My latest Portland breakfast review is actually a posting of the chapter on Bakery Bar from the forthcoming third edition of my book, Breakfast in Bridgetown.
I have been spending more time lately on revising another book of mine, 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Portland. Both are due out in spring 2014, but the hiking deadline is first, and conditions are straight perfect for hiking right now — flowers, flowers, everywhere! — so my attention is on the trails, not the tables.
The other thing is, there’s not a lot to report from Bakery Bar, except it’s still one of the best, under-the-radar Portland breakfasts. It’s a limited menu, but the setting has improved, the staff is nice, and the baked goods are awesome. I was worried that new owners might mess it up, but it seems all they’ve done is tweak the menu, add tables, and start offering dinner from 5 to 9 p.m.
But our focus here is on reviewing Portland breakfast places, so here we go with that …
More, and less, than it sounds like
2935 NE Glisan St. (NE/Hollywood) ~ 503-477-7779
bakerybar.com (although right now they are re-directing folks to their Facebook page)
Weekdays 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., weekends 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
$12–$15 (Visa, MasterCard, no checks)
Let’s get a couple of things straight, because I was briefly confused on these points: Bakery Bar isn’t a bar, and it isn’t just a bakery. It is definitely a Portland breakfast place.
Now, this must also be said: a bakery is a magical place, anyway. Technically, baking is just chemistry, but the whole, historical development of it—like, who figured out cornstarch?—plus the precision required to get it right, and the creativity available, and all of it resulting in the amazing, decorative cakes and pastries at Bakery Bar … well, I’d encourage you to go there even if there was no breakfast.
New owners took over in 2013, adding dinner service, and the patio seems more inviting than usual. The exterior used to look like the entrance to a storage unit. But inside is a nice mix of casual, clean, and family-friendly. It’s order-from-the-counter during the week and sit-down service on weekends. And I’ll say this about the staff: they trend young, and I’ve read many online comments ranging from “They’re so friendly and cute!” to “They’re so slow!” As you may imagine, it’s entirely possible that both of those will often be true.
Speaking of friendly, my first visit there was with a friend and her eight-year-old daughter; we lounged and surfed the Web while I noshed on apple-walnut brown butter streusel coffee cake, and the two of them split a piece of blueberry-almond pound cake with cream cheese glaze. Especially during the week, Bakery Bar has that vibe about it: a place to hang out as long as you like and get either some pastries, cupcakes, or cookies.
Another time I was headed out for a hike and filled up on a Bacon Cheddar Scramble with leeks and spinach. Scrambles are served with your choice of English muffin or biscuit plus potatoes or greens. And for a little trail snack to go, I ordered a carrot five-spice cupcake with cinnamon, fennel seed, cardamom, nutmeg, and ginger topped with orange zest buttercream. Did I mention that baking is magical?
The menu goes well beyond pastries, though. Seven breakfast sandwiches—ranging from simple eggs and cheddar to a Reuben to one with ham, egg, and Swiss cheese with apricot mustard—are served on house-made rustic bakery rolls or black pepper buttermilk biscuits.
Vegetarians can also do well here. For example, the Migas (eggs scrambled with pickled jalapeños, red onions, and fried tortillas, topped with tomatillo salsa and cotija cheese) can be served with or without house-made chorizo. There’s also a veggie hash (and a house-made pastrami hash), oatmeal with seasonal fruit compote, and delicious granola.
On the weekends, Bakery Bar transforms into a more traditional breakfast restaurant, with table service and I’ve heard that the lines get long. (The latest menu I saw offered a weekend special of a “loaded” potato waffle with eggs, bacon, cheddar, scallion and sour cream.) Yet it retains the casual feel, especially with the picnic tables outside. And as long as you’re not in a hurry or hung up on fanciness—or looking for a bar—you’ll probably dig it.
Wait: Medium on weekends. Large groups: No. Coffee: Ristretto Roasters. Other drinks: Espresso, cocktails, exotic sodas. Feel-goods: Cage-free eggs, and everything is house-made. Health options: Not much for vegans. WiFi? Yes.
Buy the breakfast book (plus 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Portland and others) here.