IT'S NOT NORMAL. Many would argue it isn't acceptable, either. And yet, we've all done it: Eager to gloat over our city's famed culinary wonders for the benefit of visiting family and friends, we have subjected our guests to the cruel and epic Portland Brunch Line. This is a culture in which an hour's wait can be considered good fortune, and it is possible to receive a phone call alerting you that your table is finally ready after you've given up, eaten elsewhere, driven home, and watched the better part of a feature-length film. It's scandalous, ridiculous, and many of us have simply given up altogether on the over-hyped end of the brunching scene as a result. Who has the time, or wouldn't be embarrassed to admit that they do? (Furthermore, who has the stamina for a bathroom scenario inescapably tainted by the successive hangover dumps of 100 patrons on their third or fourth cup of self-serve coffee?)
And so while the diehards endure, the rest of us avoid... until summoned by someone irresistibly naïve and/or enthusiastic. It was in just such a situation that I found myself recently, slumped glumly against a wall, mug of Stumptown in hand, as the clock marched past the 40-minute mark. Then, right before my eyes, a group walked in, announced that they had "reservations"—what the fuck!—and were immediately sailed to a waiting table.
This brings up several issues. When people criticize Portland for being overly laidback, the local custom of timing a brunch date by waiting (sometimes long after noon) for all parties involved to leisurely achieve mutual consciousness might be the sort of thing they reference. Far more glamorous to simply arrive and without hesitation, sidle past the line of have-nots, wait nary a second before being seated, eat in a timely manner, and then whisk your tourists to the next adventure. Reservations are the rock-star parking—the car service, even—of brunch. So why don't we ever do it?
For one thing, Portland restaurants seem to love sustaining a line out their door, as anyone who's ever attempted to penetrate Biwa or Pok Pok during prime time on a weekend night can attest. Many places will accept reservations only for larger parties, and some not at all. The commonality of this has trained us to not even inquire most times, but maybe we should. More places might offer it if they were confronted with an uptick in interest, especially from the regulars. So you work on yours, and we'll work on ours, and soon we'll have pressure on the whole city. The honest among us can just make our reservations for 1:30 pm and preserve the slacker je ne sais quoi while we're at it.
In the meantime, here are a few places that are already ahead of the reservation curve. You'll notice they tend toward the upper crust; remember that time equals money (brunch hours listed):
• Aquariva, 4650 SW Macadam, Sun 10 am-3 pm, aquarivaportland.com
• Brix Tavern, 1338 NW Hoyt, Sat-Sun 9:30 am-3 pm, brixtavern.com
• Gracie's at the Hotel deLuxe, 729 SW 15th, Mon-Fri 6:30 am-2 pm, Sat-Sun 8 am-2 pm, graciesdining.com
• The Heathman 1001 SW Broadway,
Sat-Sun 9 am-2 pm, heathmanrestaurantandbar.com
• Jake's Grill, 611 SW 10th, Sat-Sun 7:30 am-1:30 pm, jakesgrill.com
• Ned Ludd, 3925 NE MLK, Sat-Sun 10 am-3 pm,
• The Parish, 231 NW 11th, Sat-Sun 9 am-2 pm,
• Urban Farmer at the Nines, 525 SW Morrison,
Sat-Sun 6:30 am-3 pm, thenines.com