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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Casual restaurant

Wed–Fri 7:00am–2:30pm
Sat–Sun 7:30am–2:30pm

Features Kid-friendly, outdoor dining
Bar Beer, wine
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Not accepted

North Portland
8338 N. Lombard St.
Portland, OR
(503) 247-1066
John Street Café
Simple, fresh, surprisingly good breakfast—if you can find it and get there on time

Sometimes you’re up at the tippy-top of Portland, practically to the state line, and you’ve gotta have brunch. Usually, a lack of options creates a desperation that can make restaurants seem better than they are (the same goes for romantic partners), but happily, John Street Café stands up on its own merits.

The understated, cute little space is very North Portland, and a lush garden with umbrella-shaded tables is a wonderful place to sit in summer. Even though it seems off the beaten path, the place is just as busy for breakfast as any other place in town—which seems strange, given that the hours here are impossible to remember. Breakfast is available until 11am Wednesdays through Fridays, noon on Saturdays, and 2:30pm on Sundays.

Provided you do make it during that brief window, you won’t get anything fussy or fusion-y here, just simple, well-prepared food that’s neither greasy nor Southern fetishist. It’s not for the Mississippi hangover crowd, in other words. But pancakes are large and fluffy, like a currant-and-toasted-filbert version that’s bright, nutty, and fun to chew. Omelettes are super-simple, and the best of these, a “Bacavo,” has a sinful, fatty-salty blend of bacon, avocado, jack and blue cheese. It’s a great way to kick off a day of hiking around Forest Park.

Lunch is succinct but sweetly outdated. A blackened snapper sandwich is fine, but festive-looking bow-tie pasta are maltreated by mundane, tinny black olives and squash. It reminds us of wedding food. Stick to sandwiches like a Reuben whose reputation precedes it—and almost wholly deservedly. It’s still hard to find a Reuben as sour and creamy as you’d get in a good deli, but when you’re this far away from one, it’s not a bad substitute.

John Street is a happy place, yes, but it’s most worthwhile if you’re already up here; otherwise, maybe only make the trip if you have ladies in big hats staying with you. We doubt they’ll “get” Tin Shed.

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