Like most Portlanders, I love a good brunch, but unlike most Portlanders, I won’t squander 10 percent of my weekend standing in line for it, because I have way too many other things to squander my weekend on, like laying face down on the sofa regretting 100% of any decisions made about Jell-o shots the previous night.
Which means that I either rise with the roosters on weekend mornings to beat the brunch crush, or hunt down that most elusive of creatures—the great-brunch-sans-100-person-waitlist. And even rarer, the near-mythical great-brunch-sans-100-person-waitlist-WITH-PATIO. And wouldn’t you know it, on the very day that Portland’s tenuous spring temperatures soared into the 70s, that Brigadoon of brunches appeared to us. It happened like this.
It was last Sunday afternoon, and we’d just taken a turn around the Portland Flea, at The Colony in St. Johns. We’d each scored a treasure—Mona, a seafoam ombre deer skull; Andrea, an exquisite wool blanket for a pittance of normal wool blanket prices; and me, the picnic basket of my dreams. Okay, and a strawberry rose sweetie pie and gooey-gorgeous chocolate galaxy tart from St. Johns’ Sweetheart Bakery, who had set up a pretty little stand at the flea market.
Flushed with success and fueled by the distinctive high that only victorious thrifting affords, we decided that a beautiful brunch on a sunny patio was our next Sunday step, but since it was already noon, we were way behind the brunch curve. Someone suggested Xico, and since margaritas and sopaipillas sounded pretty ideal, we charted course for Division. I kept my anxieties to myself, but the entire drive, I was having silent fits about the wait we were undoubtedly going to have to endure to get a spot on Xico’s patio. I wondered how many elbows we’d have to throw to get near a margarita. I wondered if I should bundle up my strawberry rose sweetie pie and tuck it into my purse, in case I started to feel faint after an hour of pacing the sidewalk.
And then we arrived, to this:
A perfectly sunny, perfectly secret patio. I chalked this up next to Finding The Most Perfect Picnic Basket Ever for $20 on the list of that day’s miracles. We were joined moments later by the fantastic Cana Flug, who as owner of Besaw’s, knows a thing or two about mile-long brunch lines. None of us could believe our exquisite Sunday afternoon fortune.
We tended to the most important matters first—gossip and drinks, obviously, and within minutes, the table was crowded with icy margaritas, hibiscus-tea spiked Jamaica Mimosas, and a cup of warm mole-spiced drinking chocolate that was perfect for dipping chunks of cinnamon sugar dusted sopaipillas in.
Everyone ordered something different from the eight-item menu, then we rotated plates to try everything from the huevos rancheros and pork belly carnitas hash, to the chile lime hollandaise drenched sopas Florentine and decadent chilaquiles, made with house tortillas simmered in chile de arbol salsa and piled with scrambled eggs, chorizo, crema and tomatillo avocado salsa.
Prices were reasonable, particularly when you factor in the serene surroundings and private patio—plates ranged from $10 -$13, cocktails ranged from $7-$9, and if Micheladas are your thing, you can order one for $5 or go bottomless (the cocktails, that is, YOU keep your pants on please) for just $12.
Since it’s a requisite order whenever one is at Xico, dessert was the Woodblock chocolate cake with passion fruit chile ganache and cinnamon Chantilly. We didn’t want it to get lonely, so we also ordered the coconut-milk soaked tres leches cake with rhubarb-orange gastrique.
Three rounds and two hours later, we relinquished our private patio and tottered off, but the impression remained. The impression that miracles DO happen, be that miracle a perfect flea market picnic basket or an unoccupied, margarita-flooded patio at the peak of Sunday brunch.