Word of Mouth

How Milk Glass Mrkt Got Its Groove

Irresistible baked goods. A killer veggie sando. Retro-mod style. Here’s why the N Killingsworth cafe-market needs to be on your list.

By Karen Brooks December 20, 2016 Published in the January 2017 issue of Portland Monthly

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Clockwise from top left: Seasonal meringue pie, the Milk Glass crew, Tartine sandwich, and maple-glazed cinnamon roll.

Image: Karen Brooks

“You Are My Sunshine” blares happily from the sound system. Maple-glazed cinnamon rolls and jars of intense cookies greet you at the counter. All around, gals in dresses, dangling earrings, and orange braids laugh, high-five, and stress over the day’s menu: light, artistic, everyday food. Even the cashew butter is house-made. Two years ago, Milk Glass Mrkt opened on North Killingworth with style, spunk, and promise, the second act for Nancye Benson, a baking talent who helped ignite PDX’s food truck scene in 2005. Now, her retro-mod café-market has finally caught a rhythm. The whole place thrums like an indie-food girl band, with 51-year-old Benson as lead singer backed by a tight core of kitchen recruits, including baking whiz Kir Jensen (Sugar Cube) and Japanese soul food lover Jane Hashimawari (Wafu, Castagna). Milk Glass needs to be on your dine-out playlist. Here’s why:

Blackboard Specials Are Hits

The Milk Glass menu hasn’t changed much since opening: a solid core of breakfast coziness (baked oatmeal to bread pudding), egg-centric salads, inventive biscuit stacks, and composed snack plates. But daily specials deliver the real magic. Watch for Hashimawari’s ramen bowls: tangles of terrific Portland-made Umi noodles matched with things like coconut, peanuts, chile oil, and pea shoots. A recent blackboard hawked “Tartine.” The wild, open-faced sandwich looks like a platform shoe, with long, rangy mustard greens shooting off layers of shaved ham, pears, and toasted pecans, over a giant heel of fresh brioche. 

The Room Rocks

It’s a small space, but every inch is super-cute and cozy. Check out the frosted skyscraper pendant lamps that Benson salvaged from the old Rose’s Deli. Also, the best “I can’t believe it’s not wallpaper” décor in town. Benson projected an old herbal drawing on one wall, then hand-painted it with three-foot-high leaves and abstract buds.

Carnivores Fight Over the Last Bites of the Veggie Sando

(I watched this happen.) Rounds of sweet beets, thick-cut carrots washed in smoky paprika and Indian spice tones, fresh nut butter made from slow-roasted cashews and shallots, and good farm greens all come with the deal. What makes it an unexpected hit? Careful seasoning, deep savor, and the kitchen’s fine onion focaccia—crisp, soft, and salty in all the right places.

Stellar Baked Finds

With two bakers in-house, Milk Glass hits the sweet spot, with ever-changing pies, galettes, cakes, and morning pastries—plum pistachio puffs to spiced cornmeal cake. Really, where else can you find a lemon curd tart with toasted fennel-pollen meringue ... for breakfast?

Monthly Pop-Ups; Dinner Is Coming

Hashimawari’s monthly pop-up Ippai, featuring Japanese curries and comforts, is already a draw. In January Benson hopes to unveil Milk Glass’s own “dinner party”–vibe meals at night: candlelit, casual, and (of course) very personal.

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