Cheap Eats 2015: Breakfast and Brunch


Top 5 Food Carts of the Year | African Food | American Comfort Food | Breakfast/Brunch

Burgers and Dogs | Chinese | Indian | Island/Ocean | Japanese | Korean | Latin American

Mexican | Middle Eastern/Mediterranean | Old World European | Pizza | Sandwiches

Thai/Laotian | Vegan/Veg-friendly | Vietnamese | 21 Delicious Bites For $7 or Less

Milk Glass Market

2150 N Killingsworth St., 395-4742, Breakfast, lunch and early dinner Tuesday-Sunday.

You really shouldn't be in a hurry at Milk Glass Market.

Former Woodsman Tavern pastry chef Nancye Benson's Overlook cafe, open since November, is the pure distillate of our city in so many good ways that it feels OK that service is also Portland-style—which is to say, unhurried. The space is bright, airy and impeccably clean, the staff is friendly and engaging, and the coffee hot and properly brewed. Instead of staring askance at the clock while you wait for your order, spend your time perusing the shop's tiny retail portion, where you might find fine teas nestled next to small bags of Rancho Gordo heirloom beans. Or go to the refrigerator case stocked with wine, sodas and Occidental beer.

As the day progresses, Milk Glass transitions to small plates, including soups and salads as well as beer, wine and cocktails, but breakfast is the main event. Benson's now-closed Mississippi Avenue food cart Moxie RX built a following for her cheddar biscuit, and with good reason. The Milk Glass rendition ($8) is a burly, flaky construction, its buttery starchiness balanced by the salty tang of the integrated cheese. A chive-studded egg, bolstered by a choice of bacon (oh yeah), smoked salmon or roasted pepper, makes it a complete meal, fueling your ability to power through that crossword puzzle and cup of coffee ($2.50 with refill).

Dodging a surfeit of gluten or carbs? Opt instead for the eggs & greens ($10), a bed of perfectly dressed salad greens cushioning roasted beets, a smattering of caramelized leeks, a fried egg and chunks of beautifully smoked trout. The smoke and salt buoy, rather than overpower, the delicate fish. Eating in a market may be disconcerting at first, but really, what could possibly be wrong with getting a bloody mary while grabbing a can of San Marzano tomatoes? BRIAN PANGANIBAN.


8337 SE 17th Ave., Breakfast and lunch Thursday-Sunday, lunch Wednesday, dinner Friday. 

[PRAIRIE HOME CREPE SHOP] In the sunnily twee Sellwood house that used to contain Lili Patisserie, Arugularium offers crepes often unseen, bent to the moods of the season—a polenta crepe, perhaps, tinged Southwestern with chicken breast, pan-seared poblano peppers, heavy cream, corn, tomatoes and onions. Other savory crepes may include shiitake and potato, or a ham-fig-brie number served on buckwheat. Sweet crepes are often thick with house caramel or dark chocolate, like a lacy Guy Noir white-flour crepe with crisped edges and quarter-inch craters in places that had filled with rich chocolate, every bit as mom-decadent as a ganache from Papa Haydn up the street. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.


2032 SE Clinton St., 234-5689, Breakfast and lunch daily.

[MODERN MISHPUCHA] Imagine your health-conscious Jewish cousin opened a deli balancing the artery-clogging joys of traditional Ashkenazi food and contemporary alimentary asceticism. It's a tough job, but Block's acquits itself ably, offering a decent value to boot in a light, bright space with a sunshine-daydream backyard patio. The matzoh ball soup ($7) is delivered in a papa bear-sized bowl with two hearty knaidlach created from crushed matzoh instead of the usual matzoh meal plus plentiful bits of carrot and celery. A little (OK, maybe a lot) more salt in the broth and it would put your bobbe to shame. The breakfast sandwich ($7), features a chicken-sausage patty, egg and cheese betwixt halves of a properly fragile biscuit.  Wash it all down with a bottle of Dr. Brown's black cherry or Cel-Ray. MICHAEL C. ZUSMAN.  Blocks is now closed.

City State

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

[BREAKFAST: MEAL] On a strip of Northeast 28th that also includes Red Flag (the bar with a policy against serving Dave Matthews fans) and Beulahland (the bar that introduced Portland hipsters to soccer), City State is guaranteed a packed waiting list of scruffy 20-somethings come Sunday morning—even though the diner could be airlifted into the Pearl and no one would know the difference. Unlike its neighbors, the cafe is neat and clean, with a small lobby leading into a medium-sized dining area with large windows and an L-shaped counter with antique lights dangling above. As with the decor, the menu is fairly standard, though it features a couple of eyebrow-raisers, including a Greek sausage scramble, hazelnut-challah French toast and a Louisiana crab hash that is essentially a plate of scrambled crab cakes topped with poached eggs. But City State'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 Thai chili bloody mary. MATTHEW SINGER.

