Comfort Food for Portland, Scandinavian Style (Minor updates, 4.15)
On SE Clinton Street there is a restaurant that translates Scandinavian cuisine perfectly for Pacific NW palates. It emphasizes simple cooking, using fresh, seasonal, and local ingredients. Judging from Broder’s increasing popularity, they have nailed it.
Broder means brother in Swedish and is a play on owner Peter Bro’s Swedish last name. He takes the quintessential Portland obsession of going out for brunch and pairs it with the somewhat different Scandinavian approach to dining. Instead of the typical giant plates found in most breakfast joints, things at Broder are a bit more refined and delicate, and overall quite good. This isn’t the slop found in the cheap as sin IKEA cafeteria, but with a recent and satisfying breakfast costing only $48 for four people, Broder is still a bargain.
In keeping with the minimalist theme, breakfast is basic but inspired. Most entreés are served with a toothsome and earthy nut bread toast, and your choice of roasted tomatoes, a green salad, or Swedish-style potato pancakes. Speaking of those potato pancakes, like a thicker and larger latke, they are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside and are one of my favorite things on the menu. As a child, I discovered my parent’s Time-Life Foods of Scandinavia cookbook and these were some of the first things I learned to cook, so I have a soft spot in my heart for them. Nostalgia aside, their warming and filling version is perfect for our cold and dark pacific NW mornings. Broder also offers several lightly baked scrambles in tasty combinations, such as wild mushroom and caramelized onion, Durac ham and homemade ricotta, or my favorite – a smoked trout and red onion version. One of the more traditional offerings at Broder, and one that I highly recommend, is the Swedish Breakfast Bord. It’s a sampler of many things tasty and good and may include some or all of the following, depending on the day: rye crisps, walnut toasts, a soft boiled egg, salami or ham, smoked trout or gravlax, grapefruit, or other seasonal fruit, yogurt and honey, lingonberry jam, and a thoughtfully chosen bit of hard or creamy, ripe soft cheese. The Breakfast Bord is a fantastic choice for diners like me who can never decide on just one thing. Some of the other breakfast choices include a breakfast sandwich topped with baked eggs, the “Pytti Panna” Swedish Hash with meat and vegetables, and the cute-as-a-button, but incredibly tasty Aebleskiver. Sometimes known as the “Danish Donut” because of its light and airy texture, these are actually traditional fluffy and round semi-hollow 2″ pancakes made in a special skillet. They are then cut open and spread with lemon curd, lingonberry jam, and maple syrup that comes served on the side.
Of course, Scandinavians are well known for their coffee cakes, and Broder serves a revolving selection made in-house along with the type of strong, high-quality coffee that Portlanders expect. Lunches include daily soup and mostly American-style sandwiches, rather than the open face types served in Scandinavia. Choices include egg salad, turkey, ham, grilled cheese, or the “Broder Club” which is a stacked delight of gravlax, bacon, avocado, roasted tomato, and horseradish cream served on toasted white bread. Other lunch options include Swedish meatballs in sherry cream served with pickled beets, lingonberry jam, walnut toasts, and green salad, and a lamb burger with house-made curry ketchup and pickles. If you have a taste for pickled herring or more of that excellent gravlax, they are available as a cold “Bord” plate, while a smorgasbord sampler comes as a selection of three daily open-faced sandwiches.
Broder has become very popular, so expect a wait during peak times, especially on the weekends. This popularity can sometimes translate to rushed servers who may neglect a water glass or a coffee refill. But service has always been extremely friendly and pleasant, and more than willing to please or make things right. The Danish have a word called hygge, which roughly translates into taking the simple and everyday and elevating it into something warm, inviting, comfortable and special. In fact in Danish, to say something is hygge is to give it just about the highest compliment of all. Although Broder has a modest interior, clean lines, and modern furniture, traditional flourishes such as the playful large light fixture on the ceiling (an homage to the twig-shaped candle holders found all over Scandinavia), make the space feel cozy. Painted Dala horses behind the counter and other folk art add the homeyness and delight of a Swedish grandmother’s house. Coupled with the above-average food, Broder is pure comfort. In a word, Broder is hygge.
