If you want a quick zap of Portland culture, take a bite of the great breakfast biscuit sandwich at La Luna Café. The easygoing new Southeast brunch spot is the brainchild of the team that once ran the city’s venerable weekend-only Simpatica brunch in this same space—they’ve been perfecting those flaky-yet-sturdy buttermilk biscuits for a dozen years. The stack’s lacy, griddled dark bacon? It comes from one of the team’s other restaurants, fancy meat standby Laurelhurst Market. (Tasty bread-and-butter pickles, frizzly egg, and smoked gouda don’t hurt, either.) Add in the fact that the La Luna name is a nod to the fervently loved all-ages rock club that occupied the same building in the 1990s—a cornerstone for the city’s grunge scene—and you’ve got a lot of local feels in one brunch dish.
When owners Ben Dyer, Jason Owens, and Dave Kreifels dissolved Simpatica Catering last year, they couldn’t quite quit their decade-plus of morning meals. So, they remixed their brunch into a full-service restaurant featuring Simpatica standards (the tender pâte à choux waffles are here), as well as lighter, heathier fare (plus cocktails, of course). It might be the only place in town you can order a gravy-slathered chicken-fried pork loin and an acai bowl dusted with spirulina.
The serene, ocean-blue-walled chamber isn’t trying to ape the gritty old La Luna vibe. It’s more designed to coddle the people who once loved that club—then grew up, maybe had kids and might want a healthyish barley salad studded with salty green olives served with their delicious medium-rare burger instead of fries.
Still, the comfort dishes are the real draw so far. The B.P.C. (a banana-enhanced pancake) is one of the most happy-making menu bait-and-switch jobs in town: it’s actually an entire cake for breakfast. Each arrives still sizzling in its own small cast-iron pan: fluffy, bronzed-cornered, and banana-whispering, strewn with toasty nuts, deluged with tart lemon curd and a flourish of berries. Order one for the table.
Not everything works—a recent sweet potato and wilted greens “Root Bowl” tasted like sad baby food—but most dishes are already dialed in and worth repeat visits.
After 20 years or so, La Luna once again truly rocks.