with a baby at nearly every table and tattoos on nearly every arm. Pendleton blanket–level comfort is the credo here, in the flawlessly scrambled eggs, the dense house anadama toast, and the adjacent meat shop’s smoky-sweet bacon. That prime pig is fried to stand-up attention and nestled next to textbook French omelets stuffed with everything from smoked trout to korv sausage stroganoff. There are serviceable biscuits (on boards; sandwiching ham, cheese, and eggs; and with timid sausage gravy), but save room for more salt potatoes: crispy, buttery, velvety Yukon golds that the kitchen roasts, smashes, and then deep-fries to produce an addictive sort of potato chip spliced with a dinner spud. They are, I suspect, the reason brunch was invented in the first place.
5027 NE 42nd Ave
 

THE SUDRA

Average Wait Time: 0 minutes
Go-To Dish: Black rice porridge, spiced tofu with appam

Morning comfort speaks a vivid new dialect at this vegan Indian microeatery, where the essential item is appam, a lacy-edged Southern Indian pancake made from fermented rice and coconut milk batter. Chef-owner Sanjay Chandrasekaran serves the sweet, springy (and gluten-free!) rounds with gingery almond-oat crumble, fresh berries, and fennel-spiced coconut sauce—or topped with clouds of curry-cumin tofu curds mingled with charred peppers, sautéed kale, onions, and a heap of spicy home fries. The only thing more satisfying is his bowl of toothsome black rice in a heady pool of cinnamon-fennel-cardamom perfumed coconut cream broth, capped with a fan of apples—the Desi answer to oatmeal. Spring for crunchy black lentil “sausage” patties, fine-tune your platter with a rainbow of tart to fiery sauces, and sip the spot’s take on a morning marg: tart vino verde with tequila, lime, and bubbly water.
2333 NE Glisan St

IMPERIAL

Average Wait Time: 20 minutes
Go-to dish: Potato latkes with smoked salmon, duck egg, and sour cream

A downtown hotel restaurant may  not be your first instinct for Sunday-morning sustenance, but chef-
owner Vitaly Paley’s house of wood-fired goodness is home to a hearty brunch that will keep you chugging all the livelong day. Get started with a house-made “poptart,” a specimen of perfectly flaky pie crust cradling an oozing core of tart Northwest berries. Move along to the potato latkes, a skillful nod to Paley’s Russian roots that offers an alternative to the usual heap of carbs: a fluffy, herbed potato pancake is topped with a single, sunny-side-up duck egg, a fan of silky smoked salmon, and a dainty dollop of sour cream. For heavier fare, the Imperial Hash will fill you right up, while the chorizo and scrambled eggs with fry bread vaults the guilty pleasure of fried dough to new levels of refinement. 
410 SW Broadway

HK CAFÉ

Average Wait Time: 45 minutes
Go-to dish: Siu mai, egg yolk buns, spare ribs, jellyfish

A multisensory clamor of grinning maneki-neko cats, extended Asian families, and rattling carts that leave pork- and ginger-perfumed contrails in their wake, this east-side strip-mall hall has quietly usurped Portland’s dim sum crown with its massive roster of flavor bombs. Nibble plump, pork-and-shrimp-popping siu mai dumplings and sautéed green beans heady with tiny fermented shrimp. Sample translucent, sesame- and chile-slicked jellyfish salad, roasted meats, and snack innards. You could graze at this hectic Chinese brunch utopia for hours and never get bored. Flag down a server and demand an egg yolk bun—a yeasty mind-scrambler hiding a drippy trove of hot, sweet golden goo inside. They are round, sugar-crusted, and usually hide in the bottom left-hand corner of the glass-doored carts. Find them.
Eastport Plaza, 4410 SE 82nd Ave 

MUSCADINE

Average Wait Time: 15 minutes 
Go-To Dish: Meat + Three with catfish

This gracious Southern space nails all the Lazy Sunday details, from cloth-scrap napkins and the croon of ’90s R&B over the speakers to a sweet, bourbon-spiked Kentucky Coffee. Skip the leaden beignets and head straight to any protein from the deep fryer. Best is the magically feather-light catfish, flavorful and flaky, with a craggy cornmeal crust just dusted with spice. The buttermilk-brined fried chicken is no slouch either, juicy and rich, with a deeply bronzed crust and an oniony zing. A Meat + Three plate includes reasonably sized samples of most everything you want: mellow greens; nubby, herby Sea Island red peas; and the revelation of Anson Mills grits, silky and rich with what tastes like two pounds of butter per spoonful. Even better? Muscadine serves breakfast on the daily, y’all.
1465 NE Prescott St, Suite F