In 2014 Broder Nord opened in the old Gotham Tavern space on North Interstate boulevard. It is much more spacious and frequently has a shorter line. They also serve dinner from 5pm – 9pm Wednesday – Saturday.
- Phone: (503) 736-3333
- Address: 2508 SE Clinton St., Portland, OR. 97255 Map
- Address 2: 2240 North Interstate Ave. suite 160, Portland, or 97227 Map
- Hours: Daily 9am-3pm. Broder Nord is open for dinner Wed – Sat 5pm – 9pm.
- Website: Broderpdx.com
Broder is charming and they have excellent lingonberries. I plan to go back and sample more of the menu.
My two peeves are the coffee and the abelskiver. The decaf, at least, was overly acidic and simultaneously too strong and too thin. I wanted the abelskiver to be more like those I grew up eating, surrounded by ancient Swedish ladies fattening us up on abelskiver and other delights. The ones at Broder were a tiny bit sour and lacked the requisite texture. The abelskiver of my youth had a decadent mouth feel with a little fat, not just fluffiness, and had a browned outer layer. Biting into that chewy, browned layer and then having your teeth hit the light, soft body of the abelskiver is a heavenly experience. Maybe they just needed to heat up the pan longer on the day I tried Broder.
mmm pickled herring and abelskivers (not togther though!)
I’m not sure why Broder isn’t getting more attention. It’s fantastic. We went on a Friday night and it really wasn’t as busy as it should have been. I hope they continue to kick ass and take names, and draw crowds.
maybe because pickled herring is not the new foie grois.
There is not much Scandinavian about this place other than the menu and place settings from Ikea.
We had breakfast. It was on the low end of average, and portions were small with more emphasis on cute than good… very heavy on the butter and cream.
The service was really poor. We arrived at 9:30 with 4 people ahead of us in line, and did not get served until 11:15. It was not worth the wait. The blairing techno music nearly drove us nuts, and the persnickety waiter was nearly as irritating.
I could not recommend this restaurant.
I’ve only had lunches and non-egg breakfasts here and loved it. I tend to go on a weekday, though because it is really small and gets very crowded on weekends.
So what else about a Scandanavian place needs to be Scandanavian besides the menu?
Brett, so sorry to hear about your bad experience. Broder has always delivered consistently good food and friendly efficient service on my visits there. I look forward to every meal I get a chance to eat there. I’ve also never heard any of their music “blaring” over conversation level. Yes, their food is served “cute” but in portions ample enough to satisfy diners with normal appetites, and at very reasonable prices. Since when is butter and cream a bad thing? I hope you can give them another chance, but remember that no place can please all the people all the time.
Not Family-Friendly says
From a pure food perspective, this was an exceptional breakfast by any standards and so unique as a Portland breakfast/brunch offering. My two young kids particularly loved the aebleskivers. We would go back there again in a heartbeat, but sadly not as a family — the waitress (she knows who she is) gave us a look of contempt the moment we entered the cafe, in contrast to the bright smiles and greetings from the lads behind the counter. She was possibly the surliest waitress I’ve come across in Portland who showed no interest or effort in making us or the kids feel welcome, from start to finish. The food came out a little slow (good food takes time I understand), but the check came even faster. Needless to say I under-tipped and she should not be working in this business with an attitude like that.
Is Broder serving dinner again?
Where is Broder?
I just had a miserable experience at Broder. I really hate reporting this because I’ve been rooting for this place. I will not be going back though. It’s funny, because 99% of the time I’m in total agreement with Portland Food and Drink restaurant reviews. I’ve been to Broder twice. The first time the food was average and service chipper but slow. But I wanted to give it another shot, especially since it’s a terrific concept with lovely atmosphere.
The Story: My friend and I arrived for breakfast yesterday at 9am and walked out over an hour later without being served a meal. It was a miserable experience, especially since my friend was visiting from New York. We really didn’t want to walk out, we kept giving them another 5 minutes. But it became unbearable. Upon arrival, there were 3 empty tables. The two nearby empty tables filled 15 minutes later and their food arrived shortly after as we sat with nothing. I ordered the mushroom scrambled eggs and my friend ordered granola with milk. I loved our server and could tell he felt badly. But seriously, eggs and granola. I’m in the food business so I’m very good about giving restaurants the benefit of the doubt. Sadly, unless they get their act together I won’t be returning.
