I was sitting with a couple of long-time Portlanders at the Detour Cafe, reminiscing about the old Quality Pie Company and what the city used to be like: more working-class, more small-towny, perhaps more old-fashioned. Tom, for example, said it was tough to find a good bacon-and-egg sandwich anymore. It’s like we were missing something that used to be.
And then it occurred to me that one of these days I’ll be sitting around in who-knows-what kind of breakfast place, telling folks I was there when the organic/local-grown/sustainable revolution happened – a time when so many good places opened all over town that a yummy, cool place like the Detour Cafe could exist right under my nose and I wouldn’t even know about it. And I mean that literally: starting in 2001, this little place hid behind all the vegetation on its porch for six years before I knew of its existence, and the only reason I have for its relative anonymity is that the folks in the neighborhood didn’t want the rest of us to know about it.
The Detour represents everything the “new” Portland is all about – to the extent that it’s almost a generic Portland breakfast place. Its Web site says, “We use free range eggs, organic flour, and when possible, organic and/or locally farmed produce and meats. We also feature freshly baked pastries of all kinds, housemade vegan soups, and Stumptown coffee.” It then goes on to offer links to such things as Gathering Together Farm, the Oregon Humane Society, Planned Parenthood, art studios, bands, you name it. How “new Portland” can you get?
But the Detour isn’t generic. It’s cute and friendly, with yellow and green dominating the décor and plastic chairs and tables giving it a semi-goofy feel, and there’s a shady porch where the overhanging plants cut down on the noise from Division Street. Detour has excellent baked goods, including one of the finest Cheddar biscuits in town ($2 to take one with you), spiced with scallions and sweetened with corn.
What really sets the Detour apart, though, can be stated in four words: build your own frittata. As soon as I saw my smoked-salmon-and-goat-cheese three-egg frittata sitting on my plate with roasted potatoes and whole wheat toast (all for just $7.75), I thought, “Why doesn’t everybody do this?” Build-your-own makes so much sense, and my frittata was the perfect combination of egg, cheese, and meat with just a little crust from the baking and plenty of fresh, cream cheese goodness.
The basic option is any two of 24 frittata ingredients, so a vegetarian can do well. Extra ingredients are only 50 cents, and you can get roasted onions for free. You can get any three of the same ingredients from the same list with potatoes for only $6, so even the vegans can get their groove on (there’s a daily vegan soup, as well). And for only $3.25 you can get toasted focaccia with cream cheese, tomatoes, and fresh basil.
At our table I was hearing little sounds of surprise and pleasure. The portions aren’t overwhelming, but everything looks nice and colorful, and we all increased our level of appreciation when we actually ate. The French toast was made with cardamom bread, which grounded the sweetness from the custard the bread was dipped in; the topping of cherry compote, toasted almonds, and organic maple syrup brought it home wonderfully. A half-order for $4.25 was just what my friend wanted.
Tom, I’m happy to report, found his bacon-and-egg sandwich. But it was a BELT, with two eggs sunny side up, bacon, tomato, mixed greens, and house-made mayo served on house-made focaccia ($6.25). Other sandwich options included the Original, with baked eggs, cream cheese, roma tomatoes, fresh basil, and pepper bacon; the All Fired Up, with spiced cream cheese and red peppers; and the Don ($8.25), with portabella mushrooms, onions, and feta mixed into the eggs and topped with Italian sausage, avocado, tomato, and basil.
Everything was fresh and tasty and down-home in that kind of “new Portland” way. Somehow, that seemed to wrap up the Detour perfectly: once we found it, we realized it was a new place that satisfied old longings. Why didn’t we know it earlier?
Average price including coffee and tip: $9-13 (Visa, MasterCard, checks)
Wait: Long on weekends, with some cover outside and self-serve coffee.
Seating: Six tables, three semi-booths, a few counter seats, and the porch.
Large groups? Not your best option.
Portion size: Reasonable, especially for the price.
Changes: Three different creamed cheeses; the spicy and the herbed are $.50 extra. Veggie sausage and wild smoked salmon available on The Don for $.50.
Coffee: Self-serve Stumptown.
Other drinks: Espresso, Lisa’s Chai, Tao of Tea, Kombucha, sodas, and juice.
Feel-goods: Organic, local ingredients and cage-free eggs.
Health options: Plenty here for the vegetarians and vegans.
- Phone: 503-234-7499
- Address: 3035 SE Division St., Portland OR. Google Map
- Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily
- Website: detourcafe.com
Local writer Paul Gerald is writing a book about 100 places to eat breakfast in Portland. It’s due out this summer, and you can keep track or get in touch at BreakfastInBridgetown.com.