Monday, October 18, 2010

Bertie Lou's Woo Hoo!

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s two hungry girls looking for breakfast! Abbe and Jebby travel next to Bertie Lou’s Café on SE 17th. They’ve eaten here twice so you’re in for an extra thorough review.

Abbe’s meals: Breakfast Burrito & Bertie Cristo
                That’s right folks, it’s so good we ate there twice before posting this review! Jebby and I have preached about breakfast since day one; it’s the most important meal and frankly, the best meal, so we’re always looking for our next “breakfast high.” Well, needless to say we found some stuff that’ll not only satiate your need for that next fix, but it will be so good you’ll be back the next day for another dose.
                Our first visit to this little treasure was nothing short of a grand experience; everything on their snarky and cleverly written menu sounded so good, Jebby and I didn’t know what to do with ourselves, and we spent our waiting period for our food drawing ourselves on a napkin, eating frantically with crazed looks in our eyes. How fitting. When the food arrived I had a hunger that I though no food could cure.
                My Breakfast Burrito looked like a loaf of bread, filling up the entire plate and leaving little to no room for the potatoes and salsa. I’m not one to be intimidated by a meal, but I was thinking to myself “how the heck am I going to finish this thing,” it was a delicious challenge that I enthusiastically accepted.
                The first bite was nothing short of its own tiny miracle. Flavors of sausage and bacon stung the inside of my mouth like a hornet shooting stingers of love, savory eggs bounced on my tongue like tiny children in one of those inflatable castles, and melted pepper jack hugged onions, peppers, and garlic as they danced between my teeth. I think a stray tear may have fallen from my unbelieving eye when I swallowed that glory and it met my stomach like a reunited pair of passion filled lovers. Among all that there was delicious sour cream, guacamole, and salsa carrying a punch of flavor that you’d think only Ali could deliver.
                The potatoes these talented people dole out are much more than your run-of-the-mill home fries that every breakfast establishment thinks they have a patent on. Bertie Lou’s fries should be their own food group. Golden (and I mean like wedding ring sparkling) brown and lightly crisp on the outside, with a fluffy, but not dry, core. Add some Secret Ardvark sauce, which they always have on their tables, and you’ve got the perfect companion to any breakfast or a perfect meal on its own if you’re so inclined.
                Our second visit I ordered the Bertie Cristo, Monte’s red-neck cousin, according to the menu. This gem is an unlikely yet completely brilliant pairing of spicy chicken sausage and pepperjack cheese between two pieces of French toast smothered in maple syrup.
     “What?! EW!” you would think, BUT NO, believe me, it’s amazing. And if the huge portion of that wasn’t enough for you, it comes with their amazing potatoes as well! I was a tad apprehensive about this meal, not knowing what to expect and thinking, this will either be a discovery of something new and astounding or something more reminiscent of a horrid mistake that’s about as much of an abomination as Rosemary’s baby. Can you guess it was the former? Oh yeah.
                It looked like a little triangle cut sandwich on my plate, but no roast beef or mayo in here, just juicy and spicy sweet chicken sausage, nestled into melted pepper jack (yep pepper jack again), and spread like butter between two pillow-like slices of good old french toast. The taste of all these strangely complementary items with a good dousing of maple syrup was a welcomed shock to my mouth. My brain couldn’t make a logical explanation and my mouth couldn’t believe its taste buds. All together a mind-blowing and inexplicably creative experience that opened my eyes into a whole new world of “That sounds gross, but O-M-G it’s good.” I will say that as far as French toast goes, mine was a little undercooked. Don’t be afraid to get those pieces to a golden brown with a little crisp on the edges to amp up the flavor of the bread. Other than that small short, well done Bertie Lou’s, I commend you.

Jebby’s Meals: Ranch Biscuit Benedict and Oaks Bottom Omelette
                You guys know I love biscuits and gravy, and when I saw that Bertie Lou’s claims to have Portland’s best, I knew I had to try them. But what’s this? An eggs benedict with bacon and gravy over poached eggs on a biscuit? Count me in. It’s like all my wildest dreams and fantasies came true. Portland’s best biscuits and gravy? Nah. But they were good. Really good. Really really good. The white gravy was flavorful and lacked the doughiness that white gravies often have. The biscuits were flaky and tender, and the eggs poached well. The bacon was maybe a little on the undercooked side but I mean… it’s bacon. It’s going to be good no matter what. Can I just say though… holy gutbomb, Batman. You are gonna need a nap after this meal. Not that that’s a bad thing. Eating this and then coming home to a nap is like, my ideal Sunday.
                The Oaks Bottom Omelette did not disappoint either. The eggs were ridiculously fluffy, and the omelette was full to bursting with whole strips of bacon, fresh tomatoes and green onions and was covered in a lovely blanket of delicious, well-made hollandaise. It was tasty and just the right amount of food. I didn’t feel like I needed to go home and sleep off my meal afterward, I felt energized and ready to start my day. My one critique of the omelette is that it could have used a skosh more hollandaise. But other than that one tiny thing, the omelette was delicious.
The meal also came with home fries and toast. The home fries weren’t much too look at. I was expecting a mouthful of dry, sandpapery potato, but what I got was tender, expertly cooked potatoes that were crispy on the outside with no trace of grease. They were shot through with peppers and onions and were perfectly accompanied by the Secret Aardvark sauce that is thoughtfully provided. The toast was just toast, but was transformed by delicious raspberry jam. Abbe poured the remainder of her maple syrup on my toast and a taste sensation was born. Then, remembering a drink I once had with habenero vodka and raspberry puree, I put a few drops of Secret Aardvark on too. UNEXPECTED TASTESPLOSION. I urge you to try it. 

In summary, this is one of the best breakfasts I have eaten this year. Get it in ya.
Our overall review of Bertie Lou’s:
                This place is the bees knees, the bomb, awesomesauce, the shit, cool beans, rad, fly, off the chain and any other euphemism for greatness you can think of. From the outside, it doesn’t look like much. In fact, it looks as though there’s barely room for two flies to have a tea party. The space is extremely small, to be sure. There’s a counter that seats about four, an attached room with maybe four to six tables, and a few picnic tables outside. But Bertie Lou’s manages to be cozy-not-cramped, partly thanks to some smart design choices like brightly colored walls and a massive mirror on the back wall that really opens up the room.
                A sign at the back warns that all unattended children will be given an espresso and a free puppy and you get the feeling they mean it. Abbe and I are of the opinion that nothing ruins a meal like someone’s screaming sprog flicking boogers into your food and staring at you with a creepy Children of the Corn gaze, so we’re big fans of establishments that aren’t fond of uncontrolled children. Most of the artwork in Bertie Lou’s consists of framed collections of napkin doodles drawn by the guests. This is awesome, as I am a fine connoisseur of napkin doodles and have churned out quite a few in my time. Recently a friend of ours spotted a napkin I drew on the wall at Bertie Lou’s, which prompted us to visit again.  Napkins on the walls, bluegrass on the radio, intolerant of children… can it get any better? Oh yeah, the food.
                The menu is pretty standard breakfast fare with a few twists. You’ve got a lineup of omelettes, benedicts, breakfast combinations and sandwich-like things, presented with witty banter for your viewing pleasure. Everything on the menu sounds delicious and so far in the two trips we’ve made to Bertie Lou’s, has been. Muddworks coffee is served here, and it is liquid gold in a cup. Muddworks roasts all their coffee in Orchards, Washington, which just happens to be where Abbe is working as a veterinary technician. We had never heard of Muddworks before visiting Bertie Lou’s, but apparently they’ve been around quite awhile and they do, as their logo suggests, make some damn fine coffee. Woo Twin Peaks reference. 
                In case you weren’t convinced, the service at  Bertie Lou’s is awesome. It is rare to find service this good. Our waitress was all smiles, but they seemed friendly and genuine, and she was happy to answer our review-oriented questions about coffee and such. She came back to fill up our coffee cups FOUR TIMES. This woman has been responsible for two amazing caffeine highs. She was the type of server that makes your meal an experience to remember. For those about to Bertie Lou’s, we salute you.

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