Simpatica Dining Hall: Subterranean Brunching in SE PDX [CLOSED]

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Restaurant Logo Portland

Sol Pops co-owner Bob Pullen recommended this dining hall on Saturday at the Portland Farmers Market. The man clearly knows food, and we had a Sunday slot to fill, so might as well follow his advice. Simpatica Dining Hall is a diminutive art-lined dining room that occupies a strange location, the basement of a mixed-use building just east of the Willamette River. The only street-side evidence of Simpatica: a two-sided placard sporting a bunch of watercolor radishes.

We arrived at about noon, signed my name to the list and received a 20-minute seating estimate. Unfortunately, we had to wait over an hour. It wasn’t completely miserable, since there were interesting locals to talk to, including Jim R. of Vancouver, Washington, his wife and daughter, who were at Simpatica to celebrate Father’s Day. Jim said he buys meat from Viande, a butcher shop from the dining hall’s owners. It’s always good to meet people, and because the host felt guilty about making us wait, we each received a free Mimosa.

Here’s the abbreviated Simpatica story: In 2003, Hawaii native Benjamin Dyer moved to Portland and purchased Viande Meats and Sausage, a charcuterie and butcher shop. In 2004, he teamed with John Gorham on Simpatica dining hall and catering. In January 2005, Jason Owens joined the Simpatica and Viande team as a chef-owner. In 2007, Portland native Dave Kreifels became part owner and co-chef of Simpatica, with Owens. According to their online mission statement, the group claims to have their fingers “on the pulse of the Pacific Northwest’s burgeoning food scene working closely with local chefs, farmers, and food producers.” Based on our brunch, they’re fulfilling their mission.

Cake Portland
We started with a slab of Olive Oil Cake with Rhubarb Marmalade ($5) and Chantilly cream. The warm cake was crisp around the edges and fairly moist within due to the olive oil. The marmalade wasn’t too sweet.

Chicken And Waffles Portland
Fried Chicken and Waffles ($11) included Dried Fruits Syrup (actually, more of a chutney) made with apricots, cherries and golden raisins. The waffles were absolutely ethereal, and the fruit “syrup” was incredible. The chicken was certainly moist, but the skin was under-seasoned, not crispy enough and reminded me of Shake n’ Bake.

Waffles Portland
Belgian Waffles with Dried Fruits Syrup & Chantilly Cream ($11) came with a side of Bacon. There was a lot of overlap with my entrée. Sadly, I didn’t get bacon, which looked outstanding, with singed edges and inviting streaks of hog fat.

Brunch Portland
Flat Iron Steak ($11) included Romesco, Roasted Potatoes & 2 Eggs Easy. The seared strips of rosy meat were luscious. The Spanish sauce was a nice accompaniment. The potatoes were roasted in olive oil, which made them lighter and moister than normal.

Simpatica offers an excellent brunch. Was it worth an hour wait? Probably not. Next time, I’d arrive earlier or opt for Simpatica’s Friday or Saturday dinner.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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