Cinnamon Swirl Challah French Toast ($10)
The Country Cat
7937 SE Stark St;
Portland’s overlord of down-home but up-flavor Southern cooking, Adam Sappington, serves brunch every day at his inviting Montavilla eatery. From chicken-fried steak to smoked steelhead Benedict, the Country Cat covers the classic country breakfast with soulful aplomb, but transcendence can be found in the French toast. This is not French toast as you know it—this is French toast as you will remember it. At its core is an eggy, cinnamon-laced challah bread, baked weekly in the kitchen. Dipped in Maker’s Mark–spiked custard, the thick slices are served with a generous dollop of “clabber,” a traditional Southern staple that tastes like whipped cream on steroids. Add a rustic compote of bing cherries, currants, and raisins, employ your little pitcher of maple syrup spiced with cinnamon, anise, and clove, and you have the formula for the most enjoyable food coma in town.
What’s In Your Cup: The Maple Leaf: Pendleton Canadian whiskey, maple syrup, and lemon juice, served up in martini glass. For the full effect, order it warm.
The Ideal Meal: Go ahead and order a side of house-cured, maple syrup–dipped bacon. At this point, why not? —RR
Golden Egg Custard Buns ($4.50)
3016 SE 82nd Ave;
Ocean City’s dim sum feeding frenzy is in full force by midday: servers wheel dumpling-laden carts around the giant Chinese ballroom, dispensing rich, marinated meats and deep-fried seafood to families packed in around doily-topped lazy Susans. You can spin a fine feast from familiar adventures like barbecued pork buns, chicken feet, and lotus-wrapped envelopes of sticky rice, flecked with bits of Chinese sausage and egg. But Ocean City’s crown jewel is a special not found anywhere else: the golden egg custard buns. They come three to an order, oozing with a warm, egg-yolk center and capped by a shimmering veneer of sugar and egg, like the best meringue. It’s dim sum alchemy: thick, sweet custard, the yeasty chew of the bun, and a resounding crackle through the sugarcoated top.
What’s In Your Cup: A steaming pot of jasmine tea. It’s traditional, mandatory, and wonderfully fragrant.
The Ideal Meal: Just point and eat. Be adventurous. —Benjamin Tepler
Smoked Trout Pytt I Panna ($12)
2508 SE Clinton St;
Inside Peter Bro’s svelte, Scandinavian digs, pastel ramekins of ripe farm cheeses, fresh berries, and pickled herring emerge from the open kitchen with unpronounceable names and a surplus of umlauts. The kitchen repackages Swedish classics into quaint shapes and sizes, putting a requisite Portland egg on almost everything. Brave the weekend brunch line (or better yet, treat yourself on a weekday) to find one of Portland’s great surprises: the Pytt I Panna, a Swedish hash with smoked trout served in your very own orange ceramic pot over blue-checked paper, complete with a giant wedge of walnut bread and a cute crock of butter. How often does a hash look art-directed by Martha Stewart? The fun begins with the visual drama of big-yolked eggs baked into a square and decorated with chunks of auburn pickled beets. Hiding underneath are tiny cubes of well-buttered Yukon potatoes mingling happily with morsels of smoked rainbow trout. The dish fires on all cylinders: savory umami, sweet and sour, and rich satisfaction.
What’s In Your Cup: A list of Scandinavian aquavits makes for early-morning thrills, as does the Swedish Coffee (Krogstad aquavit, Kahlúa, and Stumptown).
The Ideal Meal: No trip to Broder is complete without a pile of aebleskivers (Danish pancakes)—round, fluffy globes dusted with a heavy hand of powdered sugar. On the side: tiny bowls of house-made lemon curd and lingonberry jam. Dip away.
The fun begins with the visual drama of big-yolked eggs baked into a square and decorated with chunks of auburn pickled beets.
The Dutch Baby ($10.75)
The Original Pancake House
8601 SW 24th Ave;
Just off the traffic scrum of SW Barbur Boulevard sits a cheerful alternate universe you’d be tempted to call “Old Portland.” The panels are wood, the decorative ceramics collectible, and the skirt-and-tennis-shoe-wearing waitresses are chipper in a bygone, 1950s way. And then this venerable anchor of a national chain, open since 1953, produces the unforgettable objet d’art: the Dutch Baby, a golden, imperial crown of eggy dough and powdered sugar and—well, that’s it. The deep trough in the baby’s center allows you to create your own Glacial Lake Missoula of savory creamed butter and fresh lemon juice, which your fork then releases in a staggering, plate-swamping flood. In between bites, you marvel.