Genie's Too

4800 SE Hawthorne Blvd., Breakfast and lunch daily.

[SPACE CASE] Upper Hawthorne's Sputnik-era Space Room used to run its own cafe, the Brite Spot. Last year they tabbed the owner of Division Street's Genie's to take over the space, which is now kitted out with a Reader's Digest version of the menu, highlighted by the heaping huevos rancheros plate ($9) that'll hold you until dinner. Along with abstract art and Oblique coffee they've brought in Portland Ketchup Company bottles and a six-deep bloody mary menu highlighted by a super-hot Scorpion bloody ($10) with a pickled bug on the rim. Note: The bug is more crunch than flavor, the bloody itself is like slightly diluted and spiked with Frank's RedHot. The white-chocolate, macadamia-nut pancake has just the right amount of sweetness baked in, with no syrup offered or asked. Those huevos rancheros come swimming in smoky ranchero sauce, and are a meal for two. MARTIN CIZMAR.

Gramma's Corner

10880 SE McLoughlin Blvd., Milwaukie, 654-7110, Breakfast, lunch and dinner, Tuesday-Saturday. Breakfast and lunch Monday-Tuesday. 

[WAITER IN OVERALLS] Now that the Bomber has been permanently decommissioned and sent to the war surplus scrap heap, this downtown Milwaukie diner is the most colorful bruncherie in the blue-collar suburb to our south. The waiter wears Carhartt overalls, the table includes pretty much every jam Jerome Monroe Smucker ever commissioned and there's a Thomas Kinkade print on the wall by an antique telephone. Next door is a wine bar that we know is a wine bar because it has a black tarp that says "Wine Bar" strapped to it. The hash browns need a little more time on the grill but the omelets are soft and well-stuffed. All told, the food is pretty average, but the atmosphere is unadulterated America of the sort that's going the way of the buffalo. MARTIN CIZMAR. 


3957 N Mississippi Ave., 287-8800, Breakfast and lunch daily.

[BISCUIT KING] Gravy, surrounded by bars and eateries on bustling North Mississippi Avenue, flirted briefly with dinner but now is back to its standby early-day fare, making its bones on starches and grains. On a weekend, the line often starts at 8:30 am for biscuits sopped in the namesake, or covered in butter ($6.25 for two)—and they are fresh, warm, fluffy and delicious. Meanwhile, the fruit- or almond-parfait-topped oatmeal brulees are considered some of the best in the city. But Gravy also offers something rare in this town—a breakfast chile verde made with pork shoulder and topped with sour cream. You can get it with French toast for the most delicious incongruity this side of a luxury Tijuana hotel. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.

Helser's on Alberta

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

[BRUNCH & BEYOND] With its pitch-perfect salmon hash ($12.95) and enormous German pancakes ($8.25), cozy Alberta bistro Helser's has earned its place among Portland's storied brunch spots. So much so that it's easy to forget that, long after the lines dissipate, they also do some pretty great things with lunch. The ciabatta-and-cheese-topped French onion soup ($5.95) stands among the city's best, and a classic tuna sandwich ($7.95) gets a nice kick with the addition of curry. The potato cakes–one of breakfast's stars–transition to daytime in the form of the torta ($8.25), and the famous Scotch egg makes a nice move to a French roll, where the sausage-wrapped, deep-fried hard-boiled egg pairs with homemade chips for something that will make you forever forget egg salad. AP KRYZA.

J&M Cafe

537 SE Ash St., 230-0463, Breakfast and lunch daily.

[TOP 10] J&M plays the hits. The menu at this airy Southeast breakfast spot is short but sweet, from bagels with lox ($10.25, with lox made from wild-caught salmon) to biscuits and gravy ($10.25, and those are some damn good biscuits) and scrapple ($9.25, with a very fine version of the Mid-Atlantic's beloved slurry of pig snout and cornmeal). Even the two-egg plate comes out prettier and tastier than you can imagine from the bare-bones description. I pretty much always get the scramble of the day and three mugs of self-serve coffee and I have never left without a deep blissfulness. MARTIN CIZMAR.

John Street Cafe

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

[EARLY EATIN'] The friendly staff at this bright, casual, daytime-only eatery is plentiful and attentive, and the clientele makes for good people watching: Think big-haired women in oversized purple eyeglasses. Admire the oddball assortment of art while you wait for a cup of the yogurt mushroom soup ($8), a customer fave, to arrive. (I was partial to a minimalist "asparagus on plate" that took up a tiny fraction of the white canvas.) A satisfyingly gooey Reuben ($11.50) came with a side of simple, well-seasoned roasted potatoes. The day's special pasta, linguine in a preserved-lemon light cream sauce with chicken, peas, pancetta and a generous shaving of parm, wasn't too heavy to keep us from weekend window shopping in gentrified St. Johns proper. The only problem, according to the locals: They don't serve dinner. JENNIFER ABBASI.

