Close your eyes and summon your mental map of Portland. Now think of Northeast 52nd and Halsey. What's around there?
Not getting much? Join the club. When the Daily Market and Café opened there in the spring of 2006, the Portland Tribune
said it “will be a fine addition to this rather barren (except for houses) stretch of Halsey.”
Barren, they said—except for houses. As if houses don't count. Nothing there but…people…just…living there.
I asked the staff what the neighborhood was called, and several of us had a little conference. We're east of Lloyd District, southeast of Hollywood, south of Alameda, north of…whatever is south of here…
“Rose City,” somebody said.
“But all of Portland is the Rose City, right?”
And that's when it hit me. The Daily Market and Café sits in the middle of a perfectly generic, maybe a generically perfect, Portland neighborhood. And now there's a little neighborhood market and café those barren citizens can hang out in.
As we worked through our yummy meal, chatting with table neighbors and watching kids in the play area, this “perfect Portland” thing became a theme. The décor was light and airy, a combination of wood tables (cozy!) and plastic chairs (modern!) splashed in happy, cheerful oranges and yellows and greens that made the place feel like a chip off the New Seasons block. The walls were adorned with somebody's travel photos (homey!) which were for sale (good idea!) and which came with an Artist's Statement (please!).
The place is welcoming and cheerful, with high ceilings, plenty of light, folks sipping self-serve Stumptown and surfing the WiFi, and a high percentage of customers who seem to know the staff.
The menu is written on a chalkboard above the counter. Keeping things grounded are a few classic scrambles, which are $6.75 with potatoes and toast or biscuit. The Basic has mushrooms, pepper, onion, cheddar and meat/veggie sausage/tofu; the Vegetable Garden comes with broccoli, corn salsa, garlic, and roasted pepper sauce; and the Mediterranean has basil, feta, and tomatoes. There's French toast and pancakes, biscuits and veggie gravy. A Breakfast Sammich Burrito.
Nothing earth-shattering, in other words, but classic. Dependable. Tasty. Then there's the progressive/good idea side dishes, all around $1.50: a single pancake, some sausage, coconut oatmeal, a biscuit, some potatoes, a piece of French toast … a peanut butter and jelly sandwich! You have to love a place where folks of all ages can get a PB&J for a buck and a half.
The “market” part of Daily Market is a small mart with the usual conveniences, new-age Portland style: Kettle chips, locally made floating beeswax candles, Clif Bars, Luna Bars, Seventh Generation toilet paper (exclusively), organic produce, Tom's and Jason's toothpastes, tofurkey.
And if you're eating with Poochie, you're close to Normandale Park, which has the ever-popular leash-free zone. So of course Daily Market has a “daily dog treat” special.
What would you expect from the local market and café? Especially when it's in a neighborhood that's named for a city that's known for good ideas and being a great place to live?
Daily Market & Cafe
5250 NE Halsey
7 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Weekends
Master Card, Visa, Cash
None that I've ever seen.
Price Range (typical meal with coffee and tip):
Espresso, juices, tea
The paper, the kids, the dog, not much going on.
Tofu, egg whites available
In addition to being
WWire's "Breakfast Guy," Paul Gerald is author of
60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Portland, a travel and food writer, and a
WW sports writer. Now he's writing a book called
Breakfast in Bridgetown, which he will publish in 2007. He's got a working list of about 140 places, and he'll be sharing pared-down version of chapters with us often.