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
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One word: reservations. Three more: maple glazed bacon.
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