Podnah’s – 9/28/13

4stars

Podnah’s Pit
503.281.3700
1625 NE Killingsworth St.
Portland, 97211

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Second best biscuits I’ve had

So my friend Erika was in town for a friends wedding and happened to be staying just down the street at the Kennedy McMenamins hotel which turned out to be less than a mile from Podnah’s our planned destination for this weekends outing. Also seeing as it was my birthday weekend Carly had made loose plans for the something that afternoon so brunch became breakfast and we planned to meet Erika in the lobby around 9 am. We arrived a few minutes early which gave me time to oogle around at the cool interior of the place and even visit the gift shop. Erika arrived a few minutes later and we piled into the Ford to head just down Killingsworth to Podnah’s Barbecue. Seeing as a week prior we were just down the street and saw a rather long line when driving past Podnah’s I was surprised to see only about 6 tables inside with patrons but that would change by the time we finished eating. The interior is filled with benches each of which has a cardboard 6 pack holding a variety of opaque bottles with unidentified sauces. The menu has a rather large selection of choices and contained both breakfast and lunch options to pick from as well as a “specials” list the waitress rattled off when she came over to get our drink orders. Oddly enough my favorite Chicken Fried steak was a special and not listed on the menu, so I ordered that along with a trio of biscuits and a bloody mary. I tried to get a latte but they have a “get your own damn coffee” policy so all that is offered is drip in an urn up front. A little basket of biscuits arrived a few minutes later and each one was the size of a closed fist and warm and cripsy. They were not what I would call “flaky” but they had such a fluffy interior that I wanted to curl up inside with a pat of butter for a long nap. Our meals all arrived maybe 5 minutes later and each one smelled better than the last. My chicken fried steak was not bad but I have definitely developed a taste for the cheaper cafe style fried steak over a decent piece of meat (this was a decent piece of meat). My potatoes were awesome and crispy and I made it halfway through before remembering I also had the two poached eggs to mix in as well. Carly got brisket with poached eggs and potatoes and it was a tasty cut but I think we were both expecting a meal more like what “The Original” has when it comes to brisket which is by far some of the best meat I have ever had. Erika chose breakfast tacos that smelled quite good but I was too stuffed by my meal to steal any. I regret not trying some of the sauces on the table and also not even thinking to get some ribs or pulled pork or something more befitting a BBQ joint but there is also time for a return during lunch.

GALLERY

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SERVICE
Attentive but out of the way and happy to help select your breakfast
3.5 stars

AMBIANCE / DESIGN
Benches and lumber everywhere
3.5 stars

MEAL
Rustic, hearty and far from healthy
4 stars

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Mexico Autentica – 9/22/13

4.5stars

Mexico Autentica
503.287.7555
5507 NE 30th Ave
Portland, 97211

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Hip-spanic Restaurant Brunch

A friend at work has raved about Mexico Autentica’s dinner selections and on their site I saw they had begun offering brunch as well so I figured we could give it a try to see how it matched some of the other southwest themed destinations we had visited. It was on Killingsworth on an area of town we weren’t very familiar with so it also gave us the opportunity to rubberneck at a few other destinations along the way. We arrived and parked street side just in front of the rather tiny restaurant entrance and ventured inside. Despite all the hustle and bustle within we were seated immediately at a small wobbly table in front of the window and given a couple of glasses of warm water (why doesn’t anyone give ice at these breakfast places)? We scanned over the tabloid sized piece of paper containing the menu items which seemed odd considering the minimal amount of selections for brunch it could have easily filled a legal sized or double sided letter sheet. I recognized most of the words and found a few items of interest but still waited to hear what the waitress recommended. Carly is not a fan of mexican spice of any kind so I was surprised she did not protest more when I told her our destination. The waitress gave me a list of 3 different “specials” all of which sounded delicious and to varying degrees dangerous on the Scoville scale. I finally settled on the safe choice of steak and eggs with a side of black beans with some coffee. A short time later along with our drinks came a little trio of sauces, the green ones seemed harmless enough but a whiff of the glowing reddish oil made me tear up a bit with happiness. Our meals were a little slow to arrive but I attributed it to the extra influx of large parties that arrived shortly after us. I do love black beans with a meal so I was extra happy with my selection especially the side of chorizo which went very well with the slightly crispy fried eggs. The steak was a little tough even despite how thin it was but very tasty. We also received a basket of tiny fresh tortillas to sop up the flavor and assist with getting the tiny bits. Carly was less enamored with her mole’ chicken enchiladas and I’m not really a fan of the chocolate flavor of them either but I assume that’s part of the “Autentica”.

