Tasty n Sons - Portland, Oregon
I love breakfast. For some, the first meal of the day is more about sustenance than savor, but I firmly believe that breakfast is every bit as deserving of attention, every bit as capable of greatness, as any other meal. Generally I don't have much of a sweet tooth, so I don't get overexcited about pancakes or waffles drenched in syrup, but you can stick an egg on just about anything and I'll eat it before noon - or pretty much any other time, for that matter.
The folks at Tasty n Sons are clearly of the same mind. This funky spot in northeast Portland serves up a brunch menu six days a week till 2:30 in the afternoon, and even when they shift to dinner service, they still keep a few "breakfast for dinner" items on the menu. Even the shortened happy hour menu filling the gap in between is still pretty brunch-y. I like their style.
Speaking of style, Tasty - the second restaurant from Chef John Gorham, who opened the well-regarded tapas restaurant Toro Bravo in 2007 - abides by an aesthetic that we saw plenty of in Portland: bare bones construction with plenty of exposed elements, polished concrete floors, blocky wood tables, open kitchen. It's a look and feel that's simultaneously rough and comforting, and it goes well with beards and tattoos. The restaurant is one of several tenants in a renovated warehouse building that was originally an Oregon Food Bank storehouse, and its layout curiously reminded me of Cuines Santa Caterina in Barcelona, with a bar area in front (looking out through a windowed garage door) and counter seating all along the length of the long open kitchen.
There's much to choose from on the menu: more than 30 items are listed as either "smaller plates" or "larger plates," as well a short selection of "sweets." But this is far from just the multiple choice of ingredients for your omelet or waffle that you'll find in a typical diner. Rather, dishes range from chocolate potato doughnuts with creme anglaise to Burmese red pork stew with short grain rice and eggs two ways. With most of those dishes coming in smaller packages, and at very reasonable prices, you can have at least a couple (well I did, anyway) for a "Choose Your Own Adventure" style breakfast.
You can start, for instance, with sweet biscuits with fresh berries. The biscuits are soft and tender, more doughy than flaky, and soak up the juices from fresh, lightly macerated local berries. A dollop of thick whipped cream never hurts.
Even simple toast and jam is not so simple. Slices of brioche are topped with creamy, tangy teleme cheese and run under the broiler till the cheese melts, then crowned with a couple different jams - berry and pineapple - for sweet contrast.
Sweeter still - maybe too much so - are griddled bacon-wrapped dates, stuffed with an almond and drizzled with maple syrup. We've had our share of bacon-wrapped dates here in Miami, and they're almost never disappointing. These did not disappoint either, though I'm not convinced that the already almost cloyingly sweet dates needed another dose of sugar from the syrup.
There was no quibbling with the "Breakfast Board," though. It was a great assortment of various bits and pieces - a hard boiled egg, crispy bacon, spicy house-made beef jerky, roasted beets, hen liver mousse, tangy house-made labne, fresh berries, bread and croutons - and a fantastic value at $7.
The frittata, served in a cast-iron pan, also hit all the right notes. The composition varies from day to day depending on what comes from the farms. On our visit, it included golden caramelized onions, chard, beets (and presumably their greens), a sprinkle of chives, and some light, creamy cheese. Along with the various other odds and ends we ordered, it was certainly substantial enough for sharing.
And we barely even made a dent in the menu. I'd happily go back to try those chocolate potato doughnuts, or patatas bravas with over easy eggs, or a boudin blanc omelette, or their take on shakshuka... Though weekenders apparently face waits of up to an hour, we visited on a weekday morning and were seated immediately. It's understandable why folks would be lining up. With prices for smaller plates ranging from $4-8 and almost none of the larger plates going over $10, this is a great value for high quality, unfussy food.
Tasty n Sons
3808 N. Williams Ave., Suite C, Portland OR
This is a formula that Michael's Genuine Food & Drink here in Miami exploits to the fullest degree. If you look closely, you'll see that other than the wonderful baked goods that pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith contributes, the brunch menu is basically a rearrangement of about 3/4 of the regular menu, "with an egg." Not that there's anything wrong with that.
At one point I dubbed bacon-wrapped dates the "official snack of the Design District," with Sra. Martinez, Michaels' Genuine, and the now-closed Pacific Time featuring them on their menus. Since then, Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill started offering their own version, and Pubbelly also has an Avec-inspired version.