Brunch Serene at SW Portland’s Broder Söder

Broder’s third Scandinavian outpost is more than the sum of its parts.

By Kelly Clarke January 19, 2016

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At Broder Söder, the cafe chain's signature aebleskiver are light, crunchy mood-enhancers.

Image: Kelly Clarke

Go get brunch at Broder Söder when its raining. Seriously, plonking sugar cubes into cup after cup of Water Avenue coffee and nibbling spice-rich fika pastries in Broder’s newish Southwest PDX outpost’s spare, light-filled room (tucked inside the Scandinavian Heritage Center’s design porn-y Nordia House community center) is more mood-lifting than snorting Vicodin.

It’s all so relaxing: watch rain stream down the center’s art installation-ish iron gutters like waterfalls or hit the outdoor garden’s rocky plinths; listen to the Cure while admiring fastidiously designed plates layered just so with cured fish and a rainbow of house pickles. Browse the café’s collection of Scandinavian cookbooks for recipes you covet and will never, ever make.

These are the kind of chill rituals you might have missed out on while waiting for a table at the local chain’s two other, rightfully popular locations in Southeast and Northeast Portland. You were probably checking your phone and obsessively spying on how many groups were still in front of you or huddling with strangers for warmth under the teeny, O.G. Clinton café’s eaves. No matter how delicious the trout hash, that makes for a stressful morning.

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Broder Söder's stuffed avocado with skagen shrimp salad; the light-filled Söder dining room; the cafe's collection of vintage Scandinavian cookbooks.

Image: Kelly Clarke

Söder wisely builds on the breakfast and lunch dishes that made Café Broder a long-time local love affair. Chef James Drinkward’s æbleskiver—powdered sugar-dusted Danish pancakes—are perhaps even lighter at the new location; the crisp-skinned, doughnutty balls layered with homey Scan baking spices and perfect for dunking in zingy, creamy house lemon curd.

Halved avocados hide under a mountain of dill-laced shrimp, vinegar-tanged golden beets, and greens. Buttery-perfect squares of sunny baked eggs lounge with diced spuds, soft peppers, and smoky fish on one plate or near an unexpectedly creamy-centered potato pancake and a dynamite herby herring on another (skip the pork shoulder confit—a dry, salty puck of pan-fried pig). The classic Swedish meatballs in sherry-laced cream sauce are still a decadent artery clogger (find the recipe in our December Scandinavian Holiday Buffet spread); the smorrebrod board a greatest hits of sturdy wheat bread topped with pickled things.

A bigger shift at Söder is the expansion and depth of Broder’s fika. The café’s Swedish coffee break pastries are more fully flavored, bursting with saffron and ginger spice. According to the Scan expats that flock to the café, they’re simply more traditional across the board. That change comes courtesy of baker Jocelyn Barda (she was the woman behind the habit-forming black pepper biscuits at long-shuttered Bakery Bar). Barda has had tasting help from Söder co-owner Martin Hulth, who tapped his own childhood outside Stockholm in Södertälje, Sweden, as a litmus test for legit fika flavor.

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Broder Söder's kanelbullar cinnamon roll.

Image: Kelly Clarke

Her can’t miss morning treat is the kanelbullar, Swedish cinnamon knots baked fresh each morning, liberally flavored with cardamom and showered with little balls of Pearl sugar. Peel apart each crunchy leaf for a warm puff of spice and delicate layers of springy dough. You might want to order two. Depending on the season, you might find Nordic grandma-inspired goodies like lingonberry tarts or sweet, crumbly almond tartlets up for grabs on the sideboard. Order a fikabrod for $7 to nab a little taste of everything, plus coffee.

If there is a wait for a Söder table, especially on the weekends, you can lounge on the cushy teal sofas in the Nordia House entryway or mosey around the cultural center, boning up on immigrant stories or Scandinavian spirits FAQs. The Scan-Modern building, all low slung and clean with chic wood slat detailing, doubles as an event center (there’s a Nordic Noir film series running this month that looks awesome) with Broder acting as its in-house caterer. 

It’s not that Broder Söder is superior to Broder’s other outposts—the menus are similar as is the friendly staffing. It’s simply that Söder’s out of the way locale—hidden among the evergreens along a meandering thoroughfare—steeped in Scan-Modern aesthetics and Nordic heritage combine for a serene, out-of-Portland vibe rarely experienced at the charmingly frenzied original café or industrial chic Nord. It’s a chance to slow down and take a fresh look at a local business still capable of warm surprises. Just add rain.

Broder Söder
8800 SW Oleson Rd
9 am–3 pm Tuesday–Sunday

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