GALLERY

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SERVICE
Tiny Coffee cups but friendly warm reception
3.5 stars

AMBIANCE / DESIGN
Modern interior with nice color scheme but a rather simplistic menu design
3.5 stars

MEAL
Wonderful steak and eggs with plenty of flavor and heat
3.5 stars

Orenco Station Grill – 9/16/13

3stars

Orenco Station Grill
503.844.9119
6195 NE Cornell Rd.
Hillsboro, 97124

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Hillsboro Brunch Spot

I had trotted by the Orenco grille and seen they had begun offering brunch so I made a mental note to revisit next time we were feeling too sluggish to venture out of our borough. We showed up not long after they opened and there were already a half dozen people sitting down. We took a both on the far side but up front and began looking over the combo brunch/lunch menu. We were greeted by a friendly but apparently sleepy waitress who was probably not thrilled with having to come to work on Sunday when they were only open from 10-2pm but she was helpful with making some brunch selections. I elected to order the frittata mainly because I couldn’t remember ever having one before and Carly chose a Philly cheesesteak off the backside lunch menu. I also got a sweet frothy Latte to start that came in a tall narrow glass. Our meals came out in a normal amount of time, but bit by bit, meaning that I got my rye toast and then 2 minutes later a plate of potatoes and then finally our entrees. Carly’s sandwich certainly looked more substantive than my crustless quiche but after a bite I realized it was more bread than meat by far and really wasn’t as tasty as it looked but I was satisfied with my frittata that was mixed with mushrooms and spinach and the potatoes were perfectly seasoned and crispy. I never saw more than 4 or 5 tables filled while we were there but perhaps they just hadn’t gotten out the word they were now open for limited hours on Sunday. It’s a convenient location with reliable menu that has yet to disappoint.

GALLERY

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SERVICE
Friendly but not “feelin it”
3 stars

AMBIANCE / DESIGN
Traditional pub interior with comfortable booths and a english style appearance
3.5 stars

MEAL
Decent selection for both brunch & dinner
3 stars

James John Cafe – 9/8/13

4stars

James John Cafe
503.285.4930
8527 N. Lombard
Portland, 97203

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St. Johns Bridge ends at the James John Cafe

A beautiful drive over the St. Johns bridge ends on Lombard ave right in front of the James John Cafe where we parked street side on a sleepy Sunday morning. We wandered into the the cafe which has two small tables out front and a couple of couches directly inside the entrance to the large converted bank building. A woman behind the counter gestured to us to sit where ever we liked and when ready order from the chalkboard against the west wall. We scanned it over for a few moments and began to make our selections, I started with a large Latte and asked the woman taking our order what she would suggest I try, she paused for a moment and followed up with “well, we are known for our biscuits and gravy” which was very much what I was hoping she would say since my experience last week with the rather plain oatmeal left me charged up for some flavor, she then gestured with her fingers “1,2 or 3” biscuits and I thought well geez 3 is better than 2 but I also wanted  to try their bacon soup so I decided 2 biscuits topped with a poached egg would be a good compromise. Meanwhile Carly got a kick ass sausage patty and really delicious French toast. Our meals took a little while to arrive since it appeared only 3 people were managing the entire restaurant from placing orders to cooking in the back  but it was forgivable since there was also a ton of traffic flowing into the structure. When my biscuits arrived I was actually a little bummed at how tiny they appeared on the plate and the addition of a poached egg did little to make it feel like much of a meal but with the cup of soup it really was plenty of food. My first bite of the tiny square biscuit really was surprising since the gravy they were topped with was such an awesome flavor. I was even half tempted to request another pair but knowing the potential prep time involved I decided to enjoy my soup and savor every last morsel of the biscuit and gravy breakfast.

