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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Casual restaurant

Daily 7:00am–3:00pm

Features Date-friendly, outdoor dining
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC
Reservations Accepted


Alberta Arts District
1538 NE Alberta St.
Portland, OR
(503) 281-1477
Helser’s on Alberta
Quail eggs, good friends, and easy listening—now that’s breakfast

It’s hard not to curse appreciatively while reading Helser’s menu: Dutch baby, sweet-potato hash, Scotch quail eggs. Do you know how hard it is to find a good Scotch quail egg these days? There’s a reason so many people love to take out-of-town visitors here. Well, there are many reasons, actually.

For one thing, it’s hard to find a place this friendly for breakfast. For another thing, the space just works. It may not look like much from the outside, in its mint-green-and-tomato-colored brick building or from the inside, for that matter, where it’s equally minimalist, with beige walls and a few bamboo plants. And the easy-listening soundtrack is a little uneventful. But it’s spacious, which means you won’t be sitting on your neighbor’s lap like you do at so many other breakfast joints. This is breakfast the easy way.

Most dishes on this menu sound terrific, look rustic and homemade, and taste just fine. A perfectly poached egg is a thing of rare beauty and skill. The ones here are quivering pearls that burst eagerly with warm yolk just a second after being prodded. They can top hashes of lightly seasoned potatoes, cooked to a slight crispness with no overcooked stragglers. They’re also perched atop Benedicts, like a moist and creamy smoked salmon version that costs half what it would elsewhere.

Balance these out with sweeter breakfast items like pear-and-havarti pie, brioche French toast soaked in vanilla and cinnamon, and a Dutch baby, baked for 20 minutes to a crispy, deflated balloon of egg fluff, lemon zest, and powdered sugar. Just put butter and lemon on it and nothing else. If the version at Original Pancake House is legendary, this one is an admirable attempt.

But where else can you find Scotch eggs anymore? True, these quail eggs are sometimes too hard-boiled, and wrapped in bratwurst instead of spicy sausage, but the light-handed fry on them is just right. We wish we could get them with a sweetish mustard, which could make them downright addictive.

For a breakfast-crazy town that’s seen it all, it’s amazing that there aren’t more places taking all the hard-to-find favorites and putting their best qualities together. And while we’re dreaming, a patio would be great.

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