Cheap Eats 2014: Breakfast and Brunch



2035 SE Cesar E. Chavez Blvd., 477-4252, Breakfast and lunch daily.

In Southeast's sea of sausage gravy-soaked brunches, Trinket has quickly proved itself both useful and popular by pushing people ever so gently.

The 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. The dish 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, of which choose the sweet ($10). The toppings have ranged from sauteed  peaches with a puddle of heavy cream whipped gently and to a consistency only slightly fluffier than aerated ice cream, and a fancy version of banana and Nutella. On the lunch side of brunch, the French dip sandwich ($11) 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.

The shop has odd touches inherited from the previous eatery housed there—Eric Bechard's Kingdom of Roosevelt—including mismatched silver, and the antler chandelier and horned skulls are at odds with Trinket's cheery fare. But Trinket will outlast that former eatery; and we expect to see it still on busy Chavez Boulevard come this time next year. When they are, they should pop some champagne and take down the those antlers. MARTIN CIZMAR.

NEW! Block's

2032 SE Clinton St., 234-5689, Lunch and dinner daily.

Little, nearly hidden Block's is devoted mostly to grandma-era New York Jewish lunch and brunch fare, the stuff of lazy sidewalk Sundays in Brooklyn, except it's been made weirdly dainty: A Benedict stack ($12) is served on gravlax-studded latkes so light they almost seem baked rather than fried, and the house specials involve lovely yogurt and granola. But fetishist East Coasters take note: You can get matzo ball soup in this place at lunchtime for a mere $7. And even if your mom's from Georgia or something and doesn't know a kugel from a rugelach (the latter's here for $1.25), it'll make you feel like your mother loves you. MK.

City State

128 NE 28th Ave., 517-0347, Breakfast and lunch daily. 

City State is neat, clean and pretty devoid of personality except that the music is Pitchforkian and the wall art includes a painting of a gorilla in a chef's hat mixing pudding. On Sunday mornings it has a packed waiting list of scruffy, hungover twentysomethings—which you can maybe credit to a sign on the sidewalk reading, "Bacon Served All Day." The mostly standard menu contains a few eyebrow-raisers—a Greek sausage scramble, hazelnut challah French toast and a Louisiana crab hash ($12.50) that's essentially a plate of scrambled crab cakes. But the diner's most impressive trait is the speed with which the food hits the table. It'll come out of the kitchen before you can make any headway on your Bloody Mary. MATTHEW SINGER.

Detour Cafe

3035 SE Division St., 234-7499, Breakfast and lunch daily.

An alternative to the two-hour-wait brunch joints, Detour Cafe is for those economically minded about their money and time. It forgoes sleek presentation and tourist appeal for a raw, minimalist ambiance: your utensils in a single paper napkin, Tabasco bottles on the end of the table, the cash register at the front door. It's like a Waffle House with Bauhaus and better food. The Bloody Mary ($8) is respectable, with a thick, peppery house mix. The egg sandwich ($8.50), served on housemade potato focaccia, is soft and buttery—a rich enough brunch item to make you feel comfortably full, but not like you want to go home and die. AARON SPENCER.


136 NW 9th Ave., 222-5608. Breakfast and lunch daily. Cash only.

Whatever your thoughts on the gentrification of the Pearl district, Fuller's, the one blue-collar spot hanging on amidst the condos and condescension, demands respect. Hitch up your pants and hop up, bow-legged, to the U-shaped counter. You can check out the rest of the brunch-and-sandwiches menu, but your best bet is always their homemade corned beef hash ($9.95 with two eggs and toast). Otherwise, look for the radioactive signs near the register and above the kitchen announcing their specials. A recent trip yielded a floppy, juicy monster of a Monte Cristo, which for $9.95 will leave plenty of change to count. MITCH LILLIE. 

Gaufre Gourmet

SW 9th Avenue between Alder Street & Washington Avenue, 505-0232, Breakfast and lunch daily.

You could make an argument that Hawthorne's Waffle Window has Gaufre beat on the basic waffle recipe: Gaufre's version of the liège is a crumblier affair than the WW's lovely, battery comfort squares. But Gaufre's waffle is a perfect base for complex, savory waffles such as its Spicy Goat waffle with salami, goat cheese and pistachio, or the ABC Waffle's arugula, bacon and Camembert. What Gaufre understands-—from the peanuts on its caramel apple waffle to the granola in its blueberry-strawberry Breakfast of Champions, is texture. Each bite is a little surprise: first comforting richness, and then that satisfying feeling of breaking something between your teeth. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.

John Street Cafe

8338 N Lombard St., 247-1066. Breakfast and lunch Wednesday-Sunday.

Owners Jamie and Marie Noehren have been serving classic brunch food in their quaint, quiet St. Johns eatery for 16 years. As you walk in, feel free to pick up whatever's left of the newspaper that's inevitably scattered on a table near the entrance. The smell of bacon and fresh coffee linger in the air as the order-up bell softly dings every few minutes over the sounds of string music. The Street is known to locals for their plush omelets, such as the popular Bacavo ($10), loaded with bacon, avocado, and Jack and blue cheeses and served with grilled potatoes; you could probably make your own at home, but then you wouldn't be here. SAVANNAH WASSERMAN.


Junior's Cafe

1742 SE 12th Ave., 467-4971. Breakfast and lunch daily.

With gold sparkly booths, ornately framed mirrors adorning the walls and glass vintage chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, this cozy diner feels like a Midwesterner's idea of a Portland hipster joint. With a fully organic vegan-friendly menu, Junior's offers a variety of three-egg scrambles ($8-$8.50) with a hefty portion of potatoes and an option of bacon, tofu or garden sausage on the side. Vegan or not, their vegan french toast ($9) won't disappoint: Hidden beneath a mountain of organic strawberries, blueberries and bananas, it is capped with a snowy blanket of powdered sugar and well worth the price. SAVANNAH WASSERMAN.