GALLERY

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SERVICE
The small crew buzzes around the converted bank at a rapid pace and it’s pre paid and bus your own table to keep things humming.
3 stars

AMBIANCE / DESIGN
Converted bank with lots of animal heads and hipster goods as well as a turntable providing the mornings music.
3 stars

MEAL
Quite possibly the best biscuits and gravy I’ve ever had, certainly the tiniest.
4 stars

Toast – 9/1/13

3stars

Toast
503.774.1020
5222 SE 52nd Ave
Portland, 97206

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Your neighborhood restaurant

Tucked way the hell back off of Powell is a small neighborhood restaurant with a ton of interior seating, this was todays destination after consulting the oracle app of restaurant recommendations named “Ness”. We picked up our friend Shelly who lives nearby and wandered over off the beaten path to find the little neighborhood eatery known simply as “Toast”. Walking in we saw a “L” shaped breakfast bar with baked goods surrounding the main grill that was surrounded by at least 5 cooks and 3 or 4 servers hurriedly serving up fare. We requested outside seating a a few minutes later we were seated street side under a green Bud Light umbrella, I mention the color because all our breakfasts looked “Seuss Like” under the coloration. I was really in the mood for Oatmeal which is kind of a bad way to judge a restaurant since there isn’t much unique about a bowl of boiled oats but since Carly & Shelly were with I figured I could steal some of their more exciting selections. They ended up both choosing the same breakfast sandwich which was super tasty and yes I did like my oatmeal and yes I did get rye toast that was decent but not nearly as satisfying as the girls selections. All in all a tasty brunch but I have to avoid getting plain old oatmeal when trying to actually judge a restaurant on it’s food.

GALLERY

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SERVICE
Didn’t really see our waitress often but didn’t really need to.
3 stars

AMBIANCE / DESIGN
Somewhat typical neighborhood cafe with outside picnic benches and art on the walls inside.
3 stars

MEAL
Good selection with clever creative names that have nothing to do with the meal (how very Portland)
3 stars

Veritable Quandary – 8/25/13

4stars

Veritable Quandry
503.227.7342
1220 SW 1st Ave
Portlant, 97204

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Brunch at the foot of the Hawthorn Bridge.

We’d walked by Veritable Quandary the week before while down at the waterfront and it had come up many times in the suggestions for dining so when my mom spent the weekend with us it was an easy destination choice to make. Wandering into the restaurant it was rather dark and paralleled by a long bar with stools on the right but at the back end was a brightly lit room with giant skylights and an entrance to their hidden garden with outdoor seating. We sat at one of the stone round tables closer to the front of this garden space near the main street but traffic sounds weren’t really and issue and proceeded to look over their brunch menu selections. One of the fellows bringing water highly recommended the Russian Tea Cakes as a small breakfast appetizer and since their were thee of us and three of them it seemed like a good place to start. I once again was planning on leaving the meal selection up to our waitress but one of the items at the bottom somewhat caught my eye and I decided to try their poached egg and bacon salad while my mom and wife went for the more traditional fare of “Kings Choice” & “Vegetable Benedict”. Our coffee, tea and Russian cakey donut like things showed up a few moments after we placed our brunch order selections. The little powdered cookies were very dense but tasty and went well with my steamy latte  and I almost think a couple per person instead of just one would have been just that much better. Rubber necking around where we were sitting I realized how many times I had driven by this location and not noticed which is one of the many reasons we started doing a weekly breakfast outing. Our meals showed up in an appropriate amount of time and when I saw what Carly & my mom had laid in front of them I somewhat regretted not taking the waitresses suggestion of the “most popular item”. My salad was pretty good but compared to other Cobb salads (easiest & closest) it was nowhere near as filling. I did get to try some of what Carly had ordered as well as some of my moms french toast and both were very tasty and probably a better option for my but I’m trying to get away from my old habits of eggs & toast and a breakfast salad seemed like a decent option to fulfill that goal. Overall a good meal even if I was a little underhwhlemed but that only means next time I go for something deep fried.

