Best Breakfasts 2019

12 Breakfast Dishes You’ve Got to Eat Right Now

From fancy Australian eggs and bacon to chilaquiles and the city’s first great babka, this is what you need come sunup.

By Karen Brooks, Benjamin Tepler, and Kelly Clarke April 23, 2019 Published in the May 2019 issue of Portland Monthly

The potato hash at Proud Mary

The Potato Hash at Proud Mary

Credit an Australian coffee shop import for taking a stand against workaday eggs, hash browns, and bacon. The Potato Hash, the MVP of Mary’s inventive, all-day breakfast menu, is rebuilt as an artful installation. A crispy-topped block of shredded potatoes stands dead center beneath the bacon of our dreams—a thin, rich, house-smoked loin as thick as an ax handle. A garden-size plot of kale glistens on top, while one perfectly poached egg brings up the flank. But what makes this next-level potato hash? A swashbuckle of bagna cauda, with notes of warmth and cream, of garlic, anchovies, and olive oil. (When was the last time you saw the late, great “hot bath” sauce of Italy?) Turns out, the dish already has a legendary following in Melbourne, home of the O.G. Proud Mary. (Owner Nolan Hirte confesses that the PDX café’s kitchen was literally designed around the dish, with a field of flattops at the ready.) Room for more? Order the hash’s spiritual contrast, Citrus Mistress (see photo, p. 6). The yogurt parfait comes whipped with tangy lemon curd, spooned into a “terrarium” of flower petals, coffee-spiked granola, Australian wattle seeds, and orange sections. 2012 NE Alberta St

Yolko Ono at Fried Egg I’m in Love

This music-pun-obsessed operation’s new yolk-yellow diner on SE Hawthorne is a siren song for lovers of straight-ahead breakfast sandwiches, the same handheld addictions the crew served for years at its original cart up the street. The sit-down café’s menu adds Bloodies and hot little hash brown pucks straight outta Golden Arches, but the Yolko Ono is still no. 1 with a bullet. The house has the routine down pat: a quick grill on the flattop for butter-oozing slabs of local sourdough, frizzy-edged eggs cooked to magma-oozy medium, and juicy sausage patties shellacked with caramelized onion bits. Each stack is finished with a slick of bright, garlicky-good pesto. You can trick your Yolko out with havarti or vinegary Secret Aardvark aioli, but beyond that, why mess with near perfection? 3549 SE Hawthorne Blvd

Biscuits and Gravy at Decadent Creations

After earning a Chopped championship title in 2015, home baker Mindy Simmons transformed a 1920s mortuary in downtown Hillsboro into a cheery, spacious bastion of scratch pastries and bacon sandwiches tricked out with house blackberry jam in mid-2017. Her drop biscuits and gravy ($6) is a master class in texture, centered on a single, perfect buttermilk dome that seems cobbled together entirely of tender, craggy-crisp edges. It sits atop a pool of silky, fennel- and paprika-singing cream crowded with really good local sausage. (We have more B&G thoughts and feelings here.) While you wait for your order, have the sweet staff stock a box with hearty scones, killer caramel-and-coconut-loaded layer bars, sticky cardamom rolls, and excellent, bitter dark chocolate brownies. At $15 for a half dozen pastries of your choice, it’s hands down one of the best baked-goods deals in the metro area. 171 NE Third Ave, Hillsboro, 

Bella‘s morning goodies (clockwise from top right): sesame cookies, cannoli, lemon ciambella, pear and almond tartine, almond cakes, sfogliatella (weekends-only), and apricot jam tarts

Pastries at Bella’s Italian Bakery & Market

The cannoli have landed. So have the sfogliatelle and ciambelle. In late 2018, baking talent Michelle Vernier filled a void in our otherwise robust pastry scene with the kind of Italian American baked goods that The Godfather’s Clemenza would happily kill for. Don’t try to make any big decisions at the Lents neighborhood pastry case—just get one of each. Yes, those cannoli are the best around: filled with sweet, tangy house ricotta and piped into blistered, freshly fried cigars to order. Bella’s is the only place in town to find sfogliatelle: phyllo-dough clamshells with dozens of layers that shatter and give way to a gooey custard center. And ciambelle? Let’s just say you’ll never be able to bring a normal box of doughnuts to work again after unloading these crumbly, lemon-zested cinnamon-sugar wonders. 9119 SE Woodstock Blvd

Bernstein's Bagels

Bagels at Bernstein’s Bagels

Last year, getting your hands on a Bernstein’s bagel was a feat of grim determination. The drill: 1) Get to a tiny St. Johns shop early. 2) Wait in line anyway. 3) Deploy Rollerball tactics to score a table in the gravel-floored back “patio.” 4) Face reality. 5) Get the goods to-go, instead. The reward? Portland’s best bagels, possibly ever—slow-risen, boiled, hand-rolled, and good enough to put up a fight in New York. Nowadays, you can run the St. Johns gauntlet or head to Bernstein’s new closer-in N Russell Street café, complete with civilized tables, big, bright windows, and adorable, hand-painted wallpaper that flaunts the flowers that produce the seeds topping an “everything bagel.” Both outlets share the same menu: eight classic bagels, salt to sesame, plus playful schmears, bagel sandwiches, and pump-your-own coffee via local roaster Nossa Familia. We’re suckers for the caraway bagel, untimid in its earthy, anise-like snap. And the nuanced, weekends-only pumpernickel—the dough rich with coffee, sweet spices and molasses—is worth a trip alone. Word to the wise: Bernstein’s subscribes to the ancient wisdom that goes “one can never have too much cream cheese.” They are wrong. Order overly generous schmears on the side. Multiple locations

