Eats, Chews and Leaves: Put a brunch on it


If, like me, you’re a fan of Portlandia, you’ll recall the season two finale, “Brunch Village.” In it, all characters converge on a hot new breakfast spot, Fisherman’s Porch, for Sunday brunch. The fictional restaurant has become so popular that a line of hungry customers snakes around the city. The reason for all the hype? Marionberry pancakes. I experienced a similar situation while visiting Jam Cafe.

A friend who I can always count on for great restaurant recommendations raved about Jam Cafe and its pulled-pork pancakes. With a chance to recreate the Portlandia episode for myself, I wrangled some friends and set out to linger in line one rainy Sunday morning.

Unlike the show, we waited for less than 30 minutes — not hours — to be seated. While we didn’t rub elbows with Portlandia star Fred Armisen, any of Jam Cafe’s clientele could have been Urban Outfitters spokesmodels with their love for Aztec-patterned garments. For those who might face a longer wait, consider chowing down at the large, eat-in bar, which is the heart of the restaurant.

The space is long, narrow and full of antique window frames, chalkboards, vintage sporting equipment, maps of the world, street signs, bowling pins, children’s toys of yesteryear and an armadillo. Yes, a strikingly real-looking armadillo.

One friend noted that (much like the Portlandia set or an Urban Outfitters store), “It appears they’ve taken everything possibly considered hipster and hung it on the walls.”

Our table ordered the pulled-pork pancakes ($13.95), as well as the gravy coupe breakfast ($13.95), along with coffee ($2.50) and hot chocolate ($4).

Since most restaurant coffee is more or less the same quality, I judge java based on how many times I see the bottom of my mug. For someone who requires ample caffeine to fully awaken, I love when my coffee is continually refilled. This was not the case at Jam, where our server was repeatedly too busy to notice my empty cup.

The pancakes lived up to their reputation, a delightfully sweet and savoury combination. Two thick cakes layered with pulled pork in a maple BBQ glaze are crowned with jalapeno sour cream. The pancakes and maple flavour ground each bite in the familiar, while the smoky, spicy pork tricked our table into thinking it was dinnertime.

I strayed from the mainstream and opted for the gravy coupe. An enormous homemade biscuit is split down the middle and piled with fried chicken, sausage gravy and two sunny-side-up eggs. In case that’s not enough food, sides of hash browns, roasted tomatoes and blueberry jam find room on the plate.

The gravy made me nervous, but I was won over by Jam’s lighter version. I’d return solely for the chicken if I could, which was both crispy and tender. With all the protein, the eggs seemed redundant. Not usually a tomato eater, I devoured the roasted version. Perhaps my body sensed I needed one vegetable amongst a meal of heavy ingredients.

There’s no doubt the meal could be shared, as I left a large amount untouched and still departed full.

Jam Cafe deserves at least one visit while they’re still current. In other words, visit soon, before the vibe tires.