1538 NE Alberta St., 281-1477, Breakfast and lunch daily..

Between relatively standard menu options and the patience and timing required in egg preparation, there's something about breakfast that lends itself to quiet perfectionism. The menu here is a wide cross-section of American morning fare, and variations from the norm—like the delicate walls of Dutch Babies or the crisp edge of the Scotch egg—are intuitive and neatly prepared. A bevy of brunch cocktails are on hand. The hash is the flagship: toothsome chunks of browned potato cloaked in cheese, a strong selection of savories, and straightforward sauces. Helser's is very family-friendly, but don't let that keep you away if you're childless. JORDAN GREEN.

NEW! Portland Penny Diner

410 SW Broadway, 228-7224, Breakfast and lunch Monday-Friday.

Despite its pedigree as the third leg of the Vitaly Paley culinary empire, the Penny is serious about its diner-hood. As such, prices are negligible: Burgerville can deliver a bigger hit to the wallet. The breakfast sandwiches are bizarre high-low hybrids, a bit like what happens when the French try to wear "punk" leather jackets but wear them far too well. In the case of the PDXWT (a steal at $4.50), this is purest genius. Duck bologna, coffee mayo (seriously), sauerkraut (seriously), egg and American cheese (seriously) combine on fry bread to create the sloppiest, richest, most generous breakfast sandwich I have heretofore known in this life, all fat and eggy tang and blessed umami. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.

Pine State Biscuits

2204 NE Alberta St., 477-6605, Breakfast and lunch daily, dinner and late night Thursday-Sunday.

You've seen the line, maybe even braved it once or twice. That Portlanders continue to queue for Pine State Biscuits' titular dish, six years after the food cart upscaled to brick-and-mortar (and glass-and-garage door), belies the conceit that we're all aboard the gluten-free gravy train. A melty stack of blueberry-studded cornmeal pancakes (just $6) proves that cream-top biscuits and fried chicken aren't the only batters that Pine State does well. RAMONA DeNIES.

Roman Candle

3377 SE Division St., 971-302-6605, 7 am-10 pm daily. 

In the morning, Roman Candle pizzeria tends to be busy, all four planks of communal walnut splattered with laptops and coffee mugs. Bread slabs with interesting toppings are a focal point. Here, the "toasts" are open-faced sandwiches on the house's substantial super-grain bread. The best has large hunks of moist smoked trout ($7.50) fresh out of its skin atop a schmear of creme fraiche, sliced avocado and bitter greens. You'll aso want to order the kouign amann ($3), a trendy and formerly obscure French pastry made from thin, buttery layers dusted with sea salt that you may know from the now-closed Alder Pastry or from Saint Honoré. Or for something heartier, keep an eye out for coffeecake with seasonal berries or the polenta cherry bar ($3). MARTIN CIZMAR.

Stepping Stone

2390 NW Quimby St., 222-1132, Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, late night Friday-Saturday.

Stepping Stone will mess you up. It'll ruin you for driving. In a northerly Nob Hill neighborhood evenly split among condo claim-jumpers and cranky old farts, Stepping Stone proudly caters to the farts, with an artery-mocking Smothered Badass omelette that tucks away jalapenos, hashbrowns and an entire chicken-fried steak inside three eggs and a serious mess of meaty gravy ($12). Their elephantine Mancake stack ($8.50) was on a television show devoted to conquering impossible food. You'll feel the blood leaving your head as you eat. The feeling is like the late stages of drowning: ecstasy, and a whole lot of fear. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.


5202 N Albina Ave., 946-8087, Breakfast and lunch daily.

No matter where you sit in Sweedeedee, you're in a sunny nook: It's all corners, and all sunshine. Everything on this cozy breakfast spot's little menu looks simple, and it is—the same way milking a cow is a simple way to get fresh milk. (The always crowded spot requires equal patience.) The breakfast burrito tastes like a secret garden taking over a tortilla from the inside, and the trout in the potato plate feels like it was caught that morning, then dried over a campfire. Somehow even a bowl of granola ($6.50) looks beautiful here. I don't know how Sweedeedee chef Eloise Augustyn washes her clothes, but her cooking is better than fine. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.


5222 SE 52nd Ave., 774-1020, Breakfast and lunch daily. 

Toast makes a mean cup of cocoa. That's no small feat, as many of Portland's best bruncheries serve it as a child's drink with canned whip cream and drizzled Hershey's syrup, or not at all. This Wes Andersonian Woodstock diner serves a liquid Lindt truffle of high-grade bittersweet cocoa with a clump of cool, dense cream that's whipped halfway to butter. The bad-ass breakfast sandwich ($9.50) features super-thick bacon on super-thick toast, plus a pile of arugula and a squirting fried egg. On the side, there's a pile of the house's rosti, potatoes carved pencil-shaving thin and pan-fried. Look for a blue plate special ($9.50) with kale, cauliflower, zucchini and garlic that goes electric with the smoky house hot sauce. MARTIN CIZMAR.

 Top 5 Food Carts of the Year | 20 Amazing Bites for $7 and Under

Cheap Eats by Cuisine: African | Breakfast and Brunch | American Comfort  

Burgers and Dogs | Chinese | Diet: Veg/Gluten-Free/Paleo | Indian | Islands | Japanese 

Korean | Latin American | Mexican | Middle Eastern/Med. | Old World | Pizza 

Sandwiches | Sweets & Treats | Thai/Cambodian | Vietnamese

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