My wife Jun and I recently went on a short trip in the first week of July to Oregon. We had a fabulous time hiking in Columbia River Gorge and sipping world-class pinot noir wines in the famed Willamette Valley. I picked Oregon in part because of Portland’s dining scene that I was hoping to explore with Jun. In the past several years, Portland, with its fresh ingredients from Oregon and cheaper costs compared to larger cities elsewhere in the U.S., has really blossomed into a culinary destination. Given that we had only four nights, I had to be pretty picky with the restaurants we were going to visit. What I didn’t realize at the time, though, was we would end up having a very good meal at a restaurant completely outside of my radar, and during brunch hours. On our first day in the city, we met with a friend of mine and his wife. My friend asked that we join him at 10 a.m. at Tasty n Alder, with a note that we will likely have to wait a little bit. I didn’t believe him at first; even on the day before the Fourth of July, would that many people actually turn up for an early meal? It turned out that not only my friend was right and Tasty n Alder was really a place worth waiting for.
The brunch menu at Tasty n Alder doesn’t look that special at first, with a mix of American classics with twists here and there. When Jun and I tried the restaurant’s house buttermilk biscuit (accompanied by honey butter), however, I found out that the kitchen’s execution of these seemingly boring dishes was actually quite masterful. I couldn’t remember having an omelette dish in recent months as good as the one called California Dreamin’ at the restaurant, the mix of chorizo, potatoes, peppers and cheese made one fine combination underneath the egg. My friend guaranteed that we would like a soft savory baked egg bread pudding that goes by the name “whole toad” and he was absolutely right; the silky smooth texture of this dish with well-balanced flavor was made me rethink about how much of a delicious food you can make out of eggs. The side dish of mustard braised cabbage was also wonderful in its own right, and I was very impressed with the juicy texture of skirt steak in the Cowboy Breakfast dish that was a playful take on Mexican breakfast, with baked beans and salsa.
The restaurant doesn’t take reservations and as noted above, Tasty n Alder is quite popular with local Portlandians, so come early and be prepared to wait at nearby cafes. There are some brunch cocktail options (Jun and I both enjoyed a bourbon-based concoction called Kentucky Peach that was close to bellini) that would go well with the meal. The casual neighborhood vibe of the dining space is another plus to having a very satisfying meal at the restaurant. Tasty n Alder shows that a brunch menu doesn’t have to be pedestrian; Jun and I really loved the way the restaurant presented its dishes in an honest and soulful manner without a ton of flash. As you’ll see in future reviews of other Portland restaurants that I had actually picked, it was one of the best meals we had had together in Portland.
KenScale: 8.25/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.25/10)
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
- Value: 8.5/10
Address: 580 SW 12th Avenue, Portland, OR 97205
Telephone: (503) 621-9251