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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Casual restaurant

Mon–Fri 7:00am–2:00pm
Sat–Sun 8:00am–2:00pm

Bar Beer, wine
Credit cards Visa, MC
Reservations Not accepted

132 SW 3rd Ave.
Portland, OR
(503) 222-3187
Bijou Café
Lunch, good—breakfast, better

Perhaps thanks in part to a Frommer’s shout-out, Bijou is the darling of a breakfast-crazed town, a sort of down-home girl next door at the moment of her big Hollywood discovery. It looks unassuming in its old brick corner building, with a benign color palette inside that suggests egg whites and butter. The vivid blue sign outside reads, somewhat cheekily, “Bijou, café.” Unless that comma was a misprint, it’s sort of a hilarious, self-important introduction to what turns out to be a wonderful meal served with little pomp or arrogance.

You’ll sit at the old-school counter underneath a chalkboard of specials like bacon-and-blue cheese hash, buttermilk oatmeal pancakes with apple-pear compote, and Greek omelette. Nothing ground breaking here, but, then, breakfast need never be ground breaking. It needs only to invigorate the senses, thicken the blood, and, perhaps, comfort those weary from a night of psychic re-runs. And Bijou performs justly.

Omelettes are deeply yellow, meltingly fluffy, and bursting with quality ingredients, many of which are organic and locally grown. An oyster version receives a lot of press, as does its hash incarnation. And rightfully so: the briny pop of the oyster is still alive and well under its crisp cornmeal breading, paired simply with one of a few strips of sautéed onion and potato, with a bit of fresh herbs. It’s rich, flavorful…and expensive. A seasonal chicken-and-apple-sausage hash is good, moist enough to escape that insulation-fiber consistency many hashes can get in less capable hands.

Share one of these and a French toast made with thick, eggy bread from Pearl Bakery. And throw in a compote of seasonal fruit. Pastries are uneven; muffins, like an apple crisp or banana-hazelnut, can range from sublime to stale. Lunch, though, is reliable and hearty, with a standout burger, a terrific mushroom panino, a surprisingly good quesadilla with pumpkin-seed mole, and a tuna melt with all the classic elements except a mid-century Americana over-greasiness.

Bijou is accommodating, but don’t bring large groups or antsy children. The feeling in here is grown-up and sedate, yet not really dull. Expect longer waits and an inevitable dip in quality as Bijou, Café becomes Bijou, Tourist Stop. We’ve seen the once-sincere girl with stars in her eyes slogging herself down the avenue in a torn fur coat one too many times. Hopefully, this one will keep it simple and never forget who her first fans were.

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