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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Casual restaurant

Tue–Thu 7:00am–2:30pm
Tue–Thu 5:30pm–9:00pm
Fri 7:00am–2:30pm
Fri 5:00pm–10:00pm
Sat 9:00am–2:30pm
Sat 5:00pm–10:00pm
Sun 9:00am–2:30pm

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


212 SW Stark St.
Portland, OR
(503) 464-1122
Mother’s Bistro & Bar
Eat your green beans and keep your mouth shut

Mother’s needs a good cleaning. Empty tables full of dirty dishes surround you. Several tables of patrons are looking around, wondering where their food or checks are. Your own empty dishes sit untouched next to your newly dropped plates. Despite the name, make no mistake: your mother doesn’t work here.

The inside feels like a hybrid of a shabby-chic diner and a baroque ballroom. Crystal chandeliers and Versailles wallpaper frame a counter riddled with Tabasco bottles and ordinary salt-and-pepper shakers. High cream-colored walls full of artfully mismatched paintings, and enormous windows with diaphanous white curtains loom over dressed tables full of dishes that are plated like they would be at home: no towers, no scattered brunoise of herbs around the rim, and no pretense.

People are fiercely protective of this place. Any attempts to hold it accountable for its shortcomings have frequently been met with wrath. We’ve seen this happen in other cities at restaurants that also have “Mother” in the name. Don’t underestimate the power of the subconscious.

The truth is, many dishes here are competent, nothing more. One time, a pulled pork sandwich with honey-mustard barbecue sauce was bland and rather mushy. A finely ground hamburger has all the basic building blocks, but not much in the flavor department. French fries are better, thin and crisp, with the skins left on (that’s where all the nutrition is, your mom would point out).

We come for matzoh ball soup, made with a nice chicken-fat flavor and a huge matzoh ball in the middle. It’s the best thing we’ve had here. Hand-made pierogi were very light on one visit, but with so little potato filling, they were overpowered by the dough. Denver macaroni and cheese with ham, pepper, onions, and cheddar cheese is strictly middle-American, a huge portion on bow-tie pasta and with no crust. Sometimes, it comes with bacon and a dollop of sour cream, but it’s underwhelming and a bit gummy.

Breakfast is a huge draw here, when light fills the room and everyone’s standards a little lower. It’s not that anything here is bad, it’s just that most of the dishes you would expect to find in, again, the home of your friends and family, where sentiment puts everything into a rose-tinted context. When you’re paying for it, and your mama didn’t make it, you just kind of wonder what the big deal is.

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