Nostalgia on a Plate: These Portland Breakfast Spots Still Reign Supreme

The Original Pancake House in Southwest Portland and Fuller’s Coffee Shop in the Pearl District still hit the spot with trend-proof breakfast fare for seven decades and counting.

By Katherine Chew Hamilton Published in the June 2022 issue of Portland Monthly

A spread of pancakes from the Original Pancake House, including the must-order apple pancake

Image: Kelly Clarke


ungry for a slice of Old Portland? Two diners have been serving up that same charm for breakfast for around 70 years. The original Original Pancake House, a third-generation family business not to be confused with late-night joint the Original Hotcake House. It opened in 1953 off Southwest Barbur (8601 SW 24th Ave) and has since ballooned into a franchise chain with more than 100 restaurants in the United States, plus Japan and South Korea. Stepping into the homey restaurant feels like you’ve entered small-town America. Commemorative plates line the walls, and servers don bubblegum-pink aprons. On the menu: pancakes of every kind, from plate-size flapjacks to eggy Dutch babies with a pool of butter to lacy Swedish pancakes with lingonberries, plus the usual breakfast suspects, including omelets and waffles.  

From this sky-high stack, we recommend the signature apple pancake, a tall, plate-dwarfing number generously topped with slices of tart apple and fragrant Sinkiang cinnamon glaze—think apple pie for breakfast—and the continental crêpes oozing triple sec–laced sour cream, sided by a petite pitcher of tangy orange-lemon sauce. Bacon is thick and crispy, and the hash browns are an unexpected delight: potato hand-grated into ribbons much wider than your usual frozen fare, cooked to a buttery crunch with plenty of onion.

A view of the counter at Fuller's Coffee Shop

Meanwhile, Fuller’s Coffee Shop, opened in 1947 by Jack Fuller, has sat at its current Pearl District digs (136 NW Ninth Ave) since 1960. His son John later took over, working almost every day until age 79, when he sold the business to Urban Restaurant Group, which also owns Brix Tavern. Long before it was “the Pearl,” John recalls, the neighborhood was mostly warehouses. And when Fuller’s first launched weekend breakfast—no one called it brunch—business was excruciatingly slow. 

Now, nearly every red-orange pleather-and-chrome stool at the Formica counter is occupied. Millennials type Slack messages on their phones while they tuck in to old-school biscuits and gravy. Older gents in wool hats and silk ties start their day with omelets and toast. Tourists try a $4.75 special that includes a pancake, two strips of bacon, and an egg—a steal in the Pearl, though an old menu on the wall reminds you three hotcakes and coffee once cost 40 cents. When John launched that special in the ’90s, it was $1.99. At this price, don’t expect the best pancakes of your life—but what they lack in taste, their surrounds make up for in time travel.