What would you call fresh-baked pretzel bread from a baker-artist enveloping a handmade frank whose blistered skin snaps and yields to pure porky juice? A pig-in-the-blanket with artisan street cred? Portland’s best new comfort food? Or a labor-intensive steal at $7, backed by Olympic Provisions’ extreme sausage craft, homemade mustard, and pickled beets for noshing?
“The Frank” might be simply the biggest surprise at Fressen Artisan Bakery’s new brick-and-mortar spot on bedraggled NE 19th Avenue and Glisan Street. It’s a humble start, but German baker Edgar Loesch, at last, has a permanent home to showcase the zaftig Old World pastries and exuberant breads that make his Portland Farmers Market stand a perennial object of desire. Decadent Danishes hold extravagant perfumes—and possibly entire sticks of butter. Franconian rye, deep and licorice-y, begs for a ride home to your toaster. Potato bread, high on the flavor of fresh-roasted tubers, body-slams its closest relative, Portland’s ubiquitous ciabatta. But nothing trumps the iconic Bavarian pretzel croissant: vigorously salty and a pure pleasure to chew. The option to consume it six days a week is reason enough to celebrate.
But Loesch’s storefront dream allows him to stretch in fresh ways: sandwiches on pretzel baguettes, lovely frittatas, and a hunky bread pudding. The kitchen goes the distance, handcrafting teeny spätzle dumplings for one humble dish of mac and cheese.
Unlike the treats, the Soviet bloc atmosphere is far from heaven, complete with random indoor gravel, empty flower boxes, and a forlorn gray curtain circa 1943. Loesch says an update is coming to match the friendly wood tables and pastry case. Still, even a face-lifted Fressen will never be mistaken for a Bruce Carey restaurant. Loesch lives to craft a perfect slab of bread, not an impeccably decorated interior. Even in its half-baked form, this place is exciting.