As if I didn't find it hard enough to get out of my Northeast Portland neighborhood, the recently opened Francis restaurant offers one more reason why I should never cross the river at all. From the soft green interior to the cushy chairs, everything about this NE Alberta breakfast and lunch spot is cute and welcoming.
Francis serves breakfast all day, and lunch from 11 am. The breakfast menu offers the basics (eggs, hash browns, meaty sides) for $5 or less, in addition to country-fried steak, fried chicken, and some fancy-sounding pancakes and French toast (sourdough custard-style with bourbon, anyone?) for $7.50.
The lunch menu consists of a handful of burgers (cow or three-bean), as well as pan-fried oysters, smoked leg of lamb, and... well, that's it. The portions are huge—sober patrons could easily split a sandwich and dessert and be happy. (If you're hungover or have the munchies, you'll need the whole plate.)
In the past, I've been willing to brave traffic and the business class to get a Rueben at Higgins, but Francis' version is so delightful that there's no further reason to make the trip downtown. The perfectly salted corned beef was thinly sliced and the sauerkraut wasn't too overpowering, nor did it reduce the toasted marbled rye to mush. But the Ides of March are come: The Caesar salad is a disaster. It sounded great, tossed with pear, gorgonzola, and fresh rosemary—but in reality the salad was drenched in a smoky dressing that didn't showcase the pear or rosemary it claimed. The salad was so overdressed that it was practically inedible—I've had cheeseburgers that didn't taste as greasy.
Aside from the Caesar, though, Francis hits more than it misses, with the one-two punch of quality ingredients at a good value. It's easy to overeat when portion sizes are this substantial, but try to save some room for dessert: The short list of sweet stuff includes apple and sweet potato pie, chocolate cake, and ice cream. We weren't disappointed by the smooth, cheesecake-y texture of the sweet potato pie, but the delicious chocolate cake, stacked with huckleberry filling, was an absolute knockout. Francis also has a modest but good wine and bottled beer selection, an extensive list of Italian sodas served in mason jars (cute!), and a good selection of breakfast beverages.
Francis got off to a bad start last November, when the words "gentrification this way," along with an arrow pointing toward the door, were spray-painted on the building. Considering the ubiquitous nature of graffiti in our fair city, the incident has probably gotten more attention than it warranted. On our visit, the clientele was actually fairly heterogeneous, though admittedly mellow and well-heeled. Francis is nice enough that I felt a little out of my element—like when I'm utilizing my discount card at Dosha—but the servers were gracious and the prices were so reasonable that I don't need to wait until my parents visit to go back. Mmmm... gentrifilicious.