Good Morning, Portland

By Paige Williams May 19, 2009 Published in the March 2009 issue of Portland Monthly

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Image: Karen Brooks

If I had to chart out my life in breakfasts, the map pins would show up everywhere from Boston to Lake Tahoe to Charlotte to Spain. In Andalucía, we ate tostadas topped with tomato and melted manchego, or we knifed each half of a toasted bread-loaf and drizzled them with olive oil. New York had bagels, of course, and the best lox and cream cheese (the joys of living near Zabar’s), and on special days we went down to Balthazar for a champagne pick-me-up and eggs Florentine, or to the more down-home Bubby’s, which smokes its own salmon and where it’s seriously uncool to gape at Edward Burns and Christy Turlington if they happen to be sitting at the next table.

Memories of life’s earlier mornings stick with me even more. Growing up in the South, I craved breakfast at the farmhouse of my maternal grandmother, who made homemade biscuits in a wooden dough bowl and a cast-iron skillet. I never got tired of watching the ritual: the working of the dough, her wrinkled hand patting each powdery unborn biscuit into place in the skillet, and the high, fragrant, flaky result. We dressed her biscuits with a mixture of softened butter and sorghum molasses made by a neighbor, and during breakfast my grandmother always tipped a bit of her coffee out into her saucer–why? Foolishly, I never asked. And now she is gone.

“We plan, we toil, we suffer—in the hope of what? A camel-load of idol’s eyes? The title deeds of Radio City? The empire of Asia? A trip to the moon?” the masterful J.B. Priestley once wrote. “No, no, no, no. Simply to wake up just in time to smell coffee and bacon and eggs … What a moment, what a morning, what a delight!”

What is it about breakfast?

That’s the question we set out to answer with our breakfast package. If it’s true, as Oscar Wilde said, that “only dull people are brilliant at breakfast,” he could not have been talking about the chefs behind the irresistible creations in this month’s pages. Their dishes left us sated, surprised, and inspired, and we couldn’t wait to tell you about them.

Over many winter weeks, our so-called “breakfast club”–four reporter/editors armed with formidable gullets and an expense account–ate anonymously and aggressively at dozens of Portland restaurants in order to bring you our list of the best breakfasts in town. They ate waffles, flapjacks, oatmeal, pastries, and enough bacon to frighten the kingdom of pigs. They left no egg unturned. They came to work with grease on their fingertips and love in their eyes, and, if the rest of us were lucky, bearing leftovers. Tough job, eh, having to try out the pancakes at Bijou Cafe, the steak and eggs at Podnah’s Pit (see photograph above), the dim sum at Wong’s King Seafood? But hey. We do it for you.

So set the alarm early and get out there. Your city tastes great at sunrise.

Paige Williams
Editor in Chief

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