How's your brunch going?
EC: Street Meet: Portland, Oregon
Credit: Photos by Meryl Williams

Every weekend, as hordes of hungry diners wait in line for brunch, Extra Crispy will hit the pavement, visiting a neighborhood’s most popular spots and talking to people who love the meal as much as we do. For this installment of Street Meet, Extra Crispy took a weekend to scout out some popular spots in Portland, Oregon.

Mari Lillestol, Alison Freeman, and Tess Rubinstein at Helser’s in NE Portland

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Extra Crispy: Why did you choose to come to Helser’s?
Tess: I live, like, a block away. They’re visiting.
Mari: We’re visiting from San Francisco.

Extra Crispy: Is there anything particular you’re looking at on the menu?
Mari: I’m gonna get the mushroom hash.
Tess: We want to do a sweet and savory mix and match.

Extra Crispy: Savory versus sweet! The ultimate brunch debacle. Which way do you typically lean?
Alison: It totally depends on the day.

Extra Crispy: Do you have any other food plans during your visit to Portland?
Tess: We went to Awful Waffle. We may or may not get more brunch.
Mari: We’ll probably be seated soon? I hope so.
Tess: We’re in brunch purgatory.

Kevin Heathcoat, Kelly Johnson, and Kristin Waks at Tin Shed (with baby Stella Waks, and dog Tosh) at Tin Shed in NE Portland

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Extra Crispy: Why did you decide on Tin Shed this morning?
Kevin: We came here to sit in a line.
Kelly: We just wanted to sit outside and drink coffee.
Kristin: We’re down from Seattle. I’ve been here a lot but I now have friends living here, so I’ll be here a lot more.

Extra Crispy: What about you two, what’s your story?
Kevin: We moved here two weeks ago from L.A. Before that, we lived in Seattle for five years.
Kelly: We just like to tour the west coast.

Extra Crispy: What menu items are catching your eye?
Kelly: I would definitely get the biscuits.
Kristin: I’m at their mercy and that’s good because they have good taste in food. I have no horse in this race, I’m along for the ride.

Christopher and Halli Chesser at Tin Shed

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Extra Crispy: When did you get here, and why did you choose Tin Shed?
Christopher: We’ve been waiting 20 minutes. We come here a lot, whenever we want to get breakfast. I like that they have coffee while you hang out.

Extra Crispy: Is this your neighborhood?
Christopher: We live downtown, at least for now. We’re trying to find a house. But we started coming here a year ago and now it’s our go-to spot. We don’t mind the wait.
Halli: We usually get here around 9:30-10. The wait’s usually about a half hour, 45 minutes.
Christopher: If you get here later than that, it’s really bad. Like, over an hour.
Halli: if we’re up and out of the house by 9:30, we come here.

Extra Crispy: What’s good here?
Halli: We love the biscuits. I have to get the biscuits and the cheese grits. And the potato cakes are pretty good.
Christopher: I like to get, like, the simple breakfast and get an extra biscuit.

Extra Crispy: Do those biscuits travel well? Do they make good leftovers?
Christopher: We wouldn’t know.

Mike Cassella and Claire Foster outside of Screen Door in SE Portland

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  • Extra Crispy: This place has one of the longest lines in Portland. Why are you here on a Sunday morning at 10 a.m.?
    Claire: The line is a Portland institution, a phenomenon. I’ve lived all over and until I got to Portland, I’d never met people who were so excited to stand in line to have an experience. The standing in the line is part of it. Salt and Straw, Screendoor, Blue Star Donuts. Part of the deal is, you stand in line. If you’re a local, you learn to hack the line. I go to great lengths to never stand in line and I’m only making an exception because someone in our party has not been here.
  • Mike: You come here on, like, a Tuesday at 3? You can totally get a table.
  • Claire: Come here when the bartender you’ve dated is working.
  • Mike: Really? I feel like I’d have to avoid it if a bartender I’d dated was working.

Extra Crispy: How long is the wait this morning?
Claire: It was an hour and a half long wait when we showed up. I was in the episode of Portlandia with the never-ending brunch line so it is life imitating art, imitating life. But even with bad weather, one of the reasons we have The Line in Portland is that we use it as an excuse to talk. It’s a social thing.

Martin Wilson and Caitlin Pugh at Stepping Stone in NW Portland

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Extra Crispy: Why Stepping Stone?
Martin: It’s our favorite restaurant. We used to live within walking distance of here. The food’s awesome, the atmosphere is what we like, kinda short and sweet, not too swank. There’s always a line because the food here is great.

Extra Crispy: Where do you live now?
Martin: In Southwest.

Extra Crispy: So it’s worth the trek north?
Caitlin: All the egg dishes are great. They do scrambles. I love the veggie scramble with tomato and cheese. And the bloody marys are the best. They do a good mimosa.
Martin: They have the best bloody marys in town.

Kevin Trafton, with sons Houston and Austin Trafton, at Stepping Stone

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  • Extra Crispy: What brings you to Stepping Stone this morning?
    Kevin: My boys are bringing me here for Father’s Day. I’ve never been here before but they have.
  • Austin: I’ve been going here for a while and I’ve never waited in line like this. Never. I’m usually ducking lines or coming here later at night. My dad makes good pancakes so I wanted him to check out a man cake.
  • Houston: We were looking at the chicken fried steak. I might go for that. We’ll see.

Extra Crispy: What’s the wait time over here?
Kevin: We’ve been waiting about 20 minutes. I’m fine with the wait.
Austin: I think I overheard 35 minutes, but they just said they’d call our name.
Kevin: I told them, I don’t want to leave, we’re staying. You brought me this far, I want to experience it. It’s Father’s Day, we’re in no hurry.

Extra Crispy: Does this feel like a good way to spend your Father’s Day?
Kevin: Being with my boys? You bet. These are my buds.

Margaret Orr and Kyra Evans, at Besaw’s in NW Portland

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Extra Crispy: What’s the typical wait time for this spot?
Kyra: The few other times I’ve been to Besaw’s at the [former] location and it would be a 30-40 minute wait. There’s always a line at Besaw’s. It’s a Portland institution for sure. It’s over 100 years old.

Extra Crispy: Is the new location different from the previous one two blocks away?
Margaret: This is the first time I’ve been to the new location....When you have good company and you’re just chatting and catching up, it doesn’t matter. That’s what makes it worth it.

Extra Crispy: Do you have good company today?
Margaret: Oh, yeah! We’re best friends of 30 years!

Alex Balsoy, Carrie Da Silva, Briana Hurst, and Natalie Kutman at Besaw’s

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Extra Crispy: What brings you to Besaw’s?
Carrie: She [Briana] knows this area.
Briana: They’ve never been to Portland before and so I wanted to take them to a really great brunch spot. So I took them here.
Carrie: We’re visiting from Dallas and all there is to do there is brunch—so we were like, oh yes, more brunch.
Briana: I had to step up the brunch game. I’m still trying to decide where to take them tomorrow, but it will be somewhere on the east side.
Natalie: If we could brunch three times a day, that would be nice.

Extra Crispy: Which way do you lean: sweet or savory?
Briana: It depends on my mood.
Alex: The eggs benedict looked amazing.
Briana: The smoked salmon scramble is amazing. We all lean toward savory brunch.
Natalie: What we’ve done in the past is we’d each get a savory thing and one sweet item in the middle and share that. Other than that I don’t think sweet is the main dish. The mimosas are the sweet part. That’s all you need.