Food Dude says
Louisa, thanks for the feedback. I know they have been through a lot of changes since we published this. Sounds like we need to revisit.
Food Dude, I hope you do revisit them…we had a wonderful breakfast there this morning. We sat at the counter and watched all meals being made. When you see the number of orders they are turning out on a 6-burmer stove (with 3 of those burners permanently occupied and the other 3 being used for abelskivers/sauteed greens, you can start to understand why it takes so long for the food to come out. An order of abelskivers alone takes a good 15 minutes from start to finish and everyone orders them. The two of us decided to splurge on an order of abelskivers (there are 6 to an order, so it was good to split those). I then had the smoked trout tart and BF had the baked eggs with sauteed greens and toast. Both entrees came with a potato pancake, which would have done my grandmother proud – crisp, good oniony taste coming through, perfectly cooked. The smoked trout tart was fantastic – a creamy but not eggy tasting filling with chunks of that smoked trout, sauteed onions and even some bacon thrown in for good measure. All encased in a puff pastry crust that was crispy all the way down to the bottom. A salad was also included with the tart and potato pancake. Heaven on a plate. I will say that the meat/cheese bord still does look a bit paltry on the serving size, but our entrees were more than enough food even without having had the abelskiver “starter”. Service was excellent (the surly waitress was nowhere to be found) and we felt we got good value for food that you can’t find elsewhere in Portland. We will certainly be back and make sure to take the NY Times with us in case we don’t have a counter seat again — this is not a place to go with young children or if you are impatient to get served quickly and get out of there. But for a leisurely breakfast with good food and service, I would highly recommend it.
half shark-aligator half man says
Every time I have been to this place I have had the same exact experience. I want to order the whole menu, cuz it all sounds delicious. Everything I have ordered is just that and more. Beautiful food. Then there is the rest of the experience. Rude service, slow service and down right being ignored. It seems this place is part of the Portland trend to ignore customers and be condescending. Also, every time it takes the kitchen 30 to 50 minutes to get the food out…and I’ve never been in there when there were any more than three other tables (one including the chef reading the newspaper and enjoying breakfast). Part of the problem the first time seemed to be that the only cook working brought her dog to work with her, and spent most of her attention on the dog which was behind the line with her. All that said…the food’s so damn good I continue to go back for more. This place definitely has one of the best breakfasts in Portland in my opinion, if you’re REALLY patient and don’t mind tipping for crap service. I habitually do so.
if this is a swedish restaurant, where are the swedish pancakes instead of just abelskivers for the danish?
var du pankakor med flaesk och lingonsylt?
I love Broder. Yes, it’s slow, (it has always been slow) but look at the artistry that goes into the food. So relax, take your paper with you, order a coffee, go with people whose company you relish, and enjoy your life. If you want giant American portions, speedy service, and artless empty calories, there are plenty of places in Portland to accommodate that.
Hmm…I’ve NEVER had rude service at Broder (I usually go there alone on the occasional weekday late morning). The kitchen is a bit slow but the service has always been friendly and prompt.
The last time I was a bit disappointed in the potato pancake – but I noticed that a new person was manning the grill . I think he was kinda squashing the pancake making it dense instead of letting it be fluffy…
I think it´s worthy a visit, Wish I could go there myself and taste the wonderful “Skagen” I´v heard so much about. And all the other tasty skandinaian dishes beautifully cooked and served at BRODER!!!!!
Broders is horrible — way too pricey, service is so-so (at best), way too cramped space, and their customer service is Rude and Horrible. I got overcharged on my credit card. The manager did mail me the difference – in loose change. What an asinine petty childish act. Contrary to their name, this restaurant is NOT Scandinavian – they are just a nordic wanna-be that is exploiting the nordic traditions for profit. Many in Portland’s Scandinavian community see Broders for what it really is: a sham, and disrespectful of true nordic culture and traditions. If you want a truly authentic Nordic meal, then go to the Viking Soul Food cart or even the Norse Hall meal events. I’d even go to IKEA, but never ever again to Broders.