What’s In Your Cup: Some of the city’s worst coffee—like Grandma used to make, but not in a good way—and some of its best orange juice.
The Ideal Meal: If you go Dutch, you really won’t want anything else. But opinions seem divided between Dutch Baby loyalists and partisans of the other house special, the titanic apple pancake. And for your grain-challenged chums, the Pancake House offers a whole rack of gluten-free options.
Burmese Red Pork Stew ($10)
Tasty n Sons
3808 N Williams Ave;
History is riddled with happy accidents that turned out to be revelatory (penicillin and Coca-Cola, to name a couple). So it should come as no surprise that among Tasty n Sons’ myriad standout dishes, the Burmese red pork stew developed somewhat serendipitously out of chef John Gorham’s regular Sunday dinners. He made the smoky, sweet dish from a Burmese friend’s family recipe, then brought the leftovers to Toro Bravo Monday morning. A little improvisation with a pickled egg later, and a flawless breakfast dish was born. Of course, like many good things, the stew requires a lengthy incubation. The stars—lightly sweet, tender chunks of pork shoulder and belly—spend an entire day marinating in a soy, sugar, and ginger mix before earning a crisp char followed by two hours in a dark, caramel oven braise. The searing accounts for part of the stew’s slow-developing heat: Gorham uses his own chile sauce made with sesame oil and Calabrian chiles. Topped with two eggs—one sunny-side up and one that has pickled for a full day in a bath of Hood River honey, soy, and garlic—spring onions, and a few more of those Calabrian chiles, Gorham’s stew qualifies as much as dinner as it does breakfast. But then again, when it comes to revelations, rules don’t exactly apply.
What’s In Your Cup: Tasty’s crisp grapefruit mimosa—made with Althea Prosecco, not Champagne—promises a refreshing, blessedly uncloying way to relieve the heat.
The Ideal Meal: Cap your savory stew with a sweet note: two-bite chocolate potato doughnuts sitting in a rich puddle of crème anglaise. —KC
The stew’s stars—lightly sweet, tender chunks of pork shoulder and belly—spend an entire day marinating in a soy, sugar, and ginger mix.
Oatmeal with Glazed Apples and Cocoa Nibs ($6)
Irving Street Kitchen
701 NW 13th Ave;
It takes a certain diabolical freedom to put chocolate in oatmeal—to say nothing of homemade caramel and glazed apples. Few cooks dare to think outside the Quaker oatmeal box, much less transform an icon of health into an exhilarating morning treat. Then again, with a breakfast menu that roams from Austrian pancakes to lobster-decked scrambled eggs, Irving Street Kitchen chef Sarah Schafer is boisterous and decadent, with a sharp eye for complexity and details. In her house oatmeal, the oats are steel-cut—full of body, flake, and chew—and Schafer has the good instinct to toast them in butter before their trip to the boiling pot; a final cooking flourish of buttermilk adds extra creaminess. On top, look for meaty apple slices in a thick wash of warm caramel. A handful of cocoa nibs proves to be a stroke of pure genius, adding notes of roasted coffee beans and dark chocolate. The overall effect is a sweet risotto saying hello to a luscious candied apple and a fine oatmeal cookie, with a side of serious technique to match the devilish good fun. One bite, and there’s no going back.
What’s In Your Cup: A bold black brew of Brahmins Choice from local tea guru Steven Smith.
The Ideal Meal: Spring for a side of house-smoked, maple-glazed pork belly. It’s fantastic. But you can’t go wrong with a side of smoked tasso bacon. —KB
Oyster Omelet ($14.75)
132 SW Third Ave;
A true French omelet, briskly whipped and delicately rolled straight from pan to plate, is food for the gods. In Portland, only one place delivers the real deal: Bijou Café, the downtown breakfast institution. For inspiration, owner Kathleen Hagberg still looks across the pond. Indeed, the omelet arrives just as any Francophile would demand: soft, puffy, and unmarked, rolled into a perfect cylinder holding cheese, local mushrooms, and seasonal produce. The pièce de résistance is the oyster omelet, stuffed with sweet caramelized onions, salty shreds of bacon, and just-shucked Willapa Bay beauties, fried in a crispy cornmeal crust and popping with briny juice. Old World execution, meet local Oregon flavor.
What’s In Your Cup: A quintessential no-frills French breakfast demands a simple cup of coffee—a Peruvian blend from Kobos Coffee hits the mark.
