THE ONLY THING that outweighs my love of breakfast is my hatred of lines. The only place lines are tolerable is the airport, where you get felt up at the end. Until a Screen Door server offers to search me with federally mandated rigor, I'll be brunching at less-well-known Portland places that dish up decent food, avoiding the weekend mob.
When Gravy (3957 N Mississippi) overflows, cross the street and hit up the less-stuffed Southern food staple Miss Delta (3950 N Mississippi). The hungover crave their chicken and waffles, served with crispy, salty wings over perfect waffles smothered in sweet pecan butter. Match that with a refreshing basil mimosa, and you're halfway to headache-free by the time your neighbors across Mississippi have been seated.
Why kick-ass Cuban classic Pambiche (2811 NE Glisan) remains conspicuously crowd-free most weekends is a mystery—I'll chalk it up to people thinking of the patchwork-painted restaurant as a lunch-and-dinner venue. But oye! They serve weekend desayuno! Maybe it's the experience with meat rationing, but their Socialist Soy Hash kills any other vegan scramble in town, bringing deep flavor to Bob's Red Mill TVP and served with a side of avocado and plantains.
Just down the block, City State Diner (128 NE 28th) is also curiously not clusterfucked [Sarah, really.—Ed.] on weekends. If you're looking for a low-key place to wolf down huevos rancheros without a wait, this is the place. Skip their more ambitious dishes and go for the tasty standards, like the creamy eggs Benedict and biscuits and gravy every bite as good as Pine State's. The indecisive will be rewarded by the Best of Both Worlds, eggs Benedict with a side of biscuits and gravy.
- Photo by Katie Swezey
Downtown, Portland's least-pretentious diner Fuller's Coffee Shop (136 NW 9th), has doled out no-nonsense coffee and pancakes since 1947. Take a seat immediately at their old-school, U-shape counter and order any variety of grease-bomb omelets. This is not the place for artisan healthiness, so embrace the inevitable and order the golden, buttery hash browns with a side of dirt-cheap eggs over easy.
- Photo by Katie Swezey
Of course, for the real no-line gems, you have to head east. From the outside, Cameo Café (8111 NE Sandy) looks like a crazy person's house built next to a motel parking lot. Praise the Lord for that disguise, because it keeps chef Sue Gee's Korean-fusion breakfasts hidden from foodie tourists. Cameo is packed to the gills with unironic kitsch, starting with its menu, which is epic and printed entirely in Comic Sans. Go ahead and order a buttermilk pancake bigger than your head ("half-acre" size is $6.95) but don't scurry back to inner Portland without taking a well-rewarded gamble on Gee's more bizarre-sounding creations: The special kimchee omelet is a spectacular salty, tangy mix, and the Pindaettok is a surprisingly tasty bean-vegetable-rice pancake flavored with some sort of secret spices. Make it out there as soon as possible—just don't tell your friends.