I love it when people tell me they never go out to brunch in Portland because all the lines are too long. I simply tell them there are plenty of Portland brunch places that offer great food and almost no lines. And now I will tell them there’s a new one in the Pearl, too, because Verde Cocina has opened a new location there, serving weekend brunch.
In fact, surprises were the order of the day when I ate there recently. The location’s existence was new, for one thing. After they started in the Portland Farmers Market and expanded to a location in Multnomah Village (which my former Lovely Assistant wrote up a while ago), they must be doing well, because now they’re in the Pearl at 524 NW 14th between Glisan & Hoyt. So that’s Pleasant Surprise No. 1.
Pleasant Surprise No. 2 occurred when I sat right down — that’s right, no line. Then came Pleasant Surprise No. 3, the menu. Here is a link to their breakfast/lunch menu online, and here’s a photo of it I took on my visit:
I went with the Chilaquiles, because for me they kind of define a Mexican place. But we should stop at the word “Mexican,” because some of you might still be tortured by this idea of Mexican food which places like Muchas Gracias has laid upon us: you know, a mushy semi-stew of refried beans, pale red rice, sour cream, and some kind of meat. Yuck.
No, this is something else entirely. The defining aspect of Verde Cocina’s food is a big pile of fresh, yummy, roasted vegetables. It appears on everything. Consider the chilaquiles, which Wikipedia defines as, more or less, fried tortillas with salsa or mole poured over it, and all of this is simmered for a while before meat, eggs, and maybe beans are added. I know, it sounds like Muchas Gracias, but plenty of places around Portland serve a kick-ass chilaquiles at breakfast or brunch (Autentica, Trebol, even Veritable Quandary come to mind).
At Verde Cocina, it’s not even a stew — more like a pile of fresh goodness.
See how all the traditional ingredients are there, but with a Verde Cocina twist? Everything is made fresh, almost all of it is sourced locally, and look at the veggies! My goodness.
My companion for the day, writer/editor Martha Wagner, is gluten-free and had recommended this place. She got their take on Huevos Rancheros, which has been rendered lame at so many other places.
Pleasant Surprise No. … whatever I’m on … came when I bit into my chilaquiles. It took me a second to figure out what this amazing sensation was, coursing through my mouth. I finally realized: it was the taste of fresh corn! The tortillas in this dish (gluten-free, by the way) just exploded on my tongue. It’s like I forgot what fresh corn tastes like — which is great, by the way.
That’s really the lesson of Verde Cocina: the beauty of simplicity, of fresh ingredients, and yes, the beauty of a fantastic, healthy, and line-free Portland brunch, served right in the middle of the Pearl District.
Vamos a Verde Cocina!
Verde Cocina (verdecocinamarket.com) serves brunch from 9 to 2 on weekends. They don’t take reservations but said a heads-up for large groups would help. I’d suggest you limit it to six people.