What is Portland's classic dish, anyway? Its Chicago-style dog? Its New York slice? Its New Orleans muffuletta?
I started asking around after I landed in the city on a recent visit, but made little headway. A few of the answers, I have to admit, would make grin-worthy material for a Portlandia skit—a vegan gluten-free all-natural organic non-GMO burger, maybe? A growler of cold-brewed Stumptown coffee? Maca smoothies? It quickly became clear: there is no single quintessential food to be found in this city of celebrated eccentricity.
Although I never found the one dish you have to try, there was something that everyone could agree on: "Brunch," all of my friends said. "If there's anything uniquely Portland, it's definitely brunch."
Probably because of a decently-sized labor force that doesn't seem to follow 9-to-5 norms—Portlandia dubbed the city a place "where young people go to retire"—you'll see lines forming outside certain favored spots on any day of the week. On weekends, an hour spent waiting means you got lucky.
Brunch is indeed a local institution, and it's as crunchy, down-home, and creative as the Rose City itself. The menus eschew prim mimosas and buttoned-up ambiance for fantastically messy hashes stuffed with organic vegetables and house-cured fish or corned beef; from-scratch biscuits with artisanal jams; and mixology magic, with a spotlight on rustic renditions of the classics and small-batch distillers.
These six restaurants barely scratch a flake from the surface of what Portland has to offer, but are among those can't-miss spots many locals raves about. Check out the slideshow to see them all: an trendy upstart with a global view, a quaint Scandinavian spot, a cheerful and minimalistic new darling, a quirky neighborhood diner, and a homestyle classic the parents will love.
About the author: Lindsey Howald Patton is a food, art, and architecture writer based in Chicago. You'll find her craning her neck at skyscrapers for assignments, hunching over short stories in her free time, and generally lingering way too long in coffee shops on the North Side. Check out her work at lindseyhowaldpatton.com.