Put It In Your Mouth: Meriwether’s

About six months ago, I sold out and moved to the west side. Itwasn’t a planned thing, and nothing I’d ever thought I’d do, butwhen the opportunity presented itself in the form of a beautifuland dirt-cheap Northwest apartment I had to take the plunge.Outside of the apartment itself, I’ve regretted it ever since.

There is nothing like being surrounded by wealth to make aperson feel poor and seedy. It’s as if there’s a cultural gapbetween comfortable bohemia and abject poverty in Portland justabout as wide as the Willamette River. There is no time of the dayI feel this more than breakfast. Without the comfortable warmth ofJunior’s, the Detour or the Tin Shed to protect me when thoseweekend hangover pangs begin, I realize the full weight of mysituation.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and when all youhave to choose from is the pricy banality of Besaw’s and the longlines of Martha Stewart look-alikes and cell phones at theoverrated Boulangerie, things can seem grim. That’s why I was soexcited for the long promised opening of Meriwether’s at 2601 N.W.Vaughn St.

My first observation when we walked into the warm open greetingwas that, for 10 a.m. on a Saturday, the restaurant seemedshockingly empty. To the right, we noticed an airy seating areawith tiers of booths and tables and large bright windows, occupiedby only a half a dozen diners. However, we were sat to the rightnear a fireplace, the bar and large television set, with no oneelse around. We could see the entrance to the patio from where wesat and noticed the hostess seating group after group back there,but the offer was never made to us.

After twenty minutes of looking over the menu, which offered arange of creative omelets and standard griddle fare, we finallyreceived water from a bus boy who was in such a rush he didn’t makeeye contact or notice or acknowledge the fact he spilled water inmy wife’s lap, much less offer us a cup of coffee. We awkwardlypassed another un-caffeinated fifteen minutes without receivinganything but a series of sidelong glances, and decided toleave.

As we began to walk away, a middle-aged man with a neatlytrimmed beard and a button down shirt embroidered with martiniglasses came rushing out the front door. He seemed taken aback thatwe went without service, despite the fact he had walked past ourtable at least four times while we sat there. He cordially offeredto buy our breakfast, but my stubborn and caffeine-desperateself-esteem declined. He offered my wife his card and politelyoffered to buy our meal next time we came in.

Next time happened to be the following morning. With my parentsin town visiting and staying almost directly across the street, Igrudgingly agreed to give it a second go. This time we were sat inthe open, sunny dining area where we had a tremendouslyentertaining view of the Portland marathon. Coffee came immediatelyand the waitress was very accommodating towards my daughter’s juiceneeds.

The food was solid. My father and wife both ordered the pumpkinseed salsa, with roasted chili and tortilla strips. The tortillamade for an interesting texture and the pumpkin seed salsa wastangy and sweet. My father thought it could be spicier, but my wifethought it was perfect. I had the gorgonzola and mushroom omelet,which was lackluster, despite the fact it was brimming with lavishfungi. My mother’s eggs arrived with a pork chop instead of thefennel sausage she ordered, but a couple bites of the tender, juicymeat quelled any complaints. The potatoes and biscuit sides wereoutstanding if not particularly unique, but the corn grits weredisappointingly bland and watery, resembling cream corn more thantraditional grits. Overall the food more than passable and theportions substantial, but with the average breakfast price hoveringaround $9 I would have expected a little more variety in theflavors.

The manager followed through and comped my wife’s and my food,reminding us in a sticky sweet voice, “Yesterday you weren’tspecial, but today you got treated real special, right?”

He repeated the statement to us when we passed him smokingbehind the restaurant, this time uttering patronizingly through acloud of cigarette smoke, “You’re reeaal special today, aren’tyou?”

Yeah, pal, we’re real fucking special, so special, in fact, thatfrom now on I’m taking the trip across the river for breakfast. Iprefer being welcome to being special.