Home > Restaurants > Portage Bay Café-4/23/11

Portage Bay Café-4/23/11


Location: 2821 NW Market St.


Mon-Sun: 7:30am – 2:30pm

The Portage Bay Café is the antithesis of Bad Albert’s. Bright and airy as opposed to dark and worn. Organic, fresh and/or imported ingredients listed right on the menu rather than listing the ingredients with little fanfare. A place where the turn-over is so numerous that, while friendly, the servers are a bit impersonal as opposed to a place where the servers know the regulars on sight. The popular place for the upper-middle class of Ballard … those I’ve come to call the “stroller and dog set” … rather than where homey, original Ballardites go to have a meal. These two restaurants showcase two sides of Ballard.

On the weekends, you have to get there early or expect to wait quite a while for a table. Especially if you have more than two people in your group. A few weeks ago, J and I had attempted to go there for a late breakfast. When we drove by there were so many people waiting that the line had overflowed outside. This time, having gotten up earlier than usual on Saturday, we arrived at the Portage Bay Café around 8:45. We didn’t have to wait for a table but even that early, we snagged the very last available table.

The Service:

Considering how busy the Portage Bay Café was the service was extremely fast. The server was friendly and very polite. In fact all the servers were amazingly un-frazzled and mellow even as the place became more and more crowded.

The Drinks:

J had coffee. I was happy to see that they offered Mighty Leaf tea, which I like so much that I buy it online for myself. I had a cup of the fresh, crisp Mint Melange.

The Food:

I ordered the Prosciutto Omelette, with an interesting combination of Italian prosciutto, roasted roma tomatoes, baby spinach, mushrooms and blue cheese and a side of breakfast potatoes. This was the lightest, airiest omelette I’ve ever had. The eggs almost melted in my mouth. The vegetables were fresh and not at all overcooked. If you have a craving for salt, this is the best omelette to take care of it. The prosciutto had a strong salted ham flavor, probably because it was imported from Italy. Very different than the prosciutto I’ve gotten from deli counters. In a surprising pairing, the creamy chunks of blue cheese complimented everything else deliciously.

The breakfast potatoes, on the other hand, were merely okay. I prefer my potatoes to have a bit more crispiness to them. A bit more char. The potatoes here, while well seasoned with a spicy mix that reminded me of something between dried ancho pepper and Chinese five-spice, were kind of mushy. It’s something I’ve noticed about nearly every side of breakfast potatoes I’ve had. The only place that cooks potatoes to my liking is the Hi-Life. The ones at Portage Bay Café weren’t horrible but just meh.

J craved something sweet for breakfast so he chose the Bananas Foster French Toast, challah French toast with organic bananas and topped with housemade Myer’s run, caramel sauce. The rum flavor of the caramel sauce was so strong (in a good way) that J thought I might have to drive home. The French toast had a nice crunch to it and was surprisingly light. When you order French toast or panacakes at the Portage bay Café, you’re able to add toppings like fresh fruit, nuts or whipped cream from their special toppings bar. J added strawberries, blueberries and a dollop of whipped cream to his French toast and was pleasantly surprised by how incredibly fresh his choices were.

He also ordered a side of pepper bacon, which was cooked very well with a nice crispness to it.

The Price:

Fonte Coffee: 2.75

Mighty Leaf Tea: 2.25

Bananas Foster French Toast: 12.00

Prosciutto Omelette: 13.00

Side of Pepper Bacon: 3.00

The Verdict:

The Portage Bay Café is probably the most expensive breakfast available in Ballard. Even more expensive than Volterra’s weekend brunch. But the quality is obvious in everything from the beverages to the very fresh ingredients to the topping bar. The menu overflows with interesting options that you would have a hard time finding anywhere else in Ballard.

Our verdict is that the Portage Bay Café is worth the money maybe once or twice a year. You just have to be prepared to get there very early or knowing you’ll be waiting a while. The breakfast we had was really quite good.

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