The Ideal Meal: Bijou stocks locally made Tracy’s Small-Batch Granola, a serious contender for Portland’s best. —BT
The omelet arrives just as any Francophile would demand: soft, puffy, and unmarked, rolled into a perfect cylinder.
Oeuf Mollet & Rib Florentine ($18.50)
1001 SW Broadway;
The Heathman touts this eggy delight as “Julia Child’s favorite egg recipe,” even though it was the dish that caused her to fail at Le Cordon Bleu. The Heathman’s rendition would surely ace any test, and all you have to do is enjoy it—if you can work up the gumption for its rich, fall-off-the-bone decadence. It all begins with a plentiful cut of short rib, which receives a quick sear and a leisurely, five-hour oven braise before showering in a sauce of the braising liquid reduced with shallots, garlic, and herbs. Meanwhile, two eggs are soft-boiled, peeled, and set in a ramekin atop spinach, bacon, and caramelized onion, doused in cheesy Mornay sauce, sprinkled with parmesan, then toasted to a bronzed, bubbling sheen. What arrives at your table is a full-on feast fit for royalty. Scoops of the baked egg mixture crown luscious forkfuls of short rib, with crispy, herbed russet potatoes standing by to soak up any errant remainders. Our grade: A+.
What’s In Your Cup: An indulgent feast calls for a refreshing sipper: the ruby grapefruit juice, squeezed to order.
The Ideal Meal: Make room (somehow) for Audra’s Danish, a tender, buttery disc filled with fruits of the season. —RR
Duck Hash ($10)
2838 SE Belmont St;
This airy little Italian café—the casual sibling of white-tablecloth neighbor Genoa—may just be one of the last secrets in Portland’s hype-prone brunch world. And food always tastes better when it feels like your very own brilliant discovery. Still, Accanto’s duck hash needs no such psychological sugarcoating. As visually alluring as it is delicious, with deep greens and oranges punctuating a plateful of glistening goodness, this hash oozes thoughtful technique. The confit duck (slow-cooked in its own fat) dances with caramelized brussels sprouts, potatoes, and roasted squash under a pair of flawlessly poached eggs. Subtly fiery harissa cream pulls it all together, mingling with the egg yolks and introducing the rich shreds of duck to the squash and the nutty, pleasantly bitter brussels sprouts. Eat it with a satisfied smile—you discovered Accanto before the masses did.
What’s In Your Cup: Dining on duck in the morning calls for champagne. Opt for a mimosa.
The Ideal Meal: Kick off your meal with house-made ricotta doughnuts straight from the fryer, served with a side of zesty lemon curd. —RR
The confit duck dances with caramelized brussels sprouts, potatoes, and roasted squash under a pair of flawlessly poached eggs.
The Breakfast Wrap ($5.50)
The Big Egg
4233 N Mississippi Ave;
Our vision of the perfect breakfast burrito: chunks of hot, crusty russet potatoes, roasted with skins on; slivers of portobello mushrooms, sautéed to intensify their earthy perfume; two meticulous homemade sauces; and one butter-brushed tortilla, with a finishing touch of impeccable grill marks. Leave it to a Portland food cart to elevate a humble, wolf-it-down morning meal to a work of art. Unlike the usual rough-and-tumble affairs, the Big Egg wraps up bundles of big-flavored inspiration to match a slow-cooking philosophy. Owners Gail Buchanan and Elizabeth Morehead spend hours fire-roasting poblano peppers in their cart to create a dusky salsa of pure punch. And this is but one of eight flavor elements. Another sauce, squiggled over those potatoes and mushrooms, announces itself with a shout of yogurt tang and lime. Eggs are scrambled to order with shredded white cheddar, and if you’re up for more, add smoky bacon, Black Forest ham, or vegetarian sausage. Now that’s a wrap.
What’s In Your Cup: The Big Egg now sells coffee, French-pressed with beans from Cellar Door Roasting Company in Southeast Portland.
The Ideal Meal: It would be a crime to slip away without tasting the Arbor Lodge fried-egg sandwich: fat slabs of grilled portobellos and roasted garlic aioli packed with an over-medium egg between squares of buttery, toasty ciabatta. Go with a date and trade bites. —KB
Lose the Wait
If standing in line for hours doesn’t feel quite like an idyllic morning ritual to you …
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Grain & ?Gristle
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One word: reservations. Three more: maple glazed bacon.
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