MILK GLASS MRKT

Average Wait Time: 0 minutes 
Go-to dish: Cheddar biscuit sandwich

In 2005, while you were eating yet another salmon hash, Nancye Benson paved the way for Portland’s food cart revolution with handcrafted morning treats conjured in a vintage trailer oven on N Mississippi Avenue. Now, her signature Moxie Rx cart dishes have finally found a permanent home: a super-cute retro-mod café filled with curated groceries and some fresh ideas. Chomp right into a cheddar biscuit sandwich—not just the usual fried-egg number, but an herby omelet neatly folded and tucked beneath meaty bacon (or salmon, or roasted peppers) and an ooze of hot white cheese. Scan the counter for daily treats, from serious muffins to crispy-edge bread-pudding cakes—and remember, it’s never too early for Benson’s ginger lime macaroons.
2150 N Killingsworth St

VERDIGRIS

Average Wait Time: 15 minutes
Go-To Dish: Duck confit omelet with watercress, braised leeks, and gruyère

This small cubby of white-walled Europhile calm is an oasis of sanity amid the excesses of Brunch Culture: sophisticated yet chill, satisfying but not sloppy. The mood could be called Franco-Portlandian, the décor trending Gallic-rustic but the soundtrack, on a recent visit, anchored by the Pixies, classic Willie Nelson, and vintage Johnny Cash. The menu likewise puts the lightest of Continental touches on some robust Northwest foundations—frisée with maple-smoked trout or braised rabbit holding down the power-slot elsewhere reserved for pork belly. Do drink the Campari fennel aperitif, and while you’re at it order the banana bread pudding with honey chantilly. The cheerful staff handles children with grace, and the ricotta pancakes with roasted bananas disassemble into kid food quite nicely, but the room is intimate—that’s the charm—so take youthful exuberance levels into consideration. 
1315 NE Fremont St 

YA HALA

Average wait time: 0 minutes
Go-To Dish: Lebanese Country Breakfast, chocolate halvah croissant, kafta 

At its new brunch, this Montavilla standby takes a detour from its Middle East playbook. Instead, the restaurant spice-routes American greasy-spoon dishes and offers fizzy gin drinks alongside long-
handled pots of fragrant Turkish coffee and traditional Lebanese breakfast fare, from hummus and veggies to pastries. The kitchen upgrades the classic breakfast trifecta with salty little twists of house-smoked lamb bacon; archetypal sunny-side-up eggs; fiery house-made soujouk sausages; and a potato-carrot-onion dice perked up with fresh mint. Meanwhile, Ya Hala’s juicy beef kafta kebabs morph into a towering burger, layered with arugula and a silky slab of roasted and flash-fried eggplant, dressed with a tahini-Dijon on a brioche bun. It’s crazy-messy good.
8005 SE Stark St 

OSO MARKET & BAR ADVENTURE BRUNCH

Average Wait Time: 0 minutes
Adventure Brunch wait time: 30 minutes
Go-to dish: Adventure Brunch specials

In a departure from its usual fried-egg and breakfast board playbook, SE Grand Avenue’s gem of a wine market serves up an “Adventure Brunch” on the first full weekend of every month, with special globetrotting breakfasts that visit everywhere from Korea to Canada. A recent visit to Poland brought flavors from zurek soup, with a sour, tangy caraway edge and thick slices of snappy, garlicky kielbasa, as well as glazed, jam-filled paczki—the Polish equivalent of a sticky bun. The pièce de résistance: a pair of thick-skinned pierogi, each as big as an omelet, holding fluffy cheese and caramelized onions, and anointed with a healthy spoonful of dill- and cucumber-flecked sour cream.
726 SE Grand Ave, Adventure brunch held first weekend of the month

Plus, Five more plates we can't resist

LA PANZA CAFE BLUE CORN AND PINE NUT PANCAKES ($9.50) These blue-black beauties taste like coffee cake and New Mexico, with the occasional surprise of pine nut crunch.

SMALLWARES CONGEE ($10) The Asian rice porridge standby revived with crunchy bits of fennel granola, rounds of Chinese sausage, mountains of herbs, and a perfect egg yolk.

SMOKEHOUSE TAVERN PEAMEAL BACON & BISCUIT ($12) Smokehouse 21’s roomier new outpost brines and fries cornmeal-rolled pork loin to serve with eggs, meaty greens, and a craggy, honey-drizzled biscuit.

CAFÉ CASTAGNA CARDAMOM DOUGHNUTS ($8) Airy brioche orbs lightly speckled with sugar and cardamom are served with a fruity compote ready for dipping—or plunging.

PEPPER BOX CAFé BREAKFAST TACO ($4.50) A perfect mess of fall-apart adobo pork shoulder, eggs, cheese, crisp potato cubes, and tangy New Mexican green chile sauce on a puffy house tortilla? Yes, please.

This article appeared in the May 2015 issue of Portland Monthly Magazine.

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