Dahlia Café
3000 NE Killingsworth, 287-4398

There are two things NE Portland could definitely use more of, and they aren't quickie marts or gutter punks. We need bars and restaurants. Yay for the owners of the Dahlia Café, who have smartly capitalized on the obvious.

The Dahlia Café is bright and friendly, without an ounce of pretense, and doesn't make the exclusive all-veg mistake of its predecessor, Counter Culture. There are a perfectly manageable number of selections on the menu, and the Dahlia serves breakfast all day for people like me, who want to go for a three-hour run before a satisfying havarti, spinach, and sundried tomato omelet.

The Northwest Eggs Benedict is a winning item, with huge slabs of fresh flaky salmon and a light, creamy hollandaise. When I ordered this dish, my eggs were slightly undercooked, which wouldn't have been much of an issue if not for my raging hangover. But I still ate them all so, in short, it's a minor complaint. If you're really hungry, go for the giant, two-egg, hashbrowns, meat of choice, and pancake breakfast--a perfect medley of salty and sweet.

The fluffy polenta lasagna is a completely random item on the menu, but a darn good one. It looks like a giant piece of cake layered with eggplant, mushroom, and airy polenta ladled with a zingy, chunked tomato sauce.

The Dahlia is really endearing because they're not trying to hide the fact that they're working out the new restaurant kinks. When my friend's deliciously sweet corncakes were a little dry (understandably, they're vegan) they took a couple bucks off our check. When I didn't have cash (no credit machine yet), they let me write an IOU. It's very obvious that the owners want you to come back. Give the Dahlia a little slack and tell them what you think, and in no time they'll be a Portland staple.