A Tasty State of Mind

Jay-Z touts the Empire State of Mind, Steinbeck opined that Texas is a state of mind, and here in Portland, well, Brunch could probably be declared the official state of mind, at least on weekend mornings. So when some of us heard that the team behind one of Portland’s culinary bests, Toro Bravo, was opening a new brunch spot, Tasty n Sons, we dropped in a delighted faint, very nearly losing our spot in the Screen Door line.tastyext2

Tasty n Sons opened a little over two weeks ago in the airy North Portland space that once housed ill-fated Nutshell and Anju, flanking the block of North Williams that boasts EaT oyster bar, Lincoln Restaurant, Ristretto Roasters, and one of my favorite lovely doodad stores, Ink & Peat.

tastystairs2Walking up the short flight of stairs leading to the dining room, I was struck by how light and open the space felt in comparison to the last time I’d been in there, when I practically had to feel my way into the dark Anju bar. Overhearing our exclamations, a staff member told us that during the renovation they’d uncovered several previously shrouded skylights, which filled the back of the long and narrow restaurant with much-welcomed spring sunbeams.

At the top of the stairs, you’ll want to pause and take in all the distinct regions of the restaurant. Ahead of you is the main dining room, a row of sleek little tables nestled together cozily, running parallel to kitchen-facing counter seating that allows you to watch Executive Chef John Gorham and Company in action.

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Immediately to the right above the row of stools where you will likely spend plenty of waiting time once word of the restaurant fully disperses, is a formidable wall board filled with shout-outs to purveyors like Singing Pig and Viridian Farms, a quote from “Mr. Tasty” that reads “Brunch is a meal before dinner that compliments a tasty beverage,” and thanks to Team No Sh*t and the Brave Bulls.

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To the left is the bar, a communal table, and a big glass roll up door that is going to make this little annex area positively dreamy come warmer days.

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Once we’d finished ogling the space , we sat down and commenced ogling the menu, which is divided into Smaller Plates, Bigger Plates, and Sweets. All plates, regardless of size or sweetness, are intended for sharing, our server explained.

tastydateI never met a bacon-wrapped date I didn’t like, edible or otherwise (so sorry, couldn’t help myself), so we ordered one ($2 each) and it came fresh off the grill, smoky, richly sweet, stuffed with a marcona almond, set in a pool of maple syrup and sprinkled with fresh parsley.

The Breakfast Board ($7) was next, giving Broder a run for their breakfast board money with a spread that included a dollop of chicken liver mousse, pickled beets, a six-minute egg, thick chewy bacon slices, a stack of Medjool dates, and a generous smear of olive oil-drizzled housemade labneh–a wickedly thick and creamy strained yoghurt that had everyone at the table fencing for the last bite with their butter knives.tastyboard

Then there was Auntie Paula’s French Toast. Who is Auntie Paula? I forgot to ask, I was so busy stuffing bite after bite of her delectable rendering of this classic breakfast favorite. We were informed that the toast is first dredged in ice cream batter before making its way into the skillet. It is then swamped with Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs-sized dollops of whipped cream and a rhubarb maple compote.

As the whipped cream melted and mingled with the rhubarb, people couldn’t stop dragging anything they could get their hands on through the sweetly murky puddle that resulted, including the salt bowl and pepper grinder. Perhaps realizing that diners like me will want to order this dish every time they go to Tasty n Sons, but may feel guilty about this or reluctant to commit themselves and their protesting thighs to the entire cream-slathered four-piece order, the kitchen amended the menu to offer a half order ($5) in addition full ($10).

tastyfrenchtoastA deliciously diverse frittata with roasted cauliflower, olives, carmelized onions and parmesan came to the table in a hot cast iron skillet, closely followed by a salad bowl heaped with pleasingly bitter radicchio tossed in a slightly sweet Parmigiano-Reggiano vinaigrette and huge housemade croutons with a crunch that almost rattled the skylights from their sockets.

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The restaurant is so pleasant and the service was so accommodating, we couldn’t stop eating. We stuffed Sauteed Spinach ($5) topped with a sunny side up egg (to which they graciously added bacon at our request, since we were smarting over the kitchen having run out of the grilled asparagus with double-smoked bacon and egg), melt-in-your-mouth Glazed Yams ($4) in a cumin maple syrup, and soft, roly poly sugar-dusted little chocolate potato doughnuts ($5) that you felt might squeal Pillsbury Doughboy-style if you poked them in their rotund brown bellies. After all that it might have been obscene to order the Fried Egg and Cheddar Biscuit ($8), but we did and we crammed in every single bite of light flaky biscuit and savory sausage. So there.

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Although we had our eye on our neighbors’ tantalizingly juicy-looking House Bacon Burger with smoked blue cheese and North African sausage with couscous and cauliflower, the time for dessert had come.

We tried both offerings in the Sweets section, a light refreshing panna cotta ($6) made with neighboring Ristretto Roasters coffee and topped with sweetened whipped cream and an amarena cherry (one amarena cherry is never enough…insert second butter knife fight here), and the homemade Warm Chocolate Chip Cookies, a trio of piping hot, freshly baked, molten chocolate-chip studded, vanilla ice cream-topped house chippers ($4).

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The drinks menu has something for everyone, whether you’re in a hungover, teetotaling, or forget-about-life-for-a-while state of mind. The bar has Hopworks Organic Velvet ESB on draft, a handful of bottled beers, The Walk of Shame (a shot of Powers Irish whiskey + a can of Old German Lager), and a list of local teamaker Steven Smith’s hot teas along with sodas and juices.

A selection of champagne cocktails includes a classic mimosa with Durello and your choice of orange or grapefruit juice, as well as the Rite of Spring, which incorporates elderflowery St. Germain and Crème de Violette into the Durello. There are a half dozen “Marys,” the leader of which is the Tasty Mary, made with Monopolowa vodka, tomato, Worcestershire, horseradish, lemon, sriracha, celery, and house pickles. It can morph into a Tasty Maria (made with tequila) or a Tasty Snapper (made with gin) at your request. Cocktails include the Boneshaker, with housemade lemoncello, basil and Aviation Gin, and The Conquistador, with Mt. Gay Rum, Tuaca, Citrónge, iced coffee, cinnamon, and an orange twist.

Having moved out of our Brunch state of mind straight into a Food Coma state of mind, we somehow managed to lumber out the door, glad we’d lingered so long into the afternoon that there wasn’t an audience of table-craving brunchavores to observe the chocolate doughnut crumbs on our chin, the rhubarb maple syrup stains on our sleeves, the butter knife slashes on our knuckles.

We’ll be craving Auntie Paula’s French Toast until we meet again, Mr. Tasty and your sons, whoever you are.

Tasty n Sons * 3808 N. Williams, Portland, OR * Tue-Sun 9am-3pm * www.tastynsons.com