Granola Power Ranking

Presenting Portland’s best morning bowls, oats to nuts.

By Karen Brooks March 25, 2016 Published in the April 2016 issue of Portland Monthly

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Coquine’s crunchtastic hazelnut and cocoa nib granola

Image: Michael Novak

Kellogg’s Granola was born in 1863 as food for invalids, promoted as “thoroughly cooked and partially digested.” Shockingly, it didn’t exactly trend. A hundred years later, revived with toasted oats, honey, nuts, and seeds, granola blazed into America’s consciousness, a code word for hippie street cred. Now, granola’s third, foodie-assisted wave has crested in Portland, where grocers’ shelves groan with dozens of arcane flavors and nearly every café boasts a personalized formula on its breakfast menu—black sesame nougat to cashew cream. Recently, we set out to find the city’s defining local bowls, guided by originality, presentation, and value. In the end, nothing persuades like flavor. 

#1 Coquine Hazelnut and Cocoa Nib Granola

The Jon Snow of the granola world—handsomely rugged, heroic at every turn. The oats are roasted to brooding darkness, each flake radiating caramel notes. Chocolate-bitter cacao nibs and roasty hazelnuts ripple throughout. On top: buttery pear compote. The sheep’s milk yogurt embodies tanginess; fresh fennel sprigs are a surprise gift. Verdict: This is the granola you want to marry., $6

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Image: Karen Brooks

#2 Roman Candle Baking XVOO Granola with Chocolate

Granola chunked with French Valrhona chocolate? For all cereals going forward, this should be the law. It’s just the icing on the bowl for RC’s exceptional blend of decadence and health, great flavor, and Instagram good looks. Special touches: earthy, olive oil–roasted oats and honey yogurt crowned in flax seed confetti. Verdict: World’s first sexy granola., $8

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#3 Sweedeedee Granola with Marionberry Jam

Local sensibility and sheer pleasure course through every bite. There’s righteous, seed-packed granola, raw coastal honey, inspired seasonal fruits, and generosity at every turn. Adding to the pleasure: a bright swatch of house marionberry jam to swirl into Nancy’s yogurt. Verdict: If Oregon had a state granola, this would be it., $6.50

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Image: Karen Brooks

#4 Conundrum Cherry Pistachio Granola at N Williams Ristretto Roasters

This popular coffee shop found a gem: PDX’s daring granola dreamer, Conundrum—typically sold only online. Complex and super savory, the Cherry Pistachio whipsaws from far-flung ingredients (Spanish paprika, candied orange peel) to crazy notions: bits of handmade black sesame-honey nougat and nuts rolled in both coffee and chocolate. Verdict: Out of the box, indeed., $4.50

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#5 Tracy’s Small-Batch Granola at Bijou Café

Granola without the guilt: organic, impeccably balanced, artfully sweetened with applesauce, and delicately pebbled with seeds and sour cherries. Best, all profits for Tracy’s Granola sold locally support Portland nonprofit Urban Gleaners.* Still, the café’s $3.75 fruit tariff is upscale-hotel stiff. Verdict: The thinking person’s granola., $6.25–10

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#6 Meat Cheese Bread Granola “All Day Long”

The Zen of granola, made in a cult sandwich shop, munched in time to heavy metal music. Owner John Stewart is a former high-end cooking pro, and it shows. Behold: buttery notes, copious whole nuts (three kinds), plumped golden raisins, and great value, all in perfect balance. Verdict: Everyman’s Granola—the next generation., $4.50

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#7 Milk Glass Market Granola with Fruit Compote 

Little flavor treasures abound: suave olive oil drizzles, big cracks of walnuts, currants, and cranberries, and, on top, fresh pears and juice-dripping pear compote. But where’s Waldo? That’s one skimpy sprinkle of granola hiding below. Verdict: Spoon in and repeat: “I spy with my little eye....”, $7

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#8 Tasty & Alder Granola with Labneh

Deep dry crunch, cinnamon whispers, and almond slivers. In short, a power bar, in cereal form. The bowl’s real find: a dab of fresh labneh, a marvel of silkiness and sourness, yogurt and cheese. You want more. Still, feel virtuous for skipping Tasty’s a.m. milkshake with fries. Verdict: Nature Valley bar meets the Middle East., $6

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#9 Canteen Granola Parfait with Cashew Cream

Is it breakfast, a dessert, or an excuse to slurp luxurious cashew cream? Who cares. We get to eat an entire an entire jar of something richer than whipped cream, with pale granola and berries tucked in between. Verdict: The defense rests its case for veganism., $6

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#10 Harlow Granola with Almond Hemp Milk

With pear sails and jewel-like goji berries, David Bowie would have worn this pretty bowl. Milks include delicate house almond hemp—nice. The granola is energetic with seeds and nuts, but someone forgot to pack the flavor. Verdict: All glitz, no glory., $6.50–8

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*The author is a board member of this nonprofit.

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