PORTLAND IS KNOWN as a city of championship breakfasting—a sleepy town of flannel-banded slackers who stack lumber in their bellies after nights well lived. The weary, bleary, and rough dutifully queue for a morning meal they somehow know is more important than sleep, and endure waits that would make prisoners riot.
What is it about a plate of eggs and fried potatoes that can get the man with hot lees roiling in his belly to wait in line for an hour, in the beating sun and spitting rain? How can he think it's wise to share a single, humid bathroom with 100 other Stumptown-swilling sorts who were at Clancy's Grog Hammer until the taps spat only air the night before? What model of risk vs. reward plants his feet on that hard, hard sidewalk?
His risk is only discomfort and idle time, things he already has plenty of on Sunday morning. His reward is the safety and pleasure of a meal so simple, so primally satisfying—one which is eaten while still in the subconscious pajamas of his childhood home—that very little will keep him from it. At dinnertime we may seek out bibimbap fusion tacos and henbane-braised escolar, but this forgiving food—bacon, for foolproof satiety; pancakes, for economy—is the stuff our busy parents cooked our whole young lives. The lines of people waiting for these familiar favorites are homesick, in a way... lining up to see if mom is inside.
She isn't. But many talented cooks and restaurateurs all over this city are, and most of them do not have lines. An hour spent waiting is a significant portion of a sacred day, an hour when we could be tending our gardens, minding our children, tuning our guitars, burping our wort. It shouldn't be spent standing around—particularly when the pleasures of someplace new, in a city this passionate about dining, might be greater than the threadbare romance of someplace old.