Portage Bay Cafe

>>  Thursday, August 22, 2013

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We continue exploring gorgeous Seattle by stopping in this very popular cafe that's known for its excellent brunch foods ("All-Day Breakfast" they call it), the famous "Breakfast Bar", and a passionate dedication to locally sourced, sustainable, and fair trade ingredients.

Portage Bay Cafe is the type of place that's hard not to fall in love with. It's bright and airy, serves up great food at reasonable prices, and owners John and Amy Fair Gunnar are truly passionate about local, organic, and sustainable food.

In fact, one whole section of their menu is dedicated to listing all the local farms from which they source their ingredients (and it's a loooooong list) . Their menu touts the fact that all their coffee, sugar, and tropical fruits are fair trade; and that they do a lot of stuff in-house - everything from curing their own meat to baking their own bread.
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The place is popular and often packed, so don't be surprised if you have to wait. Thankfully, the location we visited near the university campus was pretty large, and thus tables turned over relatively quickly. I think we waited maybe 10-15 minutes for a party of six.
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Breakfast is served all day, so you can get those sunny side up eggs, bacon, and hash browns (Phil's Breakfast - $9.50) anytime you want within their hours of 7:30AM to 2:30PM (yes, it really is a breakfast/lunch focused place, although they will do later catering orders).
Home fries, sunny side up egg,
Everything is fresh, executed solidly, and pretty tasty. I'm not sure if it beats my favorite brunch places in Boston, but it's quite good.
scrambled eggs
I ordered the Farmer's Hash ($15.50), which is a mix of three eggs, scrambled, cooked with a variety of local, organic, and sustainably grown vegetables. My guess is these vegetables change depending on the season. I had green and yellow bell peppers and scallions. This is further augmented with ingredients that are constant: roasted onions, fingerling potatoes, fresh herbs, house-made toast, and a choice of protein. I went with their house-smoked local wild salmon, which was good.

Part of me wished for a slightly different ratio - maybe less potatoes and more veggies - but then that might be season-dependent (this was in July).
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If you don't feel like breakfast food, you can order a few hot entrees, such as this Prawns & Pancetta Linguine ($15), which consists of sustainably-caught wild spot prawns, baked Zoe's pancetta, organic cherry tomatoes, local baby spinach, and organic linguine tossed in a house made pesto finished with toasted pine nuts and Truffle Tremor cheese.
Seared Scallops over gritsAnother member in our party ordered the Pan Seared Scallops over risotto, which looked lovely, though I don't think I actually got to taste this one (you feel bad asking for a scallop when the poor guy only has 4-5 for his entire meal).Portage Bay Toppings Bar
Though their hot breakfast foods are solid, the best part is the "Breakfast Bar." If you order certain dishes, you get to take one trip and fill your plate as high as possible with a variety of fresh fruits, nuts, organic maple syrup, and whipped cream.
Bryan at Portage Bay Toppings Bar
Bryan decided to get the Classic French Toast ($11.50), which is made from house-made challah bread, egg batter, and a cinnamon garnish. In his one trip to the Breakfast Bar, he piled it high with blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, maple syrup, and whipped cream.
French Toast and Homemade Toppings Bar
It was fantastic. You may wonder why the whole plate is not loaded up with fruit. Bryan decided he wanted one French toast to be more "savory" (he's not a huge sweets person), and therefore kept one fruit-free.
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No, Bryan is not eating two main courses. We are sharing - one sweet, one savory. He would never ever order a sweet dish for his entire meal.

Overall Thoughts?
This place is fun. It's a great, casual place to visit with a group (we were a bunch of cousins from all over the US traveling to Seattle for a wedding). Considering the efforts that go into sourcing the ingredients and making stuff in-house, the prices are really, really reasonable.

The food is very good. I wouldn't say it would blow anyone away, per se, but it's healthy, reasonably priced, and all the dishes were solidly executed. If you're in the area anyway, it's a perfectly fine place to stop by for brunch or lunch.
Jen with Camera in SeattleUntitled
Photo courtesy of Bryan's cousin Jennifer Chao

University District
4130 Roosevelt Way NE
Seattle, WA 98105
Portage Bay Cafe on Urbanspoon


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