True Mexican Mocha at La Perlita

There are mochas, and then there are the “true” Mexican mochas at La Perlita: strewn with electric-pink, freeze-dried raspberry dust and crunchy cacao nibs, each a small universe of texture and bittersweet, rich flavor. Café owner/barista Angel Medina reps real Mexican espresso, leans on good chocolate and, for warmth, house café de olla syrup ringing with orange peel, cinnamon, and star anise. (The shock of that tart fruit powder lingers on your lips after every sip.) The airy café in the lobby of the Pearl’s Ecotrust Building is the third tiny yet mighty coffee shop opened in the past 22 months by Medina’s Smalltime Roasters. It joins Kiosko by South Waterfront Park and Con Leche in the South Waterfront neighborhood proper—each devoted to Mexican culture and coffee. For Medina, born in Southern California but raised in Guadalajara, Mexico, the true mocha is, in essence, equal parts professional swagger and clapback. He explains: “Before I went into the coffee [business], I’d walk into [cafés] and they’d have a Mayan or Mexican mocha on the menu. I’d ask them what makes it Mexican and they’d say, ‘We sprinkle a little cinnamon or cayenne in it,’” he remembers. “That’s bullshit! That doesn’t make it Mexican. I wanted it to taste like the Mexican hot chocolate I drank as a kid. With coffee in it ... and more complex.” Pair your cup with a Bakeshop treat, or, weekends only, snag an unorthodox Mexican conchas pastry—matcha to banana—from local upstart Wyld Bread. Either way, do not, under any circumstances, get your Perlita mocha to go. You want some time with this one. 721 NW Ninth Ave

Sausage, Egg & Cheese Deluxe at SuperDeluxe

At SuperDeluxe, a kind of In-N-Out with Portland sensibilities, empire builder
Micah Camden perfects fast food, one vice at a time. After the Shake Shack–styled Double Deluxe burger, Camden’s greatest contribution to society is the rejiggered McDonald’s Egg McMuffin. Fix no. 1: English muffins are toasted and slicked with Dijon mayo, while McD’s are flimsy and flavorless. Fix no. 2: consistent, perfectly gooey, over-medium eggs, while McD’s are dry and crumbly. Fix no. 3: sage-studded breakfast sausage sourced from Northwest-based SP Provisions. McDs? Well, you know. It all comes together, for $3.75, with a slice of melty American cheese and a packet of hot sauce. (SuperDeluxe’s hash browns—salty, golden-brown tater tot medallions—are $2.75 extra.) Recovering fast food junkies: time to fall off the wagon. But Camden cleans up where it counts, his SuperTasty Stumptown cold brew shake—a sort of soft-serve Frappuccino born for summer mornings—is served with a paper straw, of course. 5009 SE Powell Blvd

Yeasted Waffle at Coquine

Pancake or waffle? It’s a brutal decision to have to make so early in the morning. It’s especially hard at Coquine, SE Belmont’s tucked-away powerhouse of a restaurant. On her stupid-good breakfast menu, Coquine’s Katy Millard sets the bar for all other waffles in the city with her $4 yeasted wonder, served as a side dish—more like a labored-over pastry than an Eggo. Migration barley flour from Ayers Creek Farm adds beautiful buttery-toasted notes to the crisp edges and fluffy innards of the copper-hued honeycomb. Melted through the trenches: butter whipped with maple syrup and sea salt and dusted with ground, blowtorched cinnamon. The result is something like Cinnamon Toast Crunch for the gods. And because that’s just a side dish, there’s no reason to miss the sourdough pancakes, a gorgeous stack of tart, dark-ringed flapjacks buried in ginger-spiced apples, crushed pecans, and a dollop of tart crème fraîche. 6839 SE Belmont St

Hearty chilaquiles and a mug of rich champurrado at Santo Domingo Taqueria. You should probably order a shredded beefy machaca breakfast burrito too while you’re at it.   