GALLERY

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SERVICE
Friendly wait staff with worthwhile breakfast suggestions
3.5 stars

AMBIANCE / DESIGN
Long brick building with cool exterior patio right at the foot of the Hawthorn bridge.
3.5 stars

MEAL
I don’t often order salads but this one was pretty tasty
3.5 stars

Three Degrees – 8/18/13

3-5stars

Three Degrees
503.215.6166
1510 SW Harbor Way
Portland, 97201

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Not bad for a hotel restaurant

We had walked along the waterfront a few weeks prior and passed Three Degrees which is the restaurant at the Kimpton Hotel downtown. Their location is their main attraction since they have an outside patio overlooking the marina. We wandered into the spacious interior and were awkwardly greeted by a giddy young woman who we were not even sure worked there at first. She showed us to the outdoor patio and sat us at one of the small tables for two. We ended up,moving over to a taller table not in direct sunlight and waited for our waitress to come take our order. The brunch menu contained only about 12 items total but the instant I saw the chorizo omelette stuffed with fried potatoes I knew it would be my selection while Carly opted for a burger & fries. We sipped our coffee & tea and people watched for the next 15 minutes while waiting for our orders to arrive. There were only a few people on the patio so it was pretty quiet and we could hear the sound of the seagulls and the slap of the wake against the hulls of the boats down below, and before long our meals showed up. I’m not normally a fan of omelets since there is usually so much egg it gets boring quickly but the addition of a chorizo gravy on top mixed with the grilled vegetables within made this a delicious decision. Carly’s burger also was quite a bit better than average and the fries were even tastier than I would have expected. My potato side was also crispy and enjoyable and I didn’t even want to use any ketchup since the flavor was better than that of a naked spud. It ended up being a surprisingly enjoyable destination and while not as “hipster” as most of the past locations it was a solid brunch with good flavors.

GALLERY

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SERVICE
Attentive but not always easy to get more coffee
3 stars

AMBIANCE / DESIGN
Beautiful Portland water front right in front of the elevated patio
4 stars

MEAL
Surprisingly decent omelet that didn’t over stuff and had a nice chorizo gravy on top.
4 stars

Sweedeedee – 8/11/13

4stars

Sweedeedee
503.946.8087
5202 North Albina Avenue.
Portland, 97217

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Almost worth the wait…

We let our friend Lindsey who was visiting from Saint Charles Illinois pick our brunch destination this weekend and she initially called out a few we had already visited but ultimately ended up with Sweedeedee one I’d not even seen show up in past searches. We headed out and found the location without too much difficulty and even parked curbside but when we walked in the door we were greeted with a little bit of confusion as we tried to sit down or find a hostess. Apparently you stand in line and place your order and then hope that a seat opens up before your order is complete which can cause a little anxiety until you realize just how long every single meal seems to take to make in which case you’ve been seated and waiting for awhile as it is. This was the case with the 3 of us, we scanned the menu and picked our selections and patiently lingered until we were directed to a ridiculously small table that would barely fit two yet somehow the 3 of us crowded around. We watched a plethora of hipsters walk by the front door each one dressed up in crazier and crazier outfits and for awhile I thought there was some sort of event justifying the garb since it seemed cookyier than usual. It took quite awhile for our orders to arrive and although I did not time it It was easily more than 20 minutes and while there was a steady stream of traffic I cant help but imagine that their weird seating process meant they slowed down the kitchen to accommodate all those that wanted to sit at a table. Eventually 2 of our meals arrived (mine without the bacon I ordered) and I figured Lindsey’s would be carried out shortly after but another 2 minutes passed as we waited attempted to wait patiently. Again when Lindsey’s meal arrived it was missing one of the corn-cakes of her two corn cake meal but I did at least get my bacon. The meals were enjoyable and mine which did not seem all that special of a combination Bacon+Beans+Eggs & Toast was actually a really tasty assemblage. I was left a bit grumpy just by how long the orders took to arrive and had we not paid in advance I probably would have been a bit stingier on the tip or made mention to a server but since you pre pay using an iPad and “Square” I wouldn’t recommend going above and beyond the 15% tip. A good meal but frustrating seating arraignment and really slow service made it a decent but not great visit.

GALLERY

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SERVICE
It took a really, really long time for our meals and they came out incomplete
3 stars

AMBIANCE / DESIGN
It’s a little closet of a place with tiny tables and a line that snakes through the middle.
3 stars

MEAL
Great flavors and nice pairings of sweet & savory.
4 stars

Meat, Cheese, Bread – 8/4/13

4stars

Meat, Cheese, Bread
503.234.1700
1406 SE Stark St.
Portland, 97204

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And don’t forget a side of yum-

