In August, wild-eyed chef Eric Bechard surrendered the Kingdom of Roosevelt after only six months in business. The ambitious native-foods menu apparently out-weirded Portland with wood-pigeon liver custard and a stew topped with a pigeon head clutching a sprig of rosemary in its mouth. Failing to attract crowds, and with autumn descending, Bechard left the lease in the care of proteges who promised to replace it with "something cool for people in the neighborhood." Bechard now runs an Astoria sandwich shop. His former Kingdom now houses a cozy brunch nook called Trinket.
Trinket quickly proved itself both useful and popular. In Southeast's sea of sausage gravy, it's the rare brunch spot that comforts without heavily larded pandering. It pushes people ever so gently—think duck eggs Benedict, not deer heart tartare—and, within a month, it had a line on Saturday mornings.
Trinket's menu is broad and varied, but the dish that first won me over was a basic but inventive preparation of kale, polenta and eggs ($10). Runny eggs drip down on stewed greens flavored with onions, garlic and mushrooms. At the bottom of the dogpile, there's a hearty porridge of yellow-white polenta. Everything about the dish works, and it offers perhaps the best balance of fiber, protein and fat of any breakfast platter in town.
On the carbier side, waffles of Belgian heft get savory and sweet treatments. The sweet version ($10) on our first visit had some of the season's last peaches, sauteed, with a puddle of heavy cream whipped gently and to a consistency only slightly fluffier than aerated ice cream. It's since been replaced with a fancy version of banana and Nutella. The "savory" topped with two over-easy eggs ($14) was rich with bacon pieces, thyme, onion and a dollop of chevre. Both are excellent—though, for my money, not quite worth double Waffle Window prices.
The French dip sandwich ($11), on the other hand, is peerless. A tall pile of moist sliced roast beef topped with a tangle of sweet caramelized onions and a slick of spicy horseradish on a toasted Grand Central roll, it's juicy enough without the broth. After a few dips of extra umami, and an excellent side of greens cooked in chili and onion, I was sated until dinner. The fall hash ($10) of potatoes, parsnips and carrots blanketed by two sunny-side-up eggs was nearly as filling but not as satisfying.
Trinket does much of its own pastry baking, with a daily selection displayed on a chalkboard. It's hit-and-miss. The little pistachio rolls ($2 each) aren't to be missed—they're compact morsels of nutty joy. On the other hand, Norwegian-inspired fyrstekake ($5), a dense, herbal bread flavored with cardamom and almond, didn't do anything for me, and the housemade pear butter served with the wheat toast ($3) tasted a lot like sugar-free jam.
For the few subjects of Bechard's old Kingdom, much of Trinket's interior is familiar, and oddly so. I'll not soon forget the mismatched silver I used to eat raw deer heart or the antler chandelier that hung above, but the dark wood and horned skulls are at odds with Trinket's cheery fare. This extends to Trinket's beverage list, which includes several leftover sour beers and a $40 bottle of Willamette Valley brut rosé. I suspect the remaining bottles of Upright's Billy the Mountain barrel-aged old ale will cellar into next summer before there are enough oddball brunchers to finish them off.
Trinket will probably last long enough to sell them all. When they do, they should pop some champagne and take down the rest of the antlers.
- Order this: French dip sandwich ($11) with greens and pistachio rolls ($2).
- Best deal: Polenta with steamed eggs and kale ($10).
- Iâll pass: Fyrstekake ($5).
EAT: Trinket, 2035 SE 39th Ave., 477-4252, trinketpdx.com. 8 am-3:30 pm.