Chilaquiles at Santo Domingo Taqueria

This Cully stalwart is a busy neighborhood lunch and dinner go-to for meaty burritos, but most mornings its pleasantly lived-in dining room can be a bit snoozy. That’s OK. The Oaxaca-born operation’s flavor-thrumming chilaquiles are the only breakfast date you need. A vast platter of thick, warm tortilla chips (fried up from tortillas they make fresh each weekend) swimming in punchy, lick-the-fork good tomatillo-jalapeño green sauce is paired with seared strips of jerky-like beef and three textbook fried eggs (three!). It’s served fast and is near impossible to stop eating: each forkful another layered treat of wilting, eggy chip crunch and cilantro-onion bite. You could pair it with the house’s burnt coffee doctored with powdered creamer (“tastes like church,” says my companion), or order a $2 cup of champurrado. Enriched with masa harina and condensed milk, this thick take on hot cocoa pours directly from co-owner Gloria Martel’s battered thermos like cinnamon-sweet lava. 5447 NE 42nd Ave

Savory Granola at Cloudforest

The unlikely secret to great granola: nubbles of good chocolate. I mean, really good chocolate, the kind that pings around your morning-fogged brain like a pinball. Find it at design-savvy chocolate-making shop and coffee bar Cloudforest, which fortifies its bowls with its own 70 percent cacao Ecuadoran chocolate. Chocolate is but one of some 20-odd ingredients deployed by Cloudforest’s Sebastian Cisneros in his quest to create a vegan, gluten-free, naturally sweetened granola. Also in the mix: almonds, pumpkin seeds, pink peppercorns, juniper berries, and cardamom. Cisneros roasts his oats in olive oil, but also in cacao butter, a move he calls his “magic trick.” Fresh pears ride on top, dusted with house
vanilla salt (He also makes his vanilla extract). Organic yogurt comes with the deal, pooled with Old Blue Raw Honey. Cashew cream is also an option, and yes, you guessed it: Cloudforest makes that, too. 1411 SE Stark St

Tusk‘s world-class babka for one—at weekend brunch only.

Chocolate Sesame Babka at Tusk

In certain big American cities, declaring who makes the best babka can reach a rap-battle pitch. To devotees, this descendant of Eastern European Jewish bake craft is the ultimate morning event, a coffee-cake-meets-croissant wickedly twisted with dark chocolate. Now, babka is having a moment across the country. Even the Pioneer Woman has a recipe to share. Portland? Not even really trying. Which is all the more reason to celebrate the version at Middle Eastern modernist Tusk, which rises to the occasion on its weekend brunch menu. Unlike the typical slices of braided loaf, pastry chef Nora Mace goes her own way with individual babkas, warmed to order, as the craggy tops drip, ever so lightly, with tradition-be-damned cinnamon roll glaze. Inside and out, 70 percent dark chocolate tunnels through feathery coils of rip-apart brioche. Want “real food” for breakfast? Tusk’s smoked trout platter gives bagels and lox a Mid-East-seasonal bent, with herbed labneh and poppy seed–shrouded smoked trout to sumac-pickled onions, Aleppo-dusted soft-boiled egg, and more. (We say this with love: kudos for buying—and garlic-toasting—Ken’s Artisan’s top-priced boule bread, but give us a bagel, please.) 2448 E Burnside St

Off menu Funfetti pancakes at Canard (just ask for ‘em), with a September Affair breakfast cocktail, bien sûr.

Funfetti Pancakes at Canard

A year ago, I had never eaten rainbow sprinkles. Now, with equal parts pride and shame, I’m ready to skip-prance around Canard’s tables like a unicorn. Chef Gabriel Rucker’s Funfetti rounds hit all the childhood-birthday-party buttons: buttermilk-tender, crackling with candy crust, and downy with whipped cream. They’re Exhibit A for how Canard, Portland Monthly’s 2018 Restaurant of the Year, brilliantly taps our desire to eat like kids, without the usual ironic winks and plate deconstructions. Rucker and his crew are true believers and it shows, with no detail left behind, down to the kingly golden-bronze hue. Let others simply toss sprinkles in the batter for the cute color factor. Canard actually leverages their saccharine power: coating the top of each cake in multicolored sugar beads as the batter sizzles; when flipped, the surface caramelizes on the hot grill, creating what Rucker calls a “rainbow sugar crust.” Take note: This dish is off-menu; ask and you shall receive. Warning: ear-to-ear grins ahead. 734 E Burnside St

Austin-Style Breakfast Tacos at Matt’s BBQ Tacos

You could wrap Matt Vicedomini’s white-oak-smoked ribs, brisket, and jalapeño cheddar sausage in newspaper and it would still be one of the best “tacos” in the city. Luckily, Portland’s star pit master has perfected the Texan flour tortilla at his new breakfast taco cart on SE Hawthorne, the same truck formerly home to Fried Egg I’m in Love. The base for his stellar breakfast tacos, inspired by Austin’s famed Valentina’s, starts with a from-scratch flour tortilla, made from dough cut with lard and pressed and cooked to order. Tex-Mex wannabes, take note: this is how it’s done. Vicedomini loads the fluffy pocket with scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, and, of course, barbecued meat—either chopped brisket, sliced pork belly, crumbled sausage, or portobello mushroom. The two-handed, double-stuffed migas taco, filled with fried corn tortilla bits cooked with egg and topped with guac and pico de gallo, is sort of like chilaquiles in taco form. Better get in line now: if the Fried Egg cart’s historically long waits are any indication, Matt’s new breakfast tacos might require early risers and folding lawn chairs. 3207 SE Hawthorne Blvd

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