Chicago has pizza. Philadelphia has the steak 'n' cheese sandwich. Portland's signature food is brunch. But don't let mob mentality guide your actions—just because a line has formed outside a popular brunch spot at 11 on a Sunday morning, it doesn't mean you should take hours out of your precious day off to follow suit. Some places are worth the wait, and others... well, you'd be better off investing in a French press, buying a carton of eggs, and having a leisurely experience in your own home for a tenth of the price, and a fraction of the time.

The Cup & Saucer (3566 SE Hawthorne, 236-6001), for instance, sports a lengthy menu rivaled only by its lengthy waiting list during peak brunch hours. The place is a population explosion on the weekends, frazzled servers threading through reams of people, hurling coffee and scrambles like crazed jugglers. The food (especially the super platter with pancake, egg, veggie or meat sausage, and the homemade baked goods) is decent, but for a Hawthorne brunch experience that doesn't make beads of sweat pop out on your head, you might want to head up the street to the similarly ampersand-ed Bread & Ink Café (3610 SE Hawthorne, 239-4756). The laidback, comfortable eatery switches over to lunch around 11:30 am, but get up before noon and you'll be treated to brunch items like the perfectly satisfying smoked trout plate and the best biscuits and gravy in town. Or head west up the Boulevard to Junior's (1742 SE 12th, 467-4971). The closet-sized space offers some of the longest weekend brunch waits in town, but if you're up for it, it also has some of the best scrambles, like the 12th Avenue with zucchini, corn, Parmesan cheese, and green onions. Dig on those vintage vinyl booths too.

The two downtown brunch towers, Bijou Café (132 SW 3rd, 222-3187), and Mother's (212 SW Stark, 464-1122), tend to divide people into passionate camps. Give me the Bijou any day. It's both spacious and cozy, with high ceilings and checkered tablecloths, and nothing it serves is anything short of delicious. The cloud-fluffy buttermilk pancakes are the best in town, and an ever-changing chalkboard shouts out amazing special scrambles and hashes with seasonal ingredients like chanterelle mushrooms and oysters. Mother's, though decked out in homey curtains and furniture, feels slightly stressed in comparison, and the food (two words: eggs Benedict), while good, is not AS good.

If the south isn't your thing, there are plenty of options that live up to the hype in the north. The Tin Shed (1438 NE Alberta, 288-6966) is big enough (thanks to a stellar patio) that you won't wait too long for your brunch, and provides comfort breakfast food (mmm... cheese grits...) in perfectly sized portions. Up the street, Helser's (1538 NE Alberta, 281-1477) has slowly been building a name (and a weekend crowd) for itself with a pretty, tiled-floor ambience, a great counter area, and interesting food options like Scotch eggs and potato pancakes. Stick it out; it's one of the best spots in town for brunch. For less populated locales, venture deeper north. Beaterville (2201 N Killingsworth, 735-4652) is a rare hotspot in that people love it, and yet the wait is rarely bad. The omelettes and scrambles aren't bad either, and all can be replaced with tofu for the vegan in you. And even farther yonder, out on the fringe, the John Street Café (8338 N Lombard, 247-1066) is homey and humble, with delicious homemade sausage, and scrambles that could feed at least two, if not three. Lines can be long here as well, but then if you're willing to spend your weekend morning driving out to St. Johns for eggs and coffee, it shouldn't bother you much to wait a little longer.