Cully is now the best neighborhood in Portland to get a good biscuit.
And it turns out two of the city's best biscuits have a baker in common. Five years ago, Marissa Lorette was the baker at Old Salt when the rustic restaurant first began making owner Ben Meyer's trademark buttermilk biscuits. Nearby, at new Cully Boulevard brunch and dinner spot Beeswing, she may have one-upped them. The biscuit at Beeswing ($3.50) is a wonder, a layered high-rise architecture of buttermilk and air. It tastes like comfort itself.
Each morning, Lorette bakes small miracles in Beeswing's oven, whether heavenly walnut scones just on the right side of lightness, rich maple bourbon pecan hand pies or airy, maple-touched sourdough waffles ($9) topped with a seasonal wealth of pears. If Beeswing were simply a bakery, there'd already be enough reason to drive across town. But after opening in January as a brunch and lunch cafe, Lorette and former Pok Pok and Old Salt chef Ian Watson have expanded their offerings to include a full dinner menu.
Beeswing is a little like what would happen if you inflated Sweedeedee to four times its size and then plopped it down next to a bunch of auto parts stores. Co-owner Kevin Dorney, of Hollywood pub Moon and Sixpence, spent nearly two years rehabbing a former glass-pipe shop into a twee counter-service restaurant whose every woodgrained surface is lined with old newspaper ads for portable dishwashers or sheet music for obscure Russian fairy tales. Those scratch-made breads and pastries are paired with fresh farm salads and laborious rustic fare, whether house-smoked trout or a house-baked granola bowl ($7).
But be warned that if you arrive at brunch, you will almost undoubtedly wait in line before ordering. Beeswing is busy as hell on weekend mornings, and the person who takes your order may also be the person making your mimosa or sake cocktail—no liquor license here—leading to a slight bottleneck at the register.
The best items on the brunch menu tend to be the ones that appear the simplest: The menu thrives when showcasing the excellence of the ingredients, whether house-made or carefully sourced. Highlights include a sausage and egg sandwich made with that heavenly biscuit ($8), fluffy waffles mixing eggy sweetness with the light savory tang of sourdough ($9) and an elegant brioche breakfast sandwich ($8) with a lightly crisped fried egg, prosciutto and pickled onion.
A few of the more ambitious breakfast items can come off as oddball collages, however, including a sweet-potato hash ($13) featuring a clashing palate of kale, pungent house-smoked trout and acidic pickled onions. A Korean-influenced take on eggs Benedict, ($13) made with ginger Hollandaise and a somewhat dry scallion pancake, also failed to gel, especially since the accompanying pork belly was served on the side as an inch-thick hunk.
At dinner, the crowds have so far been much thinner, which means seating is immediate. And that menu houses what may be the best single item served at Beeswing. The Stilton steak pie ($13 with salad) is a kick to the teeth of blander meat pastries, a beefy stew mixing the deep flavors of red wine with the penicillin funk of blue cheese. It's impossibly rich, capped with a float of crisp puff pastry like a top hat made of pure texture.
The other dinner highlight was an abundantly generous $20 plate of well-seasoned pork chop and nutty-sweet sunchoke roots topped with sweet-earthy pear mostarda. But again at Beeswing, the grains stole the show: The best thing on the plate was an achingly good wedge of fried polenta, the satisfying crispness of its caramelized exterior giving way to custard within.
If you've planned your meal right, you won't need to order dessert, because you already picked up a pumpkin brioche bun or the seasonal pie from the pastry display by the register. But each meal should also begin with sweetness: a nice biscuit and a little bit of homemade jam.
Beeswing, 4318 NE Cully Blvd., 503-477-7318, beeswingpdx.com. 8 am-3 pm Monday-Tuesday, 8 am-9 pm Wednesday-Sunday.