With the near-constant flood of fabulous young things entering Portland’s golden restaurant scene, we’ve all been guilty of letting some long withstanding treasures fade from our memories. To be fair, it sometimes falls on the establishment itself for resting on its laurels – an almost unforgivable transgression at a time when local culinary stars are many, but the pool of disposable dollars, while not shrinking, is still nowhere near where it was prior to the unpleasantness of the recent housing/insurance/collapse/bailout/bank heist…(oh god… are my liberal nutjob leanings showing again? )
When it comes to places to eat breakfast, it can happen pretty easily. After all, there are only so many Sundays in a week… and even fewer Sundays where one can sleep in, throw on something only slightly better than pajama bottoms, and head out to a favorite haunt to linger over a well-crafted brunch. Competition is fierce in this town for good breakfast spots, and its easy to get lost in the shuffle.
Take for instance this morning… (and I say morning loosely, because it was 12:30 when I woke up)…the last thing I remembered last night was watching an old episode of Weeds while indulging in a slice of leftover chocolate birthday cake from Bakery Bar, frosted in rich butter cream, decorated with fondant, which Ben had extricated from the freezer. As enjoyable as it was, I doubt it was worth the incredible sugar hangovers we woke up with. We needed some breakfast-related TLC and we needed it stat.. but where to go? We pondered our options – the J&M? (consistently wonderful, but a little further than we wished to venture in our compromised state), Slappy Cakes? (cute name and a bar featuring local booze, but really – if we had the wherewithal to make our own pancakes, we wouldn’t be going out.) Veritable Quandary? (too likely I’d run into an acquaintance). We decided to head down Hawthorne Blvd and take our chances.
Our first stop was Jam on Hawthorne. I’d had misgivings after having eaten there once and feeling that it was terribly expensive for terribly mediocre food, but we both noted that it had been getting decent reviews on Yelp and CitySearch as of late, and decided to give it a shot. We put our name on the list for a table, but after checking an uninspired specials board, not being able to find a clean coffee mug at the self-serve coffee station, and feeling gladly out of place among the windbreaker and athletic sandal-wearing ‘i’m an elitist jerk but i used to go to phish shows in the 90′s so its ok’ crowd, we took our name off the list and headed up the street to an old favorite, the Bread and Ink Cafe. (side note: It’s ok to be elitist, for heaven’s sake, but you should at least be open about it and carry a goddamned Prada bag, for chrissakes. What is this sh%t about showing up for brunch in tevas?!?)
To me, the hallmark of a great breakfast spot is the ability to execute the basics flawlessly….and to make one feel well-cared for at a time of day when they may not be up to taking care of themselves. At the Bread and Ink, these virtues are achieved by way of tender and fluffy buttermilk pancakes, a hot cup of robust coffee, topped off as if by magic, generous portions of perfectly crispy/chewy bacon, a house-baked baguette, and perfectly roasted herbed potatoes. The ambience – airy, spacious and comfortable – draws an interesting mix – from walk of shamers to the well-dressed silver set. Servers range from tattoed with well-kept rocker mullets to dapper older gentlemen..from goth to npr… but regardless of who brought what or did what for us, the service was singularly helpful, friendly, efficient. Great service, amazing food, cool people, and I dig it. This is the Portland weekend breakfast experience at its best. Bread and Ink…my sincerest thanks. You are getting bumped up to the top of my list.