We have a new Portland brunch — in Montavilla! Redwood started service in July and is an excellent alternative if the long lines at Country Cat bother you.
It’s not like I always know every single thing that goes on in the world of Portland brunch and breakfast news, but when I come across a completely new brunch place that I’d never even heard of, it still throws me off a bit. I mention this because Redwood opened, in January 2013, to very little fanfare and a couple of so-so reviews. It just kind of … appeared … and right down the street from a super-popular place, the Country Cat. It’s been serving brunch since July.
I tried to rally the Crew to go check it out, and everybody was indifferent. I told them Montavilla is a cool neighborhood, like its own little small downtown on the other side of Mount Tabor, and they shrugged. I told them I looked in, and it’s a beautiful place. Nothing. Then I told them the owner/chef ran the kitchen at Broder for years, and several of them signed up immediately.
It was a sunny, warm Saturday when we rolled in to the sparsely-crowded place, and Montavilla was in fine form: Folks walking around with their kids and dogs, shopping and sipping coffee and waiting for a noon movie. We settled into Redwood’s pleasant dining room and immediately decided the décor was just what you’d think from a new Portland place called Redwood: dark, red-stained wood, black metal furnishings, and cast-iron light fixtures. It seemed well built for both soft-lit evenings and sunny Saturdays.
The brunch menu came out, and I immediately saw an opportunity to crack a joke. Next to the Huevos Rancheros was a word I didn’t know – escabeche, or pickled jalapenos – and the notation $9 (tongue + 2). “Damn,” I said, for just two bucks I can get tongue on my huevos!” And we were off.
I do feel the need to crack a joke when I’m in a place claiming to serve “upscale comfort food” with a menu that sends me for a dictionary. “Comfort food” is right up there with “fusion” and “hangover food” in often-used, nearly-meaningless phrases. But Redwood didn’t seem too “upscale,” anyway. My roasted pork shoulder hash was only $10, and the priciest item on the menu was, strangely, the Oatmeal Waffles with two eggs, bacon and maple syrup for $12. Other menu items included a Breakfast Sandwich with the same pork plus eggs, rouille, arugula and chili vinegar on cibatta ($10), Chilaquiles ($11), a Pan Seared Trout Hash with remoulade ($11), a couple of scrambles, two different fritters and a seasonal oatmeal crisp. I had to check Wikipedia, but rouille is “a sauce that consists of olive oil with breadcrumbs, garlic, saffron and chili peppers,” and remoulade is “very much like tartar sauce.”
We thought the food was excellent, my hash a fine combination of crunchy and soft, salty and smoky and sweet, with what Michelle of the Crew called a “spicy citrus backnote.” I would never say such a thing, but she was right. Her oatmeal waffles, meanwhile, stayed perfectly crisp to the last bite. The staff was lovely and prompt, and getting in and out of a Southeast Portland weekend brunch in less than an hour and under $15 each was quite refreshing.
If nothing else, Redwood’s brunch may play the role of Interurban or Radar to Gravy on Mississippi Street: It’s the nice place with a good brunch right down from the long lines at Country Cat, and even though its main emphasis seems to be on evenings, it’s a fine alternative for brunch, too.
When and Where
Price for typical meal with coffee and tip: $14–16 (all major cards)
Wait: None. Seating: About 30. Large groups? Sure, with notice. Portion size: Just right. Drinks besides coffee: A whole page of cocktails, plus beer and wine. Feel-goods: None they brag about. Health options: Some options for vegetarians, not much for vegans. WiFi? No.