This was a cafe recommended to us by Chris. Not because he’d been there, but because he hadn’t, and was curious to know what it’s like. He especially commented on the photographs in the front window of the menu items, noting the photographic quality was of an extremely faded and questionable nature. And that ranks high in the kitsch, hole-in-the-wall style we all love. So what the hell, we went there for breakfast.
Hip would be one of the last words I would use to describe it. This was definitely not part of the Portland foodie revolution. It was comfortable and homey, with equally questionable framed art inside to match the questionable menu photos on the front window. It’s run by an enthusiastic and very helpful middle-aged asian couple. Had I known all the extreme pretentious foodie-ism that Portland had to offer on this vacation, the Tabor Hill Cafe would have been a godsend of simple good food to relish at the end of the trip. Especially because there was ample seating available. In fact, when we first arrived, we were the only diners.
The coffee was fine. If it was Stumptown, they didn’t make any effort to crow it out. It probably wasn’t. Nobody cared.
I had the pancake breakfast, with four “silver dollar” pancakes (biggest silver dollars I ever saw, btw), two eggs over medium, and sausage. Who asks for over medium, other than me? Considering its rarity, they made my eggs perfectly.
T had the standard bacon, eggs, potato and toast breakfast, with his eggs sunny side up. No complaints.
I should mention here that yelp ranked this place as average. Usually submitted by self-proclaimed foodies, with “mediocre at best” reviews. Understanding that Portland has built a local economy on cottage industry businesses all supporting each other through artisanal coffee, beer, baked goods and bacon, it’s easy to see why the Tabor Hill Cafe is passed over. But there is a comfortable feeling here, with good parental vibes from the owners, and the cafe has its own clique of thoroughly unhip, loyal customers.
Don’t forget to pet the patchwork cat by the cashier area on your way out!
Tabor Hill Cafe (Southeast, Hawthorne)
Ah, our first morning in Portland. Chris recommended we check out Slappy Cakes, an easy walk down Belmont from the house.
Slappy Cakes is relatively new, and relatively trendy. Their USP (unique selling point) is DIY pancakes. They provide the batter – assorted flavors and additions – in a squeeze bottle and diners can squirt out pancakes in whatever shapes they like onto a griddle embedded into the table. Those who do not like the DIY aspect can simply order pancakes from the kitchen. We opted for the batter.
Obviously, the place is popular with children and families. For mid-week, and some children still on spring break, the place was moderately busy, top-heavy with children. Some tables appeared to have a moat of batter spilled out on the floor around their dining areas.
Making pancakes was fun, but the bottle doesn’t actually contain much batter. Probably enough for two average size pancakes, or about 8 assorted swirls, tigger-heads, united states, and accordians. We supplemented with a couple fried eggs and a portion of bacon.
Best parts of the restaurant was the big ass fan on the ceiling, made by a company called “Big Ass Fans.” Also, we liked the variety of syrups at the table, about four different kinds, made in-house.
“In-house.” That’s a popular thing in Portland as we soon discovered.
Slappy Cakes (Southeast, Belmont)
Our intent this final morning in San Diego was to go to the original Pancake House. Alas, Sunday morning potterings, the explosion of people in town for Comic Con, and a stubbornness about lines meant I didn’t have the patience to wait 40 minutes for a table.
We went to the Studio Diner instead, a faithful standby. The diner isn’t just a theme diner. It is actually a part of a filming studio. And it was originally built as a set for a film. But the acoustics were so bad, it wasn’t successfully used in the film. Now it’s just a diner.
I got the breakfast called 1-2-3: one pancake, two eggs, three pieces of bacon or sausage.
But hey, check out Ted’s french toast with strawberries and whipped cream! It’s pretty!
Also, Katie pouring syrup on her short stack, short being the ironic word to our visiting Aussie who was still aghast at American portions.
We end with a minor complaint about the sad state of our doily that the creamer packets were served on. Not too crazy about someone else’s coffee stains on MY doily. Nuh uh.
Studio Diner (Kearny Mesa)
I was in England, trying to study botany and horticulture. But one day in February I’m told to STOP THAT RIGHT NOW and go put on an apron and scarf and go charging down the Kew broadwalk with a pan and pancake, which I have to flip three times during my progress. Never mind papers and projects, digging holes, drawing pictures of vascular cambiums…go race with pancakes, go go go!
2 cups flour
Sift together the flour, salt and sugar. Make a well in the center, and add the eggs and half the milk. Mix.
Heat a small cast iron pan or non-stick pan to medium heat. Add half a teaspoon of lard and swizzle around. Holding the pan off the heat, drop in enough batter to evenly coat the pan (1/3 cup for my little cast iron skillet). Return to heat, cook for 1-2 minutes or until the edges are done and the pancake shifts in the pan when you shake it. Flip over, cook for another 30-60 seconds. Remove to warm, add another half teaspoon of lard and repeat until the batter is used up. This recipe made me 14 pancakes, plus the one that was sacrificed for experimental purposes (i.e. I ate it).
Eat with sprinkles of sugar and lemon. Oh my so good.