Eating brunch at Hale Pele, Portland’s best-known and beloved tiki dive, is one of the most bizarre dining experiences in the city. Exotic birds chirp over the speakers, tiki totems glow in the dim, neon light, and a sparse gathering of regulars sporting Hawaiian shirts fill in the New York Times crossword…at noon on a Sunday. Eerie though it may be, Hale Pele is now serving a trashy-good Hawaiian brunch—Spam and all—plus exceptional breakfast cocktails from owner B.G. Reynolds.
Hale Pele chef Dekin Hom, a Hawaii native, dives into island comfort with house-made “Hawaiian Bread,” a sweet, yeasty canvas for his two best dishes. It binds the Spam sandwich, starring a thick wedge of the much-maligned ham amalgam, grilled to salty perfection and topped with over-easy eggs and gooey cheese. In its next iteration, French toast arrives under a mountain of blackstrap-spiked whipped cream and toasted coconut flakes, slowly soaking up a pool of passion fruit syrup and fresh strawberry; there’s some grilled Linguiça sausage on the side for good measure.
It’s rare that we get a taste of tiki obsessive B.G. Reynolds’s own shaking style, since his drink program is strictly devoted to the canon of signature tropical cocktails. At brunch, he nails it: his seemingly gimmicky kimchi Bloody Mary falls in the city’s top five, with a shot of gin bleeding into a salty, garlicky, and super-spicy extract from local Choi’s Kimchi. The lighter, refreshing B.G. Fizz does well as breakfast sipper too, a slightly effervescent highball of tart lime, vanilla, and milk.
Jaded as we are from a month of straight eggs, bacon, and everything in between in our ranking of the city's best brunch, we'll bet Hale Pele is on its way to becoming a cult classic for Portland's favorite meal.
2733 NE Broadway St.
Brunch: Sat-Sun, 10 am - 2 pm