Waterave2 xo1k5v

Water Ave's egg and chorizo breakfast sandwich

There are few coffee roasters in town that offer a full-fledged food menu, with most sticking to the requisite pastry case. And—with the exception of Proud Mary, which traveled all the way from Australia to spread the gospel of full-service coffee and comprehensive brunch to Portland’s scene earlier this year—almost no one steps up beyond avocado toasts and turkey sandwiches. But as of this summer, Water Avenue Coffee, the eight-year-old Southeast industrial roaster, is getting serious. 

Tasked with the challenge: Jim Kavanaugh, a pastry alum from Genoa and Gruner (both closed), Tamara Edens (Grain & Gristle and Old Salt), and Beth Leppek (Washington’s The Willows Inn). Their menu hits all of Portland’s modern-day sweet spots: cocoa nib granola with preserves, a grain bowl with Gathering Together Farms veggies tossed in creamy lemon tahini, and an egg sandwich. That last item is a reliable highlight: a thick, griddled chorizo verde patty with herby aioli, parmesan, and a McMuffin-style egg puck.

Waterave3 qzra8q

The positively massive hotcake with fruit preserves, honey, candied seeds, and whipped cream

On first taste, the larger plates still need R&D. The ambitious espresso mole arepas are a bit disjointed: tough purple masa cakes, spicy red chorizo, black beans, ripe plantains, and a sweet, bitter mole thickened with Water Ave’s own coffee. It’s a fine, hefty plate of food, but the sweet, salty, and bitter components never quite mesh.

Meanwhile, the sourdough and fruit hotcake leviathan needs to be shared by at least three eaters. A foot around, and close to two inches thick at its center, the sweet, fluffy dough is a solid breakfast platform. The toppings, however—which include an array of candied nuts, berry preserves, Bee Local honey, and vanilla whipped cream—have a cloyingly sweet, kitchen-sink effect. 

And, if you're getting used to the hand-holding, plate-clearing front of house service at Proud Mary, be warned: this is not that. It’s still the busy, multi-use coffee shop where you bus your own table (although it’s easy to forget while sitting on the tiny, umbrella-covered sidewalk).

We don’t mind too much, though—Water Ave is still in its early days as a brunch spot. And besides, any place where you can drink your favorite just-roasted coffee and sit down to a proper meal is a major win in our book.

Show Comments
In this Article

Old Salt Marketplace

$ Deli, Pacific Northwest, Sandwiches 5027 NE 42nd Ave

Pendleton blanket–level comfort is the credo at this Northeast dining hall, especially at brunch: think flawlessly scrambled eggs, dense house anadama toast,...

Editor’s Pick

Grain & Gristle

$ Pacific Northwest, Pub Grub 1473 NE Prescott

This neighborhood spot is a first-rate, rustic brewpub with a full bar and exceptional eats. The food menu—broken up into Salt, Vegetables, Protein, Cheese, ...

Editor’s Pick

Water Avenue Coffee

$ Coffee 1028 SE Water Ave 145

Enormous blue neon letters spelling COFFEE hang over the bar and beckon visitors as a modern nod to the working-class coffee shop of yore. Mud-wise, expect s...

Editor’s Pick

Proud Mary

$$ Breakfast / Brunch, Coffee 2012 NE Alberta St

This Alberta Street spot doubles as a fancy brunch destination serving Aussie-inflected fare and a cupping bar brewing flights of coffees so rare some aren’t...