Monthly Archives: April 2009

Portage Bay Cafe


Portage Bay Cafe has been around for years, serving up popular brunches in the U-District. With their recent addition of a new site on South Lake Union, I’ve been hearing more recommendations in recent weeks. Everyone raves and raves about their fruit bar, which is included with all sweet dishes (pancakes, blintzes, French toast, etc). I’ve been told “you have to go to Portage Bay Cafe and check out the fruit bar!”  So we decided to check it out this morning. Not a mistake I’ll make again.

We went to the original location on Roosevelt to see where it all began. When we arrived at 10:30 there was already a crowd gathered outside. We put our name on the list and were told it will be 30 minutes. We took a 30 minute walk around the neighborhood (enjoying the first warm sunny day in months :)), and checked back in. We were told “you should be seated very soon.”  Gio waited on the barista line for coffee. 15 minutes later: “any minute now” (Gio still waiting on coffee line). Gio got his coffee, we’re still waiting. Fast forward to 11:30 and our name was finally called. So much for 30 minutes. At this point we were all famished, and they’ve hit a major pet peeve of mine: bad estimates that lead to very mismatched expectations (if we had been told an hour up front we could have simply gone somewhere else).

Once seated, service was very brisk and attentive. We ordered a Bananas Foster French Toast, Chorizo Scramble, and a Migas (flour tortilla stuffed with a southwestern mix of eggs, sour cream, salsa, and vegetables and topped with guacamole). The French Toast included a trip to aforementioned famous fruit bar for additional toppings.

The Fruit Bar: I need to go on a small tirade about the fruit bar. As some background, this is advertised as an assortments of fresh fruit and berries. In addition, Portage Bay Cafe trumps their commitment to organic and local agriculture. The fruit bar was a contradiction on both fronts. First, there was no fresh fruit. The options were sourced from stewed cans (the pears, peaches, and blueberries), or frozen (the strawberries and raspberries). The raspberries in particular were still frozen inside. From their literature, I was expecting “small organic” mentality. The fruit bar was certainly not about displaying what’s local and in season. Or even what’s fresh (only the whipped cream met that designation). It’s possible that the summer fruit bar is better, but the winter/spring bar is a disappointment and a total cop-out.

Dishes at the Portage Bay Cafe are enormous. Each can easily feed 1.5-2 people, though Portage Bay Cafe will charge you an extra $4.50 to split a dish. Overall the food was ok and forgettable. It looks like their emphasis is primarily on quantity. Maybe that’s what appeals to the University crowd?

Overall I was disappointed in Portage Bay Cafe. The food is average, the wait is long, and you’ll pay about $20/person for the privilege of brunching there. Next time I’ll head to Rosebud, Glo’s, Coastal Kitchen, or a number of other superior brunch locations in Seattle.

Portage Bay Cafe
4130 Roosevelt NE
Seattle, WA 98105

Mon-Fri: 7:30AM-3:00PM (Breakfast and Lunch)
Sat & Sun 8:00AM-2:00PM (Brunch)

Tilth Brunch (Seattle, WA)


About a year ago, Vidya introduced me to brunch at Tilth. It was delicious, and Lauren and I have reminisced about the chicken and biscuits on multiple occasions. Yet for some reason we had only been back for dinner since. Until this morning.

We were heading to brunch with Dan and Leslie, and mentioned that they need to check out Tilth (which is right in their neighborhood). On a whim, Dan called them on the spot, they had room, and we headed over.

Between the four of us I got a good sample, and fell in love with three of the four dishes.

I had the bourbon vanilla French toast. Tilth makes their French toast with challah, so it’s very light and the bing cherry compote complements the dish perfectly, resulting in a slightly tart, just sweet enough French toast that caused both Dan and Leslie to remark “this is the best French toast I’ve ever had.”  I can’t disagree 🙂

Dan ordered the chicken and biscuits. They were as sinful and tasty as I remembered, and by far the most substantial dish on the menu.

Lauren went towards the lunch selections and had the duck burgers. We’ve had the duck burgers at dinner multiple times, and they did not fail to impress yet again. Three perfectly cooked medium rare burgers, each served on mini-brioche with house made condiments.

The one disappointment was the vegetable gratin. Leslie was in the mood for macaroni, but the result was a ho-hum dish that I wouldn’t order again.

Again no pictures due to our dead Elph, but I’ll grab some on my next brunch trip to Tilth, which I guarantee will be soon! 🙂

1411 N. 45th St. (right next to Chili Pepper)
Seattle, WA 98103

Brunch: Sat & Sun 10:00AM-2:00PM
Dinner: Daily 5:00PM-10:00PM (Fri & Sat until 10:30PM)

Quick plug for FareStart

FareStart is a great local organization that provides education, job training, and placement in the food industry for disadvantaged locals (e.g. the homeless). On Thursday nights they have “Guest Chef” dinners where a local chef donates time to lead students in the kitchen. Extra volunteers help out the students with the cooking and serving.  For $25 you get a great 3 course meal, and all proceeds go towards the program. We went tonight and had a great time (and a fabulous meal). Check it out!