On a recent swing through Portland, the globe-trotting gents from Monocle magazine marveled over Portland’s quest for deliciousness, noting how we “happily” endure glacial waits for breakfast. The truth, of course, is so much darker. What I’m hearing these days is an anguished cry from diners: “Where can go for breakfast? And I’m not standing in any damn line.”

We feel you. The trick is getting ahead of the curve, before the hungry mob figures out the next move. Behold: two new places, where you can waltz in for a breakfast of champions. 

Courtney Sproule in her kitchen at Din Din in Northeast Portland.
Courtney Sproule in her kitchen at Din Din in Northeast Portland.

Din Din, inside Northeast Portland’s Bison Building, is the new quirky-chic headquarters for dinner club creative Courtney Sproule.  In a bright, airy warehouse makeover with a cozy, chandelier-lit kitchen, Sproule reimagines meals (not to mention the decorations) every few weeks with homey French techniques and artistic whimsy.

It’s civilized eating for the party lover at communal tables.

Among the nice touches at breakfast: curated Champagnes, hunks of good bread and soft butter, pots of local Sterling coffee, and a trio of custom-blended T Project teas. On the wall a movie projector beams Sproule’s inspirations, Absolutely Fabulous episodes to True Stories, David Byrne’s iconic musical tribute to the fictional town of Virgil, Texas.

The morning menu is more European village inn than American hotcake house. Weekdays, that means a homemade pain au chocolate or a ham and Camembert baguette from a bare bones selection—though Sproule says “Ask, and I’ll make you anything.”

But Sunday Brunch kicks out a fine list of surprises, lamb crepinettes with fried eggs to crisp branzino. You won’t find better omelettes: whipped with rich duck eggs, made-to-order in a cast-iron skillet before your eyes, and sided by an inspiration of the moment, perhaps Sproule’s elegant zucchini ribbons. Add crisp potatoes and hot mustard if you like, or slivers of rosemary ham.

I’d return just for the pain d’epices, thin slabs somewhere between cake and bread, chewy and barely sweet and full of deep licorice notes beneath fresh sheep cheese and curls of rosemary ham. Grab a seat while you can.  

Din Din
920 NE Glisan St.
971-544-1350
Breakfast: 7:30 am-5:30 pm Monday-Friday
Sunday brunch: 10 am to 3 pm
dindinportland.com

Pancakes at Vitaly Paley's Imperial.
Image: Karen Brooks
Berry-topped pancakes at Vitaly Paley's Imperial.

It’s easier to find a beef tongue omelette in Portland than flippin’ pancakes. Blame it on Portland’s growing carb phobia, but golden stacks of grandmotherly goodness, as essential to life as water, appear to be on the extinction list.

At Imperial, the James Beard-meets-the-hipsters restaurant off the lobby of Hotel Lucia, farm-to-table icon Vitaly Paley and his rebel understudy, Ben Bettinger, lay out a perfect stack buttermilk beauties, full of fat fluff and grilled to deep brown perfection on a high temperature plancha, or Spanish grill.

Recently, fat marionberries danced on top while a warm crock of maple syrup from Vermont’s famed Coombs Family Farm stood at attention. Nice. Add a side of finely tuned pork belly bacon, tenderly smoked over pinot-noir-aged oak barrel chips. It’s reason enough to face the morning headlines.

Imperial
410 SW Broadway
503-228-7222
Breakfast daily: 7-11 am
imperialpdx.com