CALL IT THE PORTLAND DILEMMA: Do I go with the sweet or the savory brunch choice?
If I go with the Dutch baby, there's a good chance I'll be feeling a bit prediabetic before noon. Go with the salty hash, and I'm going to crave a nip of sugar by meal's end. Note: I am aware there are many worse "problems" to have.
HunnyMilk, a guilelessly charming brunch pop-up at La Buca, has the remedy. The menu is simple: $20 gets you a drink, a savory dish, and a sweet dish—the best of both worlds on a single silver platter.
Chef/owner Brandon Weeks says that he came up with the idea for HunnyMilk during a picnic at Laurelhurst Park with his girlfriend, Alexandra Franzen. Since November, Franzen has served as HunnyMilk's front of house, while Weeks has conjured up dishes like red velvet waffles dipped in honey butter with cream cheese mousse and chocolate shavings, and a super-fluffy quiche spiked with miso with a side salad of apples and candied hazelnuts.
So far, the crowds have been light enough that we could grab a table without a wait—but the inventive food and price point mean that's liable to change. You start with one of the three beverage options: a mimosa with a float of triple sec and ice cream, a hypersweet caramel hot chocolate with toasted milk marshmallows, or the bottomless Caffe Umbria coffee, which can be doctored with cream, almond milk, housemade white chocolate crumbles, and turbinado sugar.
HunnyMilk has adorable little touches for a restaurant that has to tear down after every service: The first Saturday of every month, they hand out a bundle of writing materials and decorations (with stamps!) to write snail mail while you wait. Other mornings, a cup of crayons rests atop hand-drawn and photocopied coloring sheets—winners of the contest get gift certificates for more brunch. It's the kind of thing that would normally gag me with a coffee spoon, but the unpretentious presentation of absolutely everything makes this twee feel just right.
Weeks started out with dreams of opening an ice cream and pastry shop; accordingly, HunnyMilk's strongest brunch bites come from the sweet side of the menu. A butter oatcake toast with Greek yogurt semifreddo and banana cranberry compote was so good I ordered it twice. It's light on sugar but huge on texture and flavor: a deconstructed parfait with yogurt whipped into an ice cream-like consistency topped with tart berries and piled atop crunchy oats.
HunnyMilk heavily leans on Pooh Bear's favorite flavor profile. The side dishes—which cost a bit extra—stray sweet as well, like the irresistible $4 chocolate-chunk monkey bread with peanut butter custard. Even the hash browns are made with sweet potatoes.
An open-faced croissant-doughnut sammy is a pastry hybrid with thick-cut bacon, sharp cheddar, an over-easy egg, and spicy maple syrup. As someone who's fanatical about not letting her pancake syrup touch her bacon, this was surprisingly enjoyable, with the spice pulling the dish back from the edge.
Crispy pork ribs with cheesy grits, a slow-poached egg, avocado, and a chimichurri sauce were beautiful—the ribs rising out of the grits like a meat mast attached to an avocado lifeboat. Sadly, the ribs were over-spiced and dry, rescued only by the association with the grits. But a "magical" (i.e., Scotch) egg is solidly there for the savory-toothed: a single egg wrapped in sausage and fried, with a sharp arugula salad for balance.
And no matter what you order, you're definitely getting dessert. That's a brunch win.
Brunch: Sat-Sun 9 am-2 pm. Walk-in only.
On Saturday, March 26, HunnyMilk will be hosting a special event called Wake + Bake— a cannabis-themed brunch featuring weed, breakfast, and cartoons. Reservation only. Tickets and more info at hunnymilk.com/wakeandbake.