Off the Waffle
OVERACHIEVING: Belgian chocolate and bananas on a Liège waffle.
IMAGE: Jennifer Marie Plitzko

2601 SE Clinton St., 946-1608, Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.

[DON’T WAFFLE] If you’re on Clinton Corner in the morning, chances are you are there for brunch. But at Broder, there is a giant line. And so, waffles. Mmmm, waffles. The menu in this sunny shop—decorated with a logo that resembles a grown-up Rod Flanders—is mainly waffles—the best kind of waffles, Liège waffles, with brioche dough and imported pearl sugar. They’re not quite as sweet as what you get at Waffle Window—pay 75 cents for B-grade maple syrup—but they do have that crisp-bordering-on-crunchy outer layer. What should you get on top? What do you like? The savory ones are legit meals—the Caprese ($8) is fortified by half an avocado and surprisingly pleasant out-of-season tomato, and the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy ($8.50) drips yolk onto maple-kissed bacon—while the sweet ones deliver the midday sugar coma you presumably want when ordering the Overachiever ($5.25) with Belgian chocolate chips and ripe banana. MARTIN CIZMAR. 

Pine State Biscuits

100 SE Division St., Suite 100, 236-3346; 2204 NE Alberta St., 477-6605; 125 NE Schuyler St., 719-5357, Breakfast and lunch daily, dinner nightly at Division and Alberta locations.

[CHIC-FIL-A] This Carolina chicken-and-biscuit counter has rambled north and south from its Belmont Street roots, with a gleaming outpost now carpetbagging into Division’s restaurant glut. The new location looks like most Portland diners circa 2015: a wood-paneled luxury resort themed around rural poverty. But you can still pinpoint Pine State’s soul at the intersection of melted cheese and gravy. That puddle of cheddar and sweet sausage—or shiitake—drippings pools at the foundation of each Reggie Deluxe (still the definitive PDX breakfast sandwich at $9), or swims through a thicket of “smothered and covered” fries ($7). Weekend lines can stretch the better part of an hour, but be sure to clear your schedule for after the meal: You won’t find cozier fuel for a power nap. The gravy is rest. AARON MESH.

Portland Penny Diner


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

[WEAPONIZED BREAKFAST SAMMIES] Inside a sleek, smallish, vaguely-retro coffee shop just across the Hotel Lucia lobby from his fine-dining hot-spot Imperial, the newest outpost of celeb chef Vitaly Paley’s empire boasts a rather humbler ambition: evolutionary upgrades over traditional fast food at about the same price. Portland Penny Diner, also the site of Paley’s twice-monthly Soviet-themed pop-up DaNet, specializes in artisanal egg creams, daunting burgers, and weaponized comfort food—e.g. the fried chicken sandwich’s ($7) slab of crispness seasoned by a truly original recipe—while a salt-and-butter indulgence from the breakfast menu like the house-cured pastrami and gruyère Reuben croissant ($5) or the PDXWT’s ($5.75) American cheese and coffee mayo-drenched duck bologna/egg/sauerkraut lunatic gastrobomb threatens to make the most important meal of the day your last. JAY HORTON.


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

[SWEETIE WITH PIE] This almost unbearably twee cafe, breakfast nook and bakery has one of the heartiest sandwiches in town: the braised-beef Good Buddy, which boasts ridiculously thick slices of potato bread that are each thicker than some entire sandwiches, and a lovely trout plate with potatoes, and granola that somehow looks fresher than granola bowls should. It is loved. Expect a line out the door even at 10:30 on a Wednesday morning, filled with those who apparently don’t have to work: visiting San Franciscans, Japanese and eerily healthy-looking young couples.They always boast a pie or two; they had marionberry pie: old-school, shortening-thick crust brimming with thick berry filling. Pro tip: Get your pie to go, rather than gamble on getting a table after ordering food from the counter. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.

Stepping Stone

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

[CALL ME DR. PANCAKE] What’s Stepping Stone like after the bars close on Friday night? I really wonder about that. One assumes this dog-eared diner off Northwest 23rd is a sanitized Hotcake House for the Portland Heights crowd. Theoretically, a group of four MBAs and M.D.s splits three bottles of wine and ends up here for mancakes (hubcap sized flapjacks, $3.50 for one) and eggs Benedict ($9). It must be something. Someday, I’m going to hang out at Joe’s Cellar until they turn on the floodlights, then stumble here for the Montana-scale ranch omelette ($9.50) with crunchy-edged hash browns and butter-drenched sourdough. And watch. MARTIN CIZMAR.

Top 5 Food Carts of the Year | African Food | American Comfort Food | Breakfast/Brunch

Burgers and Dogs | Chinese | Indian | Island/Ocean | Japanese | Korean | Latin American

Mexican | Middle Eastern/Mediterranean | Old World European | Pizza | Sandwiches

Thai/Laotian | Vegan/Veg-friendly | Vietnamese | 21 Delicious Bites For $7 or Less

WWeek 2015

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