A cool Stark street cafe mixed in with residential and a couple artist work shops. We dropped off Carly’s brother at the airport and found ourselves hunting for breakfast at a time when most residents are snoring for at least a couple more hours. The Ness app pulled up the suggestion of Meat, Cheese, Bread off Stark in a neighborhood we had walked through the previous week when we went to Zells Cafe. We actually drove by the restaurant twice while hunting for it since their single sign outside was tiny and obstructed by the street side umbrellas over their benches. We parked around the corner and wandered into a small interior space with an open kitchen and two fellas ready to take and make our orders cafeteria style (you pick it up at the counter when it’s done). We scanned the hand lettered menu boards hanging about the register eventually settling on a breakfast burrito for me and a blue cheese & steak breakfast sandwich for Carly. We took a seat at one of the benches outside and rubber necked around at some of the artist shops and homes nearby. There was very little activity because of how early we were there but the weather was great and our meals were ready in such a short time that it seemed as though we had just sat down. I grabbed our meals off the counter and went back bench side, it didn’t look like a lot of food since everything is served a la carte but my breakfast burrito was very filling and I wasn’t left wanting for more. Carly’s blue cheese steak sandwich was awesome and almost made me regret my decision, almost. A great and easily accessible location that keeps it simple and delicious.

GALLERY

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SERVICE
Order at the counter and pickup when called plus bus your own table but who’s complaining.
3 stars

AMBIANCE / DESIGN
A cool small street side cafe with benches out front and nice hand made signs displaying their menu.
4 stars

MEAL
Simple, fast, delicious
4 stars

Zell’s Cafe – 7/28/13

3.5stars

Zell’s Cafe
503.239.0196
1300 SE Morrison St.
Portland, 97214

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Neighborhood Cafe

We parked off Burnside with the intention of eating at Le Pigeon but I failed to look and see that they are only open for Dinner starting at 5pm so I pulled up “NESS” an app I’ve begun using to find decent restaurants to see what showed in the area. A couple bakeries popped up first but then I saw .8 miles away was Zell’s Cafe which I recognized from past brunch hunts. I asked if Carly felt up to a 10 minute neighborhood walk and she agreed so long as it didn’t suddenly get get longer which I have been guilty of in the past. The walk was a nice one and before long we arrived at Zell’s where about 10 people were lingering out front waiting to be seated. I scribbled our name down on the sign in sheet and then got Carly to stroll once more around the neighborhood while we waited for the wait to thin. At the end of our lap around the neighborhood and one street over we realized we were right outside of Roost the first restaurant I blogged about in January. I guessed that we still had about a 5 minute wait when we returned to check the list but were ushered in pretty quickly and sat down at a small table right in front of the hostess stand at the back. The chalkboard had a dozen decent items that were on special one of which “the reuben scramble” our waitress recommended as her choice from everything else. Carly elected to get a bacon waffle with a side of fruit and beforehand we could ask about the scones everyone seemed to be savoring two plates of our very own showed up accompanied by little dishes of strawberry jam. We hungrily munched on the scones which were fluffier than expected and complimented nicely by the jam and our hot tea & coffee. The interior space is once big square with the kitchen at the back end and a small bar across the right interior wall opposite the entry, many old black and white photos hung on the wall showing off the neighborhood through the years. Our meals arrived in only a few minutes, shockingly fast considering how busy they were but I guess they take the word “cafe” & “speedy service” very much to heart. Carly’s waffle at first glance didn’t look like it would be enough for a full meal but after trying a bite I realized just how filling it could be since they stuffed at least 4 ounces of savory bacon inside not to mention the large bowl of fresh fruit she also received. My Reuben scramble sandwich also featured a small pile of potatoes and a side of sauerkraut which I tried to cram inside the already stuffed egg sandwich to no avail. After about 4 bites I gave up trying to eat the sandwich in the traditional fashion and switched to slicing it up with my knife and fork which I found much easier and less messy. The flavors were fantastic and the kraut, eggs, pastrami and marble rye went excellent together and were more than enough to satisfy, but I still ended up with the remaining few bites of Carly’s waffle which she could only eat 2/3rds of.

GALLERY

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SERVICE
The place was super busy when we first arrived so we only saw our waitress a couple times but sh did refill my coffee at least a couple times.
3.5 stars

AMBIANCE / DESIGN
One big square room with the kitchen at the back
3 stars

MEAL
JUst because it looks like a sandwich doesn’t mean you have to eat it like one.
4 stars