JOHN GORHAM’S TORO BRAVO and Tasty n Sons have been major benchmarks in Portland’s expanding food scene, one masterminding sexy, Spain-meets-Oregon tapas and the other elevating the brunch experience. At Interurban, a dark, timbered “saloon” on N Mississippi Avenue, updated pub food—from “Portland’s finest corndog” to dry-aged rotisserie sandwiches—accompanies an impressive bar program that hasn’t quite gained traction. That might change—at least on weekends, when Interurban throws open the windows and serves brunch on the back patio. The new brunch menu echoes the creativity of Tasty n Sons, mingling biscuity comfort with ethnic punch.
For the full daylight experience, walk straight past the wooden stairwell and taxidermy stag to the outdoor space, punctuated by a collection of heavy wooden picnic tables and framed by a latticed arbor and creeping vines. The short menu keeps things simple. The Bloody Mary, with bright, fresh tomato flavor, house-pickled vegetables, and a full blast of spice, is a great place to start on the list of well-mixed cocktails. Breakfast itself is rich and decadent: a layer of over-easy eggs covers a salty crisp of smoked prosciutto, giving way to another substantial layer of creamy spiced polenta infused with truffled provolone. Meat is everywhere, from steak and eggs with cornmeal johnnycakes to a superb breakfast burger on a slightly sour house-made English muffin bun, sided by sweet raisin chutney.
Interurban’s best morning bites, though, are sweet. Little Ghanaian doughnuts come three to an order with a thick shell, a hearty, savory batter awaiting within, and a fruity pineapple dipping sauce. The French toast vies for a spot in the city’s top tier: thick, eggy slices of bread griddled with salty caramelized sugar and accompanied by not-too-sweet whipped cream and berry compote. (The last dish of a long sequence, it was devoured in minutes with gusto.)
Gorham’s latest venture may not be his legacy, but as brunch unfolds on this idyllic summer patio, Interurban is shaping up to join Portland’s parade of weekend morning essentials.