Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Breakfast in Bridgetown--Paul Gerald (book review)

The mailman stuffed Breakfast in Bridgetown into my mailbox just as I was on my way out to lunch. I couldn't devote my attention to the Definitive Guide to Portland's Favorite Meal for at least a few days, but brought it along in the car with me because that was easier than putting it in the house. And then, while I was stopped at a red light, I thought I'd quickly check to see if author Paul Gerald had discovered my family's favorite neighborhood breakfast secret.

Not only has he discovered it, he gets it--the friendliness of the waitstaff, the sunny atmosphere, the cinnamon swirl french toast. And his description of his breakfast there with a large playgroup made me laugh out loud. Alas, the stoplight turned green before I could finish reading the entry. Fortunately, there was another red light a few blocks away.

I'm now on page 109 of this book that I wasn't going to start today. This book about little cafes, fancy restaurants, Mom and Pop diners I've driven by dozens of times and wondered about. This book that subtly alludes to Portland's transformation from Stumptown (so named because of all the stumps left in the roads when the trees were cut down so carriages could bump their way through the town) to rough-around-the-edges Bridgetown to--Whoops! Never mind! Nothing to see here. Just a regular boring city out here in the gray and rainy Pacific Northwest. If you're not from here and don't plan to visit, for heaven's sake don't read Gerald's book or you'll be wanting to move here, along with everyone else. Then again, our post-boom housing market would welcome you with open arms.

But if you're already in on the secret of Portland, I'll let you in on another secret right now: if the author hadn't been kind enough to send me a review copy, I'd go out and buy it. A library copy would get me a read-through for the humor, the character sketches of Portland's neighborhoods, and the tongue-in-cheek look at the local food scene:
The Bijou is darn near the prototypical Portland breakfast place. It's not necessarily the best, and it's certainly not the cheapest, but it's perhaps the one place you'd take your parents or other visitors who want a nice, safe dose of Portland's organic, progressive, friendly, homey culture without the tatoos, hairy armpits, and all-out vegan fare.
But this is a book I'll want to keep around as a reference, for those mornings when my husband and I suddenly realize that with our kids sleeping over at a friend's house, we could actually go out for a leisurely breakfast together; and the mornings when I'm dropping my kids off somewhere and want a nearby place to hang out for a couple hours with a good mocha and free WiFi. Gerald has all the details necessary to find a suitable spot: are there vegetarian/vegan options? How long of a wait can be expected? Is there WiFi? (My favorite answer: "No, but you can pick it up from next door") And--because people here truly do care--which local coffee roaster's beans are brewed there.

Gerald melds his own dining experiences ("When Jerry dropped a knife, in the time it took me to crack a joke about his lack of sophistication, somebody was standing next to him with a new, clean knife . . . on a platter"), with quotes from restaurant critics (something he cheerfully asserts he'll never be), foodie comments he's found online, and background information gleaned from owners, staff and good old-fashioned research. Restaurant website addresses are provided, when available, so readers can check for updates on hours and prices. The resulting assessment of nearly a hundred tempting spots for breakfast is thorough, entertaining, and potentially interactive if readers choose to visit Paul's Breakfast in Bridgetown website. The only question I'm left with is, How soon can Paul Gerald be talked into Lunch in Bridgetown?

Paul Gerald is also the author of 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Portland and Day & Overnight Hikes on the Pacific Crest Trail, both with new editions published in 2007. Breakfast in Bridgetown can be ordered directly from the Breakfast in Bridgetown website or from Amazon.

1 comment:

  1. What a handy thing to have . You're right about needing to own a copy if you live in the area. I almost wish I did. Nice review.