Over at Eater’s national site, editors share their favorite dining and drinking hot tips in a newsletter called “The Move.” Here at Eater Portland, we have moves to share, but they’re not exactly fit for a national audience — only Portlanders know the wonders of evening dates at Rimsky’s and the astounding late-night happy hour at Ringside. Here, in The Move: Portland, Eater Portland contributors relay their city-specific intel; it may not work for you, but it sure works for us.
Whenever I drive around Portland on a Sunday morning, I’ll inevitably spot lines at a few breakfast standbys: Jam on Hawthorne, Cricket Cafe, Screen Door. Inevitably, when I’m driving around on Sunday mornings, it’s because I’m headed to brunch somewhere else. That being said, I’m not going to wait in line for an hour or so; I made a reservation, and I have no idea why people aren’t doing that every weekend.
I should start by saying I don’t get the premise of waiting in line for bacon and eggs. Bacon and eggs are exceptionally easy to make at home, where I don’t have to wear pants and can watch old Simpsons episodes while I eat.
I do understand strolling into a somewhat empty diner, sitting at the counter, drinking black coffee and eating a pile of breakfast meats or potatoes; to me, that’s a fundamental part of the human experience. However, the charm exponentially drops when that touch of Americana requires a 45-minute wait; to me, that’s the cultural equivalent of ordering a beer at the Boston Cheers bar, or watching Citizen Kane because you think you should watch Citizen Kane: an empty gesture that has much more to do with ego than practicality.
I’m not saying you should eliminate Jam on Hawthorne or any other busy breakfast spot from your roster; but still, like your baby boomer father pouting outside Toro Bravo, I cannot understand why you would go to a restaurant to stand outside and wait. When I want to just stroll in for a diner breakfast, I haul my ass out of bed at 7 a.m. for a Wednesday breakfast at Cameo Cafe or a spot at the counter of Fuller’s. If you avoid getting breakfast between 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., the world opens right on up to ya.
If you insist on eating brunch during typical breakfast hours, there are a truly astounding number of options available to you. I’m easily charmed by a breakfast beyond an omelet or a Benedict; if that’s what you’re interested in, I’ve had barely any trouble grabbing a reservation for brunch at 11 p.m. the day before at some of my new favorites. When I’m craving something as messy and sloppy as I am, I know I can nab a table at Bullard for those kitchen sink hash browns I love more than 60 percent of my extended family members. I’ll often crave nasi lemak from Gado Gado, which is, again, available via a reservation. And what about the babka waffles at Ava Gene’s, available without a wait and, if you’re lucky, a spot in the parking lot. Bistro Agnes, Yonder, Masia, Radar, Verdigris — all of these brunch heavy-hitters have a ton of tables on Resy right now, but you’re going to wait in line for an hour and a half for what, overcooked fried eggs and hash browns out of a bag?
I can understand how some might say, “Oh, so if I want to get an inexpensive brunch on a weekend, I’m a dingus?” I can understand this argument.
Okay, no I can’t, because it is cheaper to fry your own damn eggs and many of the restaurants with long waits have similar prices to these spots. The average breakfast at Cricket Cafe, for instance, is between $12 and $15. If you were to go to Imperial, where you can make a reservation on Opentable, you would spend the exact same amount of money: Pancakes are $12, biscuits and gravy are $11, and a chorizo scramble is $14.
There are other reasons people wait in line for breakfast: To support a neighborhood fixture, for the comfort of being a regular, to avoid the drudgery of making any plan with a group larger than two people, to cosplay as a Portlandia character to the ire of everyone else around you. But if ignorance is the rationale, you can’t play that card anymore. There are serious brunch options in every quadrant that take reservations, even same day ones; in the time it’ll take you to wait for a table at Broder Cafe, you can make a reservation at La Moule, eat breakfast, and pop by Dots or Magna for a little something extra.
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Disclosure: Resy’s Ben Leventhal was one of the co-founders of Eater, but is no longer involved in its operations.