Most mornings in Portland, Mack and I did not indulge in full meals. This isn’t unlike our usual breakfasts while at home – we opt to have more substantial plates at lunch and dinner. This allowed us to explore some of Portland’s best coffee houses, many which were located within walking distance of our hotel. Of course, on the weekend, we did also manage to fit in a few brunches!
Just down the street from our hotel, Public Domain was our first coffee stop. Sleek and modern, I really liked their open concept that emphasized the coffee bar. Seating wasn’t abundant, but it seemed like most took their drinks elsewhere.
Public Domain roasts their own coffee, which we enjoyed alongside a delicious cheddar bacon scone. We also took home a bag of their coffee for at-home consumption – always a great takeaway souvenir!
Barista’s downtown location was even smaller than Public Domain. And instead of offering their own line of coffee, they served several varieties roasted by different companies, the majority also based in Portland, including Stumptown, Counter Culture and Heart.
Barista only offered espresso and brewed coffee, and of the latter, one could choose the preparation method: French press, pour over or iced, with a different bean used in each (talk about attention to detail!). We ended up with a pour-over sourced from Kenya, roasted by San Francisco-based Sight Glass.
Stumptown Coffee Roasters
Of all the coffee houses, we expected the most from Stumptown. It is easily the most well-known, and many of Portland’s restaurants serve their line of roasted coffees. We ended up in their Old Town location towards the end of our trip.
I haven’t seen Portlandia, but I would be shocked if the show didn’t poke fun at the masses of Mac users who set up for the day in Stumptown. It was a bit comical that the first image we were confronted with was a single row of thirty-somethings all typing away.
The cafe is equipped with a great up-to-date collection of specialty magazines, with multiple copies of each. We spent a bit of time unwinding there with our iced coffees (brewed to perfection), but we have to mention that the shop could have used a bit more care. Dust bunnies were rampant, and their bathrooms were in desperate need of attention. Given their reputation, our experience as a whole didn’t live up to expectations – it never is just about the food alone!
Mother’s Bistro seemed to be a Portland institution. With a cookbook of recipes, and nary a time of day where they aren’t packed, it seemed like a good brunch choice.
Though the dining room seemed to be full to the brim, we were surprisingly seated within five minutes. I loved the chandelier light fixtures and the elegantly framed mirrors that added a touch of class to the room. But it wasn’t all glamour – the message on the back of the mugs reminded us to “call your mother”.
That said, my lasting memory of Mother’s isn’t of the decor or the service (which was friendly, but brisk) – instead, I have stomach pains when I think back to the portion sizes. Each plate, priced at under $10, could have easily fed two people! My apple-sausage scramble and Mack’s stuffed fritatta utterly defeated each of us.
Stuffed frittata (the size of a dinner plate!)
On our last day in Portland, we elected to stick close to our hotel, to make sure we wouldn’t be late for our departure. Bijou Cafe fit the bill, located only a few blocks away from our hotel, and had a reputation for a solid brunch featuring locally-sourced ingredients.
The interior was pretty basic, but was without pretention. And after the charming but cramped quarters of Mother’s, we appreciated the room to breathe.
My French toast was a bit too eggy for my taste, and after a bite of Mack’s chanterelle and gruyere-laced omlette, we knew his plate won the dish wars at our table.
Seasonal omelette (we loved that baguette was a bread option)
Service was personable and friendly, and the coffee refills kept coming. For a chill brunch, I would have no qualms recommending Bijou Cafe to visitors.