The Country Cat
7937 SE Stark St; 503-408-1414; Brunch served weekends only 9 a.m.–2 p.m.; thecountrycat.net
Why we like it Our love of fried chicken often reaches the level of obsession. And it’s obvious that the folks behind The Country Cat’s version share our lust for the all-American dish—which in our opinion tastes damn good no matter the time of the day (but especially in the groggy, post-dawn hours). The Country Cat prepares its chicken in a cast-iron skillet, which means the breasts and wings haven’t doggy-paddled in a deep fryer. The slow manner of cooking creates a crispy exterior—very important. Moist, well-seasoned meat is great, but the star of any fried-chicken meal is the skin. When it slides off as one slippery pelt, that’s blasphemy: it should have a salty crunch. Be sure to drizzle maple syrup on your bird and save room for the custardy baked-pecan spoonbread. This is the kind of breakfast that’s worth walking the length of SE Stark Street to get to—on your lips, if necessary. Until someone comes up with a way to brush your teeth with a drumstick, eating here is the best way to incorporate fried chicken into your morning routine.
The scene Looking at the white napkins and shiny wooden booths, you might think “fancy.” Then you’ll see “homemade beef jerky” scrawled on the blackboard above the bar. You’re home. Down home.
Backup plan The chicken-and-waffle combo at Simpatica (828 SE Ash St; 503-235-1600) injects a touch of finger-licking class to the Southern roadside staple. Over at Screen Door (2337 E Burnside St; 503-542-0880), they ratchet up the Deep South spirit by pairing their breaded bird with a sweet-potato waffle. —B. Blasengame
1220 SW First Ave; 503-227-7342; Brunch served weekends 9:30 a.m.–3 p.m.; veritablequandary.com
Why We Like It Not that we’ve tasted all the eggs Benedict in town—almost all, most certainly—but just when we’d decided that there were as many bad versions of the dish as there are broken umbrellas in the month of May, we visited Veritable Quandary. Not only did we find the best rendition in town, we found the best Pacific Northwest eggs Benedict we’d ever tasted. That’s right—wedged between a thick house-made English muffin and a poached egg drizzled with hollandaise sauce were tangles of sweet, succulent Dungeness crab meat. There’s spinach in there too, but it’s chef Annie Cuggino’s combination of rich crab, muffin, and buttery sauce that restored our devotion to this breakfast classic.
The Scene Huddle into a wooden booth in the bar area or join the rest of the crowd in back, where light streams in through a greenhouse window and mimosas sit elegantly on stark white tablecloths. In warm weather, the patio is the perfect place to indulge. Expect out-of-towners and regulars as company.
Backup Plan Besaw’s (2301 NW Savier St; 503-228-2619) offers an extensive weekend Benedict menu. On occasion, we also like the old-school simplicity at J&M Cafe (537 SE Ash St; 503-230-0463). —CD
Bacon, Eggs, & Hash Browns
Fuller’s Coffee Shop
136 NW Ninth Ave; 503-222-5608; Breakfast served weekdays 6 a.m.–3 p.m.; Saturdays 7 a.m.–2 p.m.; Sundays 8 a.m.–2 p.m.
Why We Like It Ordering two eggs—over easy, scrambled, sunny side up, whatever—and a side of bacon, hash browns, and a slice or two of buttered toast shouldn’t be complicated. These crack-of-dawn staples should, however, be well made. Opened in 1960, Fuller’s, with its all-business Formica countertops, chrome stools, and one-page menu (announcing that Fuller’s serves “eggs and things”) is the city’s undeniable master of this classic American breakfast plate. Eggs over easy are slightly singed at the edges, adding texture and crackles of flavor. Sturdy strips of bacon are both tender and crispy. Use your buttered rye toast to scoop up the yolks and hash browns. The waitresses will refill your coffee faster than butter melting on a hot frying pan. Your simple, delicious meal will be gone just as fast.
The Scene Greyhound bus drivers from the nearby Old Town terminal sit alongside condo-dwellers dog-earing Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us .
Backup plan Skip the hassle of downtown traffic and park yourself at Fat City Cafe (7820 SW Capitol Hwy; 503-245-5457) for wedges of bacon, sizzling eggs, and flaky hash browns. Or do as the Sellwood locals do and go to Fat Albert’s (6668 SE Milwaukie Ave; 503-872-9822), where the eggs over easy come with lively chatter. —B. Barker
Bagels and Lox
Kenny & Zuke’s Delicatessen
1038 SW Stark St; 503-222-3354; Open Mon–Thu 7 a.m.–8 p.m.; Fri 7 a.m.–9 p.m.; Sat 8 a.m.–9 p.m.;
Sun 8 a.m.–8 p.m.; kennyandzukes.com
Why We Like It A veteran Portlander may feel indignant about the city’s historically miserable selection of bagels. But this past year we’ve seen a number of bakers and chefs finally get it right. Kenny & Zuke’s, in many ways, has led the mini-revolution. Its bagel-and-lox plate is a work of art: bright, glistening nova lox sprinkled with capers; thinly sliced red onions; slivers of tomato. But this Jewish standard is so good, of course, because of its foundation. Baked with just the right amount of malt syrup, sugar, and salt, the bagels are chewy in all the right places.
The Scene The downtown deli, a block south of Powell’s Books and next door to the Ace Hotel, draws an eclectic mix of tourists and power brokers chattering over house-made pastrami, latkes, cheese blintzes, or knishes.
Backup Plan After years spent serving brick-oven pizza and bagels at farmers markets, chef Mark Doxtader opened Tastebud (3220 SE Milwaukie Ave; 503-234-0330). Saunter in on weekends for a stellar bagel-sandwich combination like ham, arugula, and orange marmalade. Mother’s Bistro & Bar (212 SW Stark St; 503-464-1122) imports H&H bagels from New York daily. —CD