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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Casual restaurant

Mon–Sat 11:30am–1:00am
Sun noon–midnight

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

North Portland
5101 N. Interstate Ave.
Portland, OR
(971) 230-0705
Comfort food served in a space that’s hipper than your grandma’s

This airy, high-ceilinged, gently upmarket restaurant/bar just across the tracks from the western edge of the Mississippi hip strip is probably one of Portland’s coolest restaurants full of kids. Why bother with those big, boring family restaurants when you can take your kids here? You can sip one of the exceedingly well-chosen brews, including one on cask (at our last visit, it was a delicious fresh-hopped local IPA) while you bring the high chair on over and expose the kids to avant-garde art, Portland-style—cool local photos, moddish print hanging lamps, exposed pipes, and industrial ceilings.

And that’s not all: Visit two or three times, and Pause will turn into your own personal Cheers—a place where everyone knows your name.

The burger (and its younger and cheaper brother, the slider) is a popular order here, and it’s an absolute champion if you’re a fan of the fresh-off-the-backyard-grill flavor profile. The meat is juicy even when cooked to medium, and it’s beautifully seasoned from within. The burger gains complexity from the addition of pickled red onions that are sweet with baking spice, pickles that are fragrant with curry powder, and buns that are supermarket-style but beautifully toasted to form a welcome textural counterpoint. Add bacon? Hell yeah. Add blue cheese? Nah—stick with the Tillamook cheddar.

The frequently changing menu centers around the burger’s genre—simple American comfort food, well executed: deep-fried chicken drumsticks confit, perhaps, or macaroni and cheese plus sausage added. The kitchen continues in the backyard-barbecue theme by making good use of a smoker out back, which might contribute its talents to a sandwich of smoked tri-tip steak or smoked pastrami. Latino influences show up, too, in pozole, a pressed Cuban sandwich, and ancho-braised short ribs with favette pasta and cotija cheese. Perhaps in recognition of the fact that pork chops aren’t smoked often enough, Pause does this and does it well, inviting braised pork belly and choucroute (the Alsatian version of sauerkraut) to the party too. In a “snack” (read: small plate) variant of that same combination, house-made sausage substitutes for the pork chop, with equally impressive results.

This is one of the most promising signs that the Alberta buzz is extending outward—and in an altogether pleasant way.

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