Eastburn: Hip without the Scene

Roaming around Portland can sometimes be an interesting experience – Hipsters wear their wool-knitted caps on an 85 degree day, a homeless man with $5,000 worth of tattoos drags along four dogs while on a skateboard, and what would be an attractive woman is staring at you through glasses so big your grandma wouldn’t be caught wearing them.  That’s kind of what makes Portland the unique town it is though – unique styles mixed into one.  Eastburn continues that tradition to the tee, and now I’m hooked.

Sitting on the inner East side of 18th & E Burnside, it’s right where you’d imagine an eclectic joint would be.  This is within walking and bicycle distance of all the scenesters after all.  Walking up you’ll find a number of outdoor tables and about 30 spots for bicycles which are usually completely full.  Walking in the door you’ll have to decide on one of two avenues – Upstairs with the laid back yet classic feel that leaves you between restaurant and bar, or down the stairs to the pub which is lit with an uber classy neon sign.  In reality, you’re probably going to want to visit both so be prepared to spend some time here.

Upstairs is a classy area.  There are bird cage chairs in the window, live local music playing every Wednesday-Sunday, and a beer selection to die for.  To keep it Portland you’ll find a number of unique microbreweries on tap, some of which you’ve never heard of.  Speaking of, let me recommend the Crux Fermentation Project.  It’s a brewery I’ve never seen elsewhere, yet they’ve been highlighting it here at Eastburn and even had it win a beer tasting competition this month.  The bartenders know the brews well and can give you enough background on each to make you start planning your next trip with friends.  Need this to sound even better?  How about $2.50 Tuesdays where a number of 5-8% microbrews are only…. yep, $2.50.  That’s better than a PBR any day of the week (sorry, hipsters).

Downstairs is where the hip kids probably are.  The lighting is dark and the booths have fish tanks where you’ll be mesmerized by the jellyfish floating in the same environment as the fish – Don’t they get stung?  With an entirely different selection of beers from the upstairs, they also have old school arcade bowling games.  My top score thus far – 280.  There are likely screams coming from the new 4 player Pac-Man where you’re pitched not only against ghosts but also each other.  Get the food first to super size and gobble up your opponents.  Why does this game cause so much stress yet I can’t stop!?

The real secret to Eastburn is the place you probably haven’t been to your first few trips – the back patio.  You’ll have to walk out the door upstairs past the bar.  You wouldn’t really think to look back there.  An outdoor-but-indoor backyard with roofing, tables with miniature fire pits in the center, and likely the best tables ever await:  Ones with swings.  Say what?  Yep, swings.  Now, likely not a good idea to go full bore since you’ll probably piss off one of your neighboring bad-asses.  There is one swing (by experience) that will turn on a water faucet if you go back to far.  This makes for a hilarious time for your friends, though your pants will not be as happy.

But what would all this atmosphere be without scrumptious grub to eat?  Not much, and thankfully Eastburn does not disappoint.  Pan crusted Steelhead with edamame ganache, red beet salad with goat cheese, candied walnuts and sprouts, calamari that’s only ever so slightly breaded and served with a pesto aioli and pickled peppers… the list goes on.  Needless to say the food provides an outstanding pairing to the choice beers on tap.


So it’s a Wednesday evening and you’re looking for a place to hang out, have some fun, enjoy your food and do it all at a good price in a good atmosphere… there’s really no need to bicker back and forth over where to go.  Eastburn has everything you’re looking for and probably a bit more.  The only thing I can say is to make sure you’re not taking up all the swings, because I’m on my way down and want to relive my childhood.



Taste: Sanborn’s Revitalizes Brunch


Brunch is that sweet spot of weekend food.   It’s religious for those of us who value sleep on the weekends and only slightly less so to those hungry after their own religious devotions.   When we visited Sanborn’s, a small venue located in inner SE Portland just South of Powell Blvd., we didn’t know what to expect.  This trip began by incessant use of our smartphones to find brunch that wasn’t overly crowded or overly expensive, something Portland’s brunch scene has much of.  Were we satisfied?  Twice over.

The tall purple building we found on accident after thinking we’d passed it.  There are no large signs reading “Now Serving Brunch!” outside, and that’s because it’s all they do.  8am-2pm Wednesday through Sunday.  Want food at another time?  Tough luck.  This is the brunch business, not just another restaurant.   Stepping inside revealed a clean and classic look one would expect on their Sunday morning.  The tile work and decor screams quaint.  And the best part?  Plenty of seating so there’s a table available without an hours wait.

sanborn1The menu comes straight from your dreams – Watermelon mimosas, fig & goat cheese German pancakes, kiwi pancakes, Bo-Bam (Bacon, Apple, Maple with Bourbon) crepes… Yum!  It’s not all extravagant either.  Your basic eggs, meat, & potato breakfast comes with perfectly cooked eggs that melt in your mouth.   The ‘Build-Your-Own’ breakfast burrito puts you in control and the house made biscuits scream at your taste buds as they’re doused in from-scratch jams sitting on your table.

I’ve not tasted potato pancakes like this before.  The amount of flavor in each bite makes a scrumptious meal even without the fresh sour cream and cinnamon applesauce sitting ready.  If you’re like me and want to try one on top of your meal, they come in 6 bite size portions ready to share.  Even the scrambles are done with care, mixing chorizo, onion, eggs and cilantro evenly to provide the same same scrumptious taste bite after bite.


What topped it all off?  The incredible service provided by one of the friendliest staffing crews I’ve met in recent years.  They were always on top of coffee and water refills and aware enough of their surroundings to be ready when you needed help without feeling overly pushy.  They were genuinely interested in your experience and how you were liking things – One waiter even mentioned how he was an active visitor before working there.

With all of the good brunch spots in this city it’s hard to recommend one above another.  Most of my favorite locations will have you waiting in line outside for an hour plus, which is not overly exciting in itself.  It’s refreshing to find a brunch house with all the things you’re looking for – atmosphere, quality food, and friendly service – that has an available seat for you now, when you want to eat.  A revitalizing experience you need to try… except for Mondays or Tuesdays.  Who really wants brunch when you’re supposed to be dreading your work day anyhow?



Taste: Wild Abandon


The first time I passed Wild Abandon I mistakenly took it for a low brow breakfast diner. Why wouldn’t I?  It’s covered in wavy sheet metal with a giant “Now Serving Breakfast!” banner proudly displayed above it’s entryway.  As bamboo overgrows around the sides and back it doesn’t look like much particular care has gone into the building and provided no reason to stop and try… or so I thought.  A celebratory work dinner got me there and I’ve now returned a number of times and would consider this one of my favorite date spots in Portland.  What made my outlook change so drastically?  Let’s discover.

Taking your first step inside the door reveals a much different scene than you’d expect.  Comfy booths, romantic lighting, and extravagant murals which remind me of Greek Gods with their mistresses pronounce excitement.  Small statues with dripping oil, caging them in a sea of color hang from the ceiling.  A relaxed atmosphere with enough sounds from the kitchen to keep the experience authentic charm you during the meal.

Did we say charm? We thought the interior was amazing until we stepped out eh back door and up some steps to their outdoor patio.  This is what all that tall bamboo was hiding.  A quaint yet open environment which hosts all the restaurant seating on a calm summer evening.  This, truly, is where you want to spend a nice meal.


Appetizers were few but all delicately made.  The sauteed mushrooms stuck out with all their flavor, doused in a red wine and seemingly locally grown.  We must also mention the Sangria, which provides enough citrus and fruit in a sifted carafe.  It is house made and worthy whether you feel like a nice wine or just an afternoon pick-me-up.

An interesting fact gained by conversation with our waiter was that Portland’s famous Le Bistro Montage was originally housed at this very location before finding it’s well known hideout under the Morrison bridge.  That’s quite a reputation to live up to.  We ordered a number of items and were able to get a variety or fish, burgers, and pasta.

The Ziti Ziti was one of our favorites, with a thick but not overly heavy smoked mozzarella sauce.  Roasted mushrooms, roasted garlic, scallops, and crunchy bread crumbs makes every bit seem to come from heaven.  My personal favorite was the Ciopinno, a spicy stew which came with scallops, bay shrimp, oysters, and salmon.  There’s enough spice to give kick but not enough to turn away those with sensitivity to heat.  The flavors blend in such a way you’ll want to continue eating even after you’re full.


Wild Abandon is another place in Portland to enjoy an amazing meal for a moderate price (2 entrees, 1 appetizer, & a carafe of sangria = around $60).  This should be considered for all those wanting a romantic night out with their partner.  So are they worthy of replacing Le Bistro Montage in the original location?  They have our vote.