Let's start off with a bit of a disclaimer. It's hard for me to be objective about Muddy's—I freaking love it, and I'm not afraid to admit it. Hidden inside the colorful Victorian facade that once housed the beloved veggie haunt the Purple Parlor, Muddy's has the following three things that keep me coming back for more: (A) Trivial Pursuit cards—both the "know-it-all" version and the kids' kind; (B) A grassroots aura that doesn't compromise its quality of food or service; and (C) the best damn French toast ($4.75) I've tasted in my life. It's simple but supple, the toast soaked in a delightful cinnamon batter, topped with fresh whipped cream and real maple syrup.
Granted, there's no shortage of culinary choices these days on North Mississippi Avenue, but this coffeehouse's eccentric atmosphere and super-friendly staff make it seem more like a friend's living room than a restaurant—and considering that owner Dyer Price lives upstairs, perhaps that's what it is.
The menu is basic: breakfast fare and sandwiches with some sort of twist, like the mouthwatering tuna melt packed with capers, red onion, apples and mustard ($5.75). A sweet-salty grilled-tofu sammy ($6.50) covered in a heap of cheese, tomato and avocado arrives on a plate that might have been stolen from your grandmother's cupboard, and the cozy orange room is filled with large, clunky tables that often force you to sip Muddy's Portland Roasting coffee ($1) and über-rich Mexican hot chocolate ($2) elbow-to-elbow with your fellow patrons.
But the quirkiness is part of its charm—this isn't a place that's trying to be fancy, that's why it works so well. Muddy's serves great food cheaply without an ounce of pretense, a constant reminder of that phrase my mother used to throw in my face when I would agonize over the difficulty of writing a fifth-grade book report: Keep it simple, stupid.
Muddy's Coffeehouse, 3560 N Mississippi Ave., 445-6690. 7 am-6 pm Monday-Saturday, 7 am-3 pm Sunday. $ Inexpensive.