Berry oatmeal brulee from Gravy in Portland
PHOTO BY MARTIN GEE
It’s a typical Saturday morning, and outside Pine State Biscuits in Portland the queue is 15 deep. Downtown at the Bijou Cafe, customers who do business over breakfast are eating with their families. Up on Mississippi Avenue, a cluster of customers in front of Gravy wait for up to an hour for a heaping plate of corned beef hash or a bowl of oatmeal brulée. As the restaurant industry continues to suffer, breakfast restaurants are flourishing, and in Portland their popularity seems limitless.
“There’s something about the demographics of this town that makes people really like to eat breakfast,” says Mark Greco, owner of Gravy. “It’s almost like a subculture. I’m barely hip enough to own Gravy because some of the people who come are so cool.”
His business has grown slowly but steadily the last few years. Pine State Biscuits has only been in business for two years, but ever since opening their doors, they’ve made a profit.
The key ingredient to the success of breakfast restaurants is affordability.
“Breakfast is more affordable to the restaurant in terms of food costs and to the customer in terms of the bill they get at the end,” says Joel Pomerantz, Oregon Restaurant Association representative. “In Portland the people that are putting these restaurants together are younger and they’re kind of hip. They’re the same kinds of people who in another context might be putting together specialty cocktails with local ingredients.”
The breakfast restaurant is an old-fashioned American tradition that’s thriving across the state. Pop into one of the Pig ‘N Pancake restaurants along the Coast or order eggs Benedict at the Victorian Cafe in Bend or French toast from the Morning Glory in Ashland to see that Oregonians are still taking the family out to breakfast.
Omer Orian, who is 25, and his 24-year-old brother, David, opened Off the Waffle in Eugene in Februrary and plan to open a 24-hour waffle cart on the University of Oregon campus this month.
“No recession is going to stop people from buying these waffles at three bucks